Summer Bounty : Saucetravaganza

Preparing gallons of tomato sauce may not save the world, but it is certainly helping to calm my unease at a world seemingly gone awry. Watching the news this past week has been disheartening.  I suppose famine, disease or sectarian/ethnic/religious or just plain political conflict is always with us, but this summer the world seems to be particularly chaotic. Sometimes, doing things the old school way is a means of creating a tiny island of security and stability in an otherwise challenging sea. Freezing tomato sauce was one of my summer goals, and I’m happy to say that the carriage house freezer is now housing the results of yesterday’s marathon. Here are the steps I followed, improvising after doing a bit of online research: First, I acquired the following :

25 pounds ripe organic paste tomatoes, washed, chopped into one inch dice with hard membrane but not skin or seeds removed (I like chunky sauce so I don’t bother to skin or seed)

chopped tomatoes

4 large organic white onions and as many cloves of fresh garlic as you wish, chopped

chopped organic onions and garlicFresh Italian parsley, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, fresh oregano (washed, dried and chopped)

organic Italian parsley and  basil

Any good red wine, salt and pepper

Freezer containers with no toxic chemicals

Next, I sauteed the onions and garlic in olive oil until just translucent. I then worked in four batches with one batch just tomatoes cooked until tender with no seasoning to serve as diced tomatoes in future recipes:

voila!!The other three batches cooked for a much longer time. After a strong covered boil on medium heat for about ten minutes or so, the tomatoes had cooked down to about 2/3 of their original volume, but the sauce was very watery.

I took the lid off the pot, turned down the heat to a simmer, added all of the chopped herbs (except the parsley, which went in at the very end to preserve its greenness) a bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, and about a cup of a good red wine per batch. Stirring every ten minutes or so, I let the sauce cook down until it was less than half the volume of the original diced tomatoes. On a very slow simmer, this took about two hours.

Finished Sauce

(If I had been making just one batch I might have used my slow cooker, but doing so many batches required using the stove.) Finally, I tasted and corrected the seasonings, added the parsley and allowed the sauce to cool, giving an occasional stir. Once everything was cool, I ladled the sauce into washed and dried ziploc plastic containers, leaving space at the top of about a half an inch.  I did the research, and these containers (and the bags) contain no evil chemicals or contaminants so they won’t leach bad stuff into my luscious sauce. I refrigerated the containers until chilled and then transferred them to the freezer. All in all, the process (including picking up the tomatoes at my CSA drop off point) was pretty much an all day affair. Judging from the way Mr. D and I gobbled our spaghetti dinner last night, it was worth it! Up next …. freezing a giant batch of corn. I may not be able to fix the world, but I can darn well fix some delicious meals in a sustainable and rewarding way!!

I’m Seeing Red

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It all started a week ago when Mr. D and I went to Capitol Hill to visit an awesome private gallery of Americana political memorabilia with his West Coast cousins. I fell in love with the brilliant red door, the lipstick colored apartment building framed by flaming red flowering shrubs, the Tasha Tudor like urban garden complete with Corgi and little old woman weeding.  Then, on Saturday we went to Hains Point and walked most of the length of the East Potomac Park.  The most spectacular day of the summer yielded wonderful views of planes landing and departing over the Potomac as we lay on our backs in the grass.  Families fished, picnicked and frolicked along the waterfront, but not in numbers or decibels sufficient to dispel the sense that we were vacationing in some far off coastal area. Glimpses of red caught my eye there, too.

Then, this morning, my CSA notified me that I could preorder 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes for canning or freezing next week. While Mr. D and I are happily tending our own tomato plants, most of which are cherries and slicers, we welcome the volume that we can get of these organic, beautiful Romas.

Those of you who follow my blog may remember that putting up tomatoes and tomato sauce is on the to do list for this summer.  So, onto the interwebs I went to find the perfect recipes.  I’m a little bit afraid of poisoning Mr. D by canning incorrectly, and I have a freezer in the carriage house that has plenty of room, so freezing it will be.  With some due diligence I’ve discovered that Ziploc bags do not contain BPA or other evil things so that will be the preferred containment system.

I’m going to use this recipe or a close variant depending upon my whim, possibly slow cooked in my slow cooker. I’ll do a post documenting my efforts next week!