It’s that time of year, tomato season! Well for us it’s past the peak season but good maters are still available and I had time to build some of our home made sauce for later in the year when decent tomatoes don’t exist. I found a small farm north of town that is in the pine belt (willmonfarm.com) that would probably have the right pH soil for good fruit so we made the hike up there. It was a mom and pop type operation essentially running an out of control home garden. They sell what they can fresh and put up the rest in some sort of value added product. Kathy came home with a bunch of their canned goods, but I pretty much homed in on the maters.
Processing tomatoes is a pain but the sauce is so worth it. The easiest way to get the hide off them is blanching until the skin splits, which usually takes about 3 minutes.
I chill them at this point so they’re easier to handle. Stopping the cooking process isn’t that big a deal since you’re going to be simmering the sauce eventually anyway.
The next step is both tedious and time consuming. In all likelihood it will make your back scream a bit, but again you’ll be glad you did later. Peel, seed and core the tomatoes. I do this over a tight strainer above a bowl so you catch all the juice that bursts from the tomatoes when you open them up. The hide slips right off but you’ll want a sharp paring knife to core them. You can push most of the seeds out with your fingers and shake out whats left. You don’t need to get every single seed out but they tend to make the sauce bitter so you want to be sure to get most of them. When you finally get to the last one combine the juice and tomato meat in a pot and add garlic, onion, black pepper, whatever herbs you have on hand and I add some red wine. Simmer all this for 30 minutes to an hour. You want to get to the proper consistency and marry all the flavors but do it without reducing the volume of your hard work down to nothing. We leave the tomato meat chunky so our sauce is more versatile. You can always zap it with a stick blender and strain for a smooth texture later if the recipe calls for it.
Our next step will be considered sacrilege by some but it really works well. We freeze, not can our sauce! When we first started doing this every source I could find said freezing tomato was bad, evil or just plain poor form. Being generally freaked out by anaerobic bacteria, especially botulism, we decided to go against all advice and freeze anyway and see just why it was so bad. We put 2 cups of cooled sauce into quart zip bags and squeezed out all the air. We laid them out on cookie sheets so they would freeze flat. It gave us a product that was easy to stack either vertically or horizontally in the freezer and when put to the acid test, Kathy’s spaghetti, it was great! I still have no idea why all my sources were so down on freezing, for us it was vastly superior.
Of course, you have to be fortunate enough to have abundant freezer space which we usually do. If you have the space and like outstanding sauce enought to go through all the hassle then you really ought to give this a try. I will say that growing your own tomatoes makes this as economical as it is tasty, but if you have to buy them you have to be satisfied with just tasty.