Friday, June 26, 2009

Twenty-nine pounds of tomatoes later

I do believe I've finally recovered from the tomato massacre this weekend - at least enough to blog about it. Twenty-nine pounds of tomatoes transformed into 12-1/2 pints of spaghetti sauce. Pshew! It was some serious work and that takes into account that we had a wonderful new gadget to help. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I spent Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday playing around with different methods of processing tomatoes (boiling, peeling, and seeding vs. the tomato strainer), as well as different ingredient combinations. By Sunday afternoon, we finally found a basic recipe we loved and wanted to can (when I say basic, the idea is that when we open a jar, we can then add extra spices, veggies, etc depending on what's on the menu).

Thankfully, the tomato strainer gave us the best product. So, rather than having to boil, peel, and seed the tomatoes, all I had to do was quarter them and drop them in the strainer. Dave and I decided it was WAY more fun to work on the sauce together, so I added the tomatoes to the strainer and maintained the collection pans (dumping juice as they filled) while he did the cranking and processing. What a team!

Of course, I should also give credit to Kelsey (our Shih Tzu). Her job was to make sure the floor stayed free of tomato juice drippings. What a pro! My little eager helper licked up every last drop - well, other than the ones that ended up on her neck while she hovered beneath us licking the floor. Let's just say bath-time happened soon afterward.

Next, I sauteed onion and garlic in copious amounts of olive oil and then added the tomato juice and pulp, as well as some salt and pepper (the seeds and skins from the tomatoes were reserved to add to my stir fry lunches this week). At this point, I was able to clean up the kitchen while the sauce simmered on the stove, uncovered so the water would boil off and the sauce would thicken. I did add a little cornstarch to help the process.

After about 5 hours of simmering (now 10:30 PM), I had finally achieved a good consistency and flavor. It was finally time to start processing jars! By 12:30 AM, we had 12 gorgeous pint jars of homemade, local spaghetti sauce and a small 1/2 jar full in the fridge for a special meal this week. Exhausted, we fell into bed without listening for the final pings of the last batch of jars sealing. Thankfully, when we awoke the next morning, we found that all the jars had sealed. Success!

At long last, here's our recipe for basic tomato sauce (on a smaller scale - 1 batch):
Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • 3 pounds tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornstarch
Prep your tomatoes either by quartering them and processing through a strainer, or boiling them to remove the skins then seeding and chopping them. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan on low-medium heat and add onion. Sautee for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Raise to medium high heat and allow to simmer on stove, uncovered, for several hours (or as long as it takes to achieve a consistency you like). Adding cornstarch will help the thickening process. Note: To add the cornstarch, ladle out some of the sauce into a separate bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Then add back to the saucepan.

Experiment with spices like red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. Add sauteed mushrooms, shredded carrots, or zucchini. Explore the possibilities, make it your own, but most importantly - Have fun!
Is this the end of my 2009 tomato adventures? Certainly not! I'll be harvesting tomatoes out of my backyard garden through (most likely) November. I'll strain any extra tomatoes, freeze the juice and pulp until I have enough to do a new batch, and begin the canning process again (although on a smaller scale - this was a total of 9 batches. Pshew!). And of course, from the comments on Tuesday, I'm totally going to try my own ketchup too!

So, twenty-nine pounds of tomatoes later, I may be a little tired, but we'll be enjoying local spaghetti sauce all year round. THAT alone is worth the effort. Happy canning!


Chile said...

Congratulations! I'm debating about whether to purchase another flat of tomatoes from the CSA tonight....

So, on the canning, I assume you did it in the pressure canner. How long?

Sam said...

Congrats! Glad Kelsey was so helpful.

We still don't have tomatoes...well not at their peak (they're $2.99/lb). Waiting eagerly still.

Farmer's Daughter said...

That looks great, Heather! I'm hoping to do some serious tomato canning come August. I spent today making strawberry jelly.

hmd said...

Chile - Pshew! The one last weekend was enough for me for awhile (although I'm also harvesting more out of the backyard). I don't think I'll end up with any more tomatoes this weekend unless someone's giving them for free. You're a brave woman, Chile! :)

Nope, I used the boiling water bath. Worked just great! I boiled them for 40 minutes.

Beany - She's is quite the little helper! Wow! $3 a pound. We're running $2 a pound (cheaper in bulk of course). Thankfully, you're patience is sure to be rewarded. Nothing like summer tomatoes. Mmmm!

Farmers' Daughter - I just saw your post. I love the smell of the house when I've just cooked fruit. And strawberry is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Green Bean said...

Tomatoes already?? Woohooooooo!! Though wait, you are always a bit ahead of me. Whew, that gives me a bit of time to get organized. I'll have to try your recipe this year.

Green Resolutions said...

Awesome -- and thanks for sharing the recipe here as well as answering my question on the Yahoo Group list the other day!

hmd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hmd said...

Green Bean - Actually, our tomato season is coming to an end (for two months, anyway) because it's too hot. We've been eating tomatoes for about awhile now. The determinant tomato plants will get pulled up. The indeterminants (most of my plants) will just get trimmed and they'll start to produce again September-ish. Last year, the market had tomatoes until early December. It was WAY cool!

Green Resolution - Anytime! I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Chile said...

Update: I did purchase another flat of tomatoes. (I'm a glutton for punishment!) Spent yesterday making plain tomato sauce (5 pints) and a big pan of roasted sliced tomatoes. Those came out so rich that I decided to freeze them in ice cube trays to add to fresh pasta and other dishes in small quantities.

I need a canning break now but the tomato-jalapeno jam I made in the last batch didn't jell well enough so it needs to be reprocessed at some point.

hmd said...

Chile - Wow! You were busy! I made another batch of tomato sauce today, but it was much smaller (only 4 pints compared to the 12-1/2 pints last time). Not nearly as exhausting, although I really didn't need the extra heat in the house...

I have to say, those roasted tomatoes sounds scrumptious!