Week 12: Tomato Town
Welcome to Tomato Town y’all! August is always the hardest month working on the farm. With the blazing hot sun, long working days, harvesting of the summer bounty and prepping for the fall planting - everyone is yearning for that first brisk morning of incoming fall. If summer bounty overwhelm in Tomato Town is setting in, we have just the trick – small batch preserving. Preserving doesn’t strictly mean water bath or pressure canning, preserving can be done through dehydrating and freezing too! Preserving seasonal bounties is truly what eating farm fresh is all about. It allows you to make the very most of your Moutoux CSA membership AND eat seasonally all year long.
This week we are gettin saucy wit it (na na na na na nana). But first let’s quickly examine the 5 basic parts of a tomato:
Skin. The skin is the most bitter part and can be removed by blanching and peeling by hand, or by processing the tomatoes through a food mill.
Seeds. The seeds are also bitter and can be removed manually with a spoon, or a food mill if working with larger amounts.
Flesh. Tomato flesh is what is easily transformed into sauce and can be dehydrated.
Water. Tomato water is the clear liquid that you see when cutting tomatoes. You can extract it with a steam juicer. In order of most to least water content: heirloom, vine ripe, roma/plum. That is why they also tend to go bad in this order as well.
Leaves. Leaves have the most aroma and can be added during the final stages of cooking sauce
Making tomato-based sauce all starts with the same process of first creating the basic tomato puree, and once that is done you can branch out into a wide variety of different additions. You will not regret taking the time to make some small batches of tomato sauce. On your mark ready set let’s go.
THE BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
12 pounds roma and/or vine ripe tomatoes
1 ½ tsp salt
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice, divided (if water bath canning)
6 to 7 basil leaves (optional)
Equipment needed: large stainless steel pot, food mill or sieve, 6 to 7 pint canning jars/lids (see notes for manual directions to remove seeds/skins if you do not have a food mill)
Wash the tomatoes, remove the stems, and cut away any bruises. A tomato core tool is a good $5 investment for fast work here.
Chop the first 4 to 5 tomatoes, put them in a large stainless steel pot and bring to a vigorous boil while crushing them with a wooden spoon. Keep the pot at a rapid boil while chopping, adding, and crushing the remaining tomatoes. (This method helps prevent the tomatoes from separating once in the jars)
Once all the tomatoes are in the pot, boil for 5 more minutes.
Position a sieve or food mill over a large bowl and press the hot tomatoes through in batches. Set removed seeds/skins aside for tomato powder (recipe below).
Return the sauce to the pot and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, until reduced by 1/3 for a thin sauce. Reduce by ½ for a thicker sauce.
If water bath canning, add 1 TBSP of bottled lemon juice to each prepared jar. If freezing or using right away, skip this step.
Pour the hot tomato sauce into the jars, leaving ½-inch of headspace for canning and 1.5 inches for freezing. If you’re adding a basil leaf to each jar, tuck in now. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings.
If canning, process pints in water bath for 35 minutes. If freezing, let jars cool on the counter before putting in the freezer.
Notes: Having a food mill is an excellent tool to have around the house, especially with a Moutoux Orchard CSA. Not only does it make quick work of tomatoes, it makes the smoothest apple and pear sauce, creamy soups, pureed fruits, lovely bean dips, and airy mashed potatoes. It is worth the investment. You can go with the Victorio Strainer (with or without motor) for bigger jobs or any hand crank model for small batch cooking. Both have their place in a farm food loving kitchen.
If you do not have a food mill or sieve handy, you can manually remove the skins and seeds of tomatoes. It just takes a little more time and effort. (1) Bring a large pot of water to a simmer/low boil. (2) Wash the tomatoes, remove the stems, and cut away any bruises. (2) Make an ‘X’ with a paring knife at the blossom end (non-stem end) of each tomato. (3) Working in batches, lower 4-5 tomatoes into the water at a time, letting them blanch for about 30 to 60 seconds or until skins start to split. (4) Use a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. (5) Peel the skins off tomatoes, cut in half and spoon out the seeds. Proceed to steps #2 and #5 through #8 above.
ENDLESS VARIATIONS OF SAUCE
Build on the basic tomato sauce recipe to create endless variations!
Marinara Sauce. Heat 1 tsp olive oil over high heat. Add ¼ cup chopped onion, 1 to 2 finely chopped garlic clove and ¼ tsp salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add in 1 pint of basic tomato sauce, bring to a simmer. Stir in 1 ½ tsp chopped fresh basil and 1 ½ tsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley. Serve.
Puttanesca Sauce. Heat 1.5 tsp olive oil over high heat. Add 6 minced garlic cloves, 1/3 can chopped oil-packed flat anchovy fillets, and 1 tsp crushed red pepper. Cook and stir about 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat. Add 2 pints basic tomato sauce, 1 Tbsp packed brown sugar, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives, 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, ¼ cup drained and rinsed capers, and 1 tsp grated lemon peel. Simmer for 5 more minutes and serve.
Pizza Sauce. Simmer ½ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp sugar (optional if you like a sweet sauce) with 1 pint of basic tomato sauce for 2 to 3 minutes. Layer onto pizza dough.
Italian-Style Tomato Sauce. Add 1 pint of basic tomato sauce, 1/3 cup finely chopped onion, 1/3 cup finely chopped celery, ¼ cup finely chopped carrot, 1 clove of finely chopped garlic to a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in 1/8 tsp black pepper and 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Serve.
Notes: The possibilities are truly endless with making variations of tomato sauce. Try adding roasted garlic for an unparalleled pasta sauce, or a mix of poblano, bell, and jalapeno peppers atop cooked chorizo, chicken, pork or eggs.
THE BETTER BLOODY MARY
1 pint basic tomato sauce
2 cups water
½ cup lime juice
½ cup lemon juice
2 oz Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp horseradish
1 tsp hot sauce
2 cups vodka
Celery, lime wedges, pickles, olives for serving
In a pitcher, combine all of the ingredients and stir well.
Notes: Serves 8. Using leftover tomato sauce instead of store-bought mixers or tomato juice give this Bloody Mary more depth of flavor.
NO WASTE TOMATO POWDER
The leftover seeds and skin from your tomato sauce can be used to make dehydrated tomato powder.
If using a dehydrator, spread tomato scraps onto drying racks and dehydrate at 125 for 6 to 8 hours. If using an oven, bake at the lowest temperature, using the oven fan if you have one.
Continue to dry tomato scraps until dry and brittle. You want to ensure there is no moisture left.
Blitz in a blender or spice grinder until a powder. Store in a jar.
Notes: Use tomato powder in place of tomato paste in both volume and taste. Wonderful added to soups, stews, taco mix, or cream cheese for a tasty spread.