From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Easy tomato sauce

Last Fall I was up to my elbows in fresh tomatoes.  Usually I would have cooked them all up into soup or sauce and freeze them for winter use, but the weather was just sooo hot, well into October/November.

So I compromised -  did only half the work.  I washed and scalded off the skins and cut the fruit into chunks.  Then I froze them in bags.

I meant to get to them sooner than this, but better late than never.  I had 6 gallon bags in the freezer and since it's still(!) winter, I figured it was high time to get them out of the freezer.

I was able to fit 3 bags of mash at a time into my 12-quart stock pot.  Then I turned the burner way low and let them thaw slowly.  I didn't want the tomatoes to cook at this time.

I knew when I bagged them up last Fall, that the freezing process would be the key, the trick to reducing the final cooking time.

As the blocks thawed, they released the clear water that I think tastes bitter.  (Kinda reminds me of yogurt whey.) 

As the water was released, I used a turkey baster to siphon it out of the pot.  In the end, I removed 6 quarts of clear liquid from the 6 bags of thawed mash.

Not only does it remove the bitterness, but those 6 quarts of liquid did not need to be cooked off.  I know folks who cook tomato sauce for hours, even overnight to thicken up their sauce.  I use very little electricity this way and don't have to heat up the kitchen.

Another thing - no real babysitting of the pot.  At low heat no danger of scorching.  In fact I didn't stir those thawing chunks at all because I didn't want to incorporate that clear liquid into the mix.  Every now and then I would wander into the kitchen, siphon off whatever liquid had accumulated, then go do other stuff.

Just 6 easy (everything seems to be in 6's for this project - go figure) hours later I have (wait for it...) 6 quarts of what I would call crushed tomatoes in sauce.

Yay! I WANTED crushed tomatoes.  I like cooking with canned crushed tomatoes - I like the texture.  This was pretty close.  Unfortunately I never removed the seeds last fall and I really really dislike seeds in my sauce, plus I have friends who shouldn't eat seeds of any kind.  So I decided to make a smooth sauce instead.

I rigged up a sieve over a pot and using my trusty soup ladle, I forced the sauce through the screen.  Honestly, this is WAY easier than using my Foley food mill.  This is faster and tons easier to clean!

It took maybe 25 - 30 minutes to (I wasn't working hard) and I ended up with a very dry softball sized lump of seeds, membranes and the occasional slip of skin.

Sure looks like a bowl of fresh ground chuck, doesn't it? LOL

I poured all the sauce back into a smaller stock pot, brought it up to a boil, then simmered it for 20-30 minutes, just to smooth out the flavor.

And there we go - almost 4 (4? not 6? LOL) quarts of very thick sauce (actually more of a silky puree).

I'll portion it out in 2C bags and put them in the freezer - for now.  'Cause I'll guarantee you -- this stuff won't sit in there for long.  I'm already dreaming chile, spaghetti, marinara sauce, salsa.... :-D


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  1. Might have been the website, it was very early this morning when I tried; it is working now!

    You and my daughter should get along.
    She does financial analysis at Hallmark for their various see if they are viable.

  2. Glenda - glad you can comment now! Several of my friends have worked at Hallmark in the IT department. I really enjoyed being a computer/ systems analyst.

  3. Your tomato method is very much like mine. If I could I'd like to share a couple of shortcuts with you.

    When I put the tomatoes in the freezer, I do not peel. I just cut out the core and any little "zippers", including the little "button" on the blossom end.

    When I'm ready to work up the tomatoes, I dump them out of the bag into a big bowl and let them thaw. (Sometimes this takes overnight) What happens first is that the tomatoes release all their "water" during the thawing process and this can be drained off very easily. The other thing is that the skin, which has toughened from being frozen, slips right off the tomato in one piece. What you then have left is the meaty part of the tomato which you can then process.

    Some people say the reason they cook down the liquid is because the watery stuff contains flavor they want to incorporate into their sauce, and that the sauce is bland without it. It's a matter of personal taste, I think.