It’s a pretty miserable day here in Baltimore. If you haven’t heard, there is a big hurricane headed our way and the rain and wind has already begun. Mommy and I thought, while we still have power and Internet, we would share one of our summer food activities with you. We’re also going to spend some time cooking and baking over the next day or two because school is already closed through Tuesday for both of us, so there will be more blogs soon (as long as we don’t lose power, of course.)
You may remember that Mommy and I spent a few days this summer going to pick-your-own farms and then canning. We made blueberry jam, raspberry jam, chocolate-raspberry sauce, apple sauce, apple butter, apple-fig compote and tomato sauce. I case you missed the title of this post, this is all about tomato sauce.
Tomato sauce is not really difficult to make, but it can be time-consuming. There are a few things you can do to make things go faster, but you really want to let your sauce thicken in its own time.
We started with lots of tomatoes. We picked just over 22 pounds. Wash them in cold water.
We peeled the tomatoes because the skin can get pretty tough and it curls up into little tubes that are not too tasty. This is easy to do and a step I wouldn’t skip. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Score each tomato with an “X” n the bottom (opposite the stem.)
Place scored tomatoes into boiling water, about four or five at a time. After about 30 seconds, the skin will start to peel away from the flesh. Remove them from the boiling water and place them in an ice water bath (this is not necessary to stop any cooking, but will help cool them more quickly so they are more easily handled.) Once cool enough to handle, you can easily peel away the skin with your fingers.
Chop the tomatoes into chunks – this doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The smaller the chunks, the faster your sauce will cook. You can also remove the seeds at this point, if you want. We didn’t, but some people think the seeds make the sauce bitter. Another way to speed up the process is to remove some of the juice/water from the tomatoes during this step.
Once your tomatoes are all prepped, dice a large onion and sweat it in about two Tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot.
Once the onion becomes translucent, add minced garlic to taste ( we used a few cloves – remember, it’s a lot of tomatoes!) Now it’s time to add all those tomato chunks and any juice that has accumulated on your cutting board (unless you wanted to remove some of this liquid.) Add about a tablespoon of salt. This may seem like a lot, but it’s a lot of tomatoes and tomato sauce, like bread, will taste “flat” without enough salt.
(Sorry, Mommy got distracted at this point and stopped taking pictures.)
Now you wait. Turn the heat down because tomatoes have a lot of sugar that can burn easily. For this reason, you want to stir occasionally too. But really, there’s just lots of waiting. The flesh of the tomatoes will gradually break down and the sauce will thicken. Ours reduced by almost half over almost 12 hours of cooking. As it is approaching the consistency you want, taste it. You may need to add more salt. But save this until you are almost done because the flavors will concentrate as the sauce thickens and you can’t take the salt out once it’s in! You can also add your herbs of choice here. We didn’t add any because each jar may go to different uses needed different herbs. We’ll add them when we use the sauce. We did add about a tablespoon of lemon juice – it “wakes up” the flavor a bit.
I won’t repeat the information on canning here. However, when you turn 22 pounds of tomatoes into sauce, you’re probably going to want to can most of it unless you’re feeding a very large family in the next couple weeks. You could also freeze it if you’re not interested in canning. This should be enough sauce to get you through until tomato season next summer. As long as we ration it a bit.