Cooking, Canning, Freezing…
As summer slides away, sauce making season peaks. Our gardens are almost burdened with tomatoes and we’re all making sauce by the gallon to can and freeze. This year, my favorite sauce tomato is an indeterminate midseason called Crimson Vee. This strapping gal produces masses of fruit even in cooler climates, especially when nourished with liquid kelp (as discussed last week). Though we’ve had our hot days and dry spells (!!), our maritime cool nights and overcast mornings can slow ripening to a crawl. Crimson Vee doesn’t mind the fluctuations, especially when grafted onto sturdy rootstock. In any case, the blocky, deep red fruit is quite firm-bodied, making for excellent sauces.
Of course, what makes an excellent tomato sauce is an individual preference, but mine is for sauces that retain some qualities of freshness, notably a lively, nuanced flavor that doesn’t taste “cooked”, which so often means heavy and dull. There’s also the question of skin and seeds. I have an old Squeezo Strainer, a marvelous contraption involving a worm screw with a mesh cone cover that separates skin and seeds from pulp. It’s my go-to for apple sauce making, but also works beautifully for making tomato sauces in quantity, when peeling scalded tomatoes can blister your fingers. On the other hand, I often leave tomato skins on and leave seeds in as well, finding they give sauces a robust, rustic quality as well as bold, big flavor. It’s very easy to simply core and quarter tomatoes, or even just to cut off the stem attachment and call it good, and I think the resulting sauces are better than just fine, skin or no skin.
A Simple Sauce For Canning
This is my favorite sauce for canning, which seems to retain the clarity of summery flavors better than long term freezing. Scale it up for big batches, but try just a quart or two first to see how you like it, since individual preferences rule.
Summer Canning Sauce
2 quarts chopped ripe tomatoes with juices
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Rinse, core and quarter tomatoes, then chop coarsely (or more puree) in a food processor. In a large pan, cook oil, garlic, and salt over medium heat to the fragrance point (about a minute). Add tomatoes, salt, and basil, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is as thick as you like it. Fill, seal, and process jars as usual, or check out this link if you aren’t sure how this whole canning thing works:
When It Rains Ripe Tomatoes
Home grown tomatoes often ripen in a rush, leaving the cook with a pantry full of produce that won’t wait. While drying or canning are the usual methods, I’ve had good luck freezing roasted tomatoes for up to three months, especially when prepared without seasonings. What? But yes, herbs and garlic (especially garlic) can develop off-flavors in the freezer, so the sauce will taste a lot better if you saute your onions, garlic and herbs before adding frozen roasted tomatoes. Luckily, the entire process is extremely simple!
2 quarts medium red tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly rub each tomato, (skin side only) with oil, then place them cut-side-down in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F until soft and edges are lightly caramelized (50-60 minutes). Pack in jars and seal or puree first for a smoother sauce. Freeze for up to 3 months (use straight-sided jars and leave an inch of head room). Makes about 4 cups.
A Splendid Sauce
Thawed or just made, pureed Roasted Reds are luscious in Rich Red Sauce, which tastes like you spent hours making it but cooks up in minutes. Serve over pasta, quinoa, or rice and prepare to receive complements.
Savory Red Sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives (or any)
2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cups pureed Roasted Reds (thawed if frozen)
2-3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese, crumbled or Asiago, grated
In a sauce pan, heat oil, garlic, onion, and oregano over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, add celery and olives and cook until barely tender (3-4 minutes). Add chopped tomatoes, bring to a simmer, add puree, bring to a simmer and serve at once over pasta or rice, garnished with cheese. Serves 4.
If you want a super fast, exceptionally tasty sauce for tonight, try this light, lovely version, which works best with tender, juicy tomatoes you’d use in a sandwich or salad. Use an onion of you don’t have leeks yet, and add any garden gleanings you like, from zucchini to pole beans. Capers lend this quick sauce body and depth, but a tiny bit of anchovy paste works well too.
Fresh Pasta With Garden Tomato Sauce
8 ounces fresh fettucini or noodles
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 leeks, thinly sliced (white and palest green parts only)
1 teaspoon minced oregano
2 cups diced, juicy tomatoes (with juices)
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded Asiago or Romano cheese
Cook pasta as directed on package. While pasta water is heating, combine oil, garlic, and fennel seed in a wide, shallow pan over medium heat and cook to the fragrance point (about one minute). Add leeks and oregano and cook until tender-crisp (5-6 minutes). Add diced tomatoes, cover pan and bring to a simmer, adding capers and salt as (if) needed. Cook pasta as directed, drain and serve with hot sauce, garnished with basil, cherry tomatoes, and cheese. Serves 4.