Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tomato Sauce. A Cautionary Tale.

I am beat.


Needing a nap or vacation or some Elixir of Life.

Why you ask am I so tired when it is an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Frozen Northeast Ohio?

It is because yesterday I made Tomato sauce. And those tomatoes just took it out on me let me tell you. Those little, or large, round red morsels of goodness put up a good fight. But I was, in the end, the victor.

Did you have any doubt on that?

Now, I am going to tell you what I did. And at the end of this post, which is shaping up to be reeeeeeeeally long (sorry) I will give you the usual link for a recipe. But the recipe will be a more general one with a basic list of ingredients and some measurements. But really, tomato sauce is in the end a matter of taste. Some may like more basil. Some may like it saltier or more garlicky. You just have to make it how you like it. Taste is your friend in this instance. And there may be more steps in the process than you think is necessary….just remember I sometimes have to take all 4 sides of the square to go from point A to point B.

And put on an apron before you start all of this hullabaloo. You will be glad you did.

IMG_8542A Oh look at all these lovely ingredients just laying on my counter in all their natural innocence. Just hanging around with each other with no realization of the things to come. Gaze at the ingredients because they will make magic.

Well all except for the celery which I forgot to add. I think I had just chopped so many things that my subconscious rebelled and didn’t allow it. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

I have to own up to the fact that not all of the tomatoes came from the garden that LookLeap and I are maintaining. I wish. But I had to supplement because I just didn’t have 25 pounds of tomatoes hanging around Chez Knit. Disappointing I know but there it is.

The first thing that you have to do is get the skins off the tomatoes. This is just about my favorite part of the entire process actually. It is so satisfying. You just get a big pot of water boiling and then you….

IMG_8544A plunk the tomatoes right in the water for about 30 seconds. Don’t forget them in there because then you are going to have cooked tomatoes sooner than you had intended.

Not that I would know or anything…..

IMG_8543A After 30-45 seconds scoop the tomatoes out and put them into a sink filled with cold water. I know many would say it needs to be ice water but I have always found that just really cold water straight from the tap works just fine.

IMG_8545A You will find that the tomato skins may already have started splitting. This is good. I would also suggest that you do all the tomatoes before start skinning them. I am good at multi-tasking but even I can, perhaps, forget some tomatoes in the water for too long…..maybe.

IMG_8548A Then it is time for the fun part, the peeling the skin off. If you have done this correctly, and it is hard to get it wrong, the skins will just peel right off. I don’t even use a knife, I just peel them. It does help to cut the stem end off to get yourself started. Just peel and peel and peel until they are all peeled.

IMG_8552A And part of your counter looks like this. It isn’t pretty let me tell you but sometimes you just have to take one for the team.

IMG_8553A I saved one back because I want to have another BLT this week. I am a BLT snob and the only time that I eat them is summer when I can vouch for the freshness of the tomato.

Please ignore the fact that my window sills are dirty. Martha Stewart I am not. But then she has minions and I do not.

IMG_8554A Once all the tomatoes are peeled then you need to cut them up. I started out cutting them up very neatly. Cut tomato in half-cut each half in 6 pieces-put in pot.

That lasted for about 8 tomatoes and then I came to my senses and just started to break them up with my fingers. It was much quicker and for some reason the ripping of tomato flesh with my fingers was scarily satisfying.

What does that say about me?

Don’t answer that.

Then it is time to cook the tomatoes for a bit. Bring them up to a boil and let them cook, on medium, for about 30 minutes or so. You are not cooking them all the way through but you want them partially cooked.
While the tomatoes are cooking you will want to chop up a bunch of things.

IMG_8560A                                            Onions. Lots of Onions
IMG_8562A        Peppers. Lots of Peppers. Aren’t these beautiful! These did come out of the garden
IMG_8563A       Lots and lots of garlic. My hands smelled like garlic for the rest of the day. Delightful.
While the tomatoes are cooking you need to cook all these ingredients in a pan with perhaps 3 tablespoons (or more) or olive oil.

IMG_8558A My frying pans are a disgrace! I apologize for the pain that you must be experiencing. Someday I will be able to have good pans……someday.

Why do I cook the peppers et al separately from the tomatoes? I know you want to know. Well it is because once you introduce the peppers into the tomatoes the tomatoes will stop the peppers from cooking. Peppers and tomatoes really don’t like each other. You shouldn’t grow pepper plants next to tomato plants because the peppers don’t grow well. So funny because they marry so well.

And now we come to the part of the post where there are no pictures. When the tomatoes have cooked about 30 minutes I then like to process them a bit more. I started out by sieving them so that I could get the seeds out…..that didn’t last long because it was a royal pain in the patookis. Tomato seeds are good for you. I read that somewhere.

So I went on to plan B which was to run 3/4 of the tomatoes through the blender. This works well.

One word of caution…..

IMG_8551AMake sure that you have a towel AND your hand on top of the blender lid……………..

When you have processed most of the tomatoes add them back to your big pot and add in the pepper/onion/garlic melange and give everything a big stir.

At this point you will also add….

IMG_8570A                                                      Tomato paste
IMG_8571          Red wine. Make sure you taste this first. You wouldn’t want it to be bad wine.
IMG_8572                                                            Salt
IMG_8573                                                       Brown sugar
IMG_7370Dried Basil. You could use fresh but I wouldn’t advise it only because the fresh basil’s taste doesn’t seem to hold up as well.

Then you just let the magic begin. You want to bring the nascent tomato sauce to a boil and then turn it down to medium or so and let it simmer away, concentrating in flavor and getting thicker. I usually let it simmer for at least 2 hours and sometimes longer.

IMG_8566 Look at how hard it is concentrating. You will want to stir it occasionally and you will definitely want to do this in a heavy bottomed pan.

When the sauce is to your liking taste wise and thickness wise you can either can it or put it in containers and freeze it. I have done both. Your choice.

IMG_8578A Oh aren’t they beautiful! I can hardly wait for a cold winter evening to have some spaghetti or lasagna and remember summer.

IMG_8565A This however is not beautiful. I barely managed to make it through.

And yet for some reason I am looking for something else to can. Maybe pickles?

LINK -> Deb’s Tomato Sauce <- LINK


  1. Debbie, as always I enjoy your posts. I too would have to supplement with other tomatoes because we haven't had an abundance of usable tomatoes this year. Your jars look beautiful and yummy! And I totally sympathize with the mess of it all.. ugh. But it's worth it! Enjoy!! -Tammy

  2. You may not be Martha Stewart--Julia Child maybe? I used to can a lot--haven't in years.

  3. I wish we were neighbors so I could sample all of your jams and sauces! I need to find a DebbieQ in Houston!

  4. Oh delicious!! I may have to do this too. Thanks for always posting such great stuff! After having such fun and success drying the basil per your instructions, I think I'll try this too!


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