Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When Life Gives You Tomatoes...

As mentioned in my previous blog post, my husband and I went back to our hometown this last weekend. What I didn’t mention was that my wonderful mother-in-law gave us a shitload of tomatoes from her own garden! Now, for those of you who grow your own tomatoes, you know that there is NO substitute for them at the store. My husband and I don’t have a garden, so we bite the bullet and eat crappy store tomatoes all the time, so this gift was pure gold. The problem with having a shitload of tomatoes and just two people is that they go bad before you can eat them. Again, mother-in-law to the rescue, “why don’t you just make sauce and can it?” And that is just what I did. I’m so effing proud of myself that I can’t stand it, so I have to share the process with you.

Step 1: Cut out the tops and score the bottoms of you tomatoes with an “X.” Does this sound crazy? Well, it’s not. It comes in handy for Step 2.

Step 2: Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes, and then scoop them out and plop them into an ice-bath. This makes the skin super easy to remove…so go on, remove the skin now! Note to the reader who thinks this is already too much work: If you have a food-mill, you can always skip this step and just run the whole process through the mill at the end. Alas, I have no food mill, so I do it this way.

Step 3: Put all of your skinned tomatoes into a big pot and throw it on medium heat. I also took this opportunity to salt and pepper the tomatoes. I also smashed a couple cloves of garlic and just tossed them in. NOTE: I’m Italian, so of course this is going to be used eventually to make a sauce for pasta, pizza, polenta, etc., so I know that I want to season it for such a thing. If you aren’t sure what to do with it, you can always keep it simple–you can always season it later when you’re actually cooking it for a particular meal. Now make sure you cover that pot and let it go for a while…I let mine go for the length of two episodes of the Golden Girls, approximately one hour.

Step 4: Check those tomatoes – do they all look nice and mushy? Good. It was at this point that I took my immersion blender to the concoction.  I didn’t totally puree it, but got it rather smooth. Taste it at this point – do you think it needs anything? I added some dried oregano, basil, and about a teaspoon of sugar. My tomatoes were pretty acidic, so the bit of sugar took that right out. Thanks for the tip, Ma!

Step 5: Get the mixture back to simmering, and put the lid only half on. Turn the stove to “low” and let that bad boy go for a long-ass time. Mine probably went on cooking for another three hours. Check it every half hour or so to see if it’s thickening properly and to your liking. The best part about cooking for yourself is that it’s all to YOUR liking. See, my Italian Grandma used to like her sauce to be pretty thin. Me on the other hand, I like it on the thicker side (that’s what she said…hah). Neither one is wrong, just different. It’s ok to be different.

Step 6: When your sauce looks right and tastes right, take it off the heat. Now you have two options here – Option 1: Use this sauce as a starter for a meal to consume now. Option 2: Can that shit so you can use it some other time. There’s nothing better than preserved canned goods in the pantry – saves the day for me on many occasions!

My plan is to make one hell of a pasta sauce this weekend with my lovely organic tomato sauce. Although, there are so many options to consider. Maybe I should use it for an eggplant parmesan. What about fried polenta? Oh geez…good thing I have a few jars of it!


  1. super cool! i made a cake from scratch once in college...but i never canned anything i always thought it looked too complicated. looks fun - loretta and i should try it.

    do you like your hand mixer? they look great but then they also look like they're going to throw everything back up at me...

  2. The hand blender is AMAZING! It doesn't throw anything back at you - which is exactly what I was afraid of the first time I used it. It's a super kitchen tool, for sure.