Puttin' Up Tomato Sauce

This week has been farm tear down week and I am utterly exhausted.  I now know why we have winter, the people that work so hard from Spring to Fall need a serious break!  I am looking forward to hot chocolate and playing in the snow, but we are not there yet!

With tearing everything out, my emotions run high, especially among the tomatoes.  I can't throw them away.  They have been so good to me all summer, I tear up when I start ripping them out of the ground.  This is the cycle of the seasons and life, so they have to go, their time is up.  But before loading them on the trailer, I pick through the vines for the last precious jewels that they have been hiding.  What I end up keeping is astonishing!  Three bushels of tomatoes have followed me home this week.  As exhausted as I am, I can't let them go to waste, so tomato sauce once again comes to mind.  This time bottled, to last through next spring.  Making a very simple sauce can lead to a lot of versatility in the kitchen through winter.  You can make spaghetti, lasagna, chili, sloppy joes, and a vast array of other culinary creations.  So...tomato sauce it is!!!

One thing that I have discovered over the years is that the more varieties you use, the better your sauce will be.  I don't just use Roma tomatoes, or even red tomatoes, I use everything - Pineapples, Green Zebras, Cherokee Purples, Brandywines, Mortgage Lifters, Mr. Stripey's as well as the Roma tomatoes to give it some good heft and texture.  The thing about using every kind of tomato under the sun is that you get a very rounded flavor, and the sweeter the tomatoes (Pineapples especially) the sweeter the sauce.  I use close to 50% Pineapple and Mr. Stripey tomatoes, so my sauce is very sweet.  There is no need to add a bunch of sugar to round out the tartness in the end.  Plus my sauce ends up being a gorgeous orange color with splotches of red mixed in, it is so pretty.

One other thing, cook your sauce all day.  Simmering for a long period of time really brings out all of the wonderful tomatoey (if that's even a word) flavors.  Keep it on low and stir often.  The thing you want to do is cook out all of the water, so what you are left with is a wonderful thick and sweet consistency.  Your house will smell amazing all day, too!

Backyard Farmgals

30 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes
olive oil
2 heads of garlic (not cloves, whole heads)
1/8 cup sea salt, plus more to taste
4 tbsp of your favorite Italian spices (I use Victoria Taylor's Tuscan Spices)
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
6 green bell peppers, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar

Start by peeling the tomatoes.  You will need a boiling pot of water, an ice bath, a couple of very large bowls and a lot of space.  I set up my ice bath in the kitchen sink and it works very well (keeps the kitchen cleaner too).  

Put the tomatoes in the boiling water for a few seconds, just until the skins begin to split.  Remove and plunge into the ice bath to shock.  Remove from the bath and core, remove any blemishes, and peel tomatoes.  The skins should slip right off.  Slice each into a few large pieces and place in the large bowls.  Repeat until all of the tomatoes are peeled.  (This goes a lot faster if you have a few people...bribed with a jar or two of tomato sauce, you can round up volunteers without much fuss!)

In two large stock pots, cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Peel and mince both heads of garlic.  Turn on the heat for both pots to medium high.  When the oil is heated, add the garlic (half to each pot) and cook for about 30 seconds.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes to both pots, trying to keep the amounts even for each.  Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and then turn the heat down to medium.  Let the tomatoes simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally and making sure that they don't burn. 

When the tomatoes start to cook down, add the salt (dividing between the two pots), taste and adjust.  Remember, this is going to cook down even more, so go easy on the salt at first.  Add the herbs and spices.  Continue to cook for a few hours until the tomatoes are the consistency of a thick chunky sauce.  Add the green peppers, 3 to each pot.  Add the brown sugar if the sauce needs it.  Taste it - you will know.  If your tomatoes are really tart, you may have to add a little more brown sugar.  I have never needed more than 1/4 cup because of the types of tomatoes I use, but if you are using different tomatoes, your needs may be just a bit different.  Adjust any seasonings at this point.  

Cook for about 20 minutes to soften the peppers and incorporate the sugar.  Remove from heat.  

In quart sized hot, sterilized jars, ladle the tomato sauce, leaving about 1/2-inch of space at the top of each jar.  Wipe the rim with a clean rag, place a sterilized lid and ring on the top of each jar and immerse in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.  Remove and place on a thick towel and allow to cool.  Check seal.   Wipe down each jar, label and store in a cool dark place for the winter.


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