“Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat history class”.
- Some Guy
So, one thing I have learned is that it’s too bleeding hot to grow anything outside besides fennel vulgaris that seems to invade every empty lot, roadside and unplanted corner, incidentally making brush fires burn hotter and longer. Thank god for farmer’s market tomatoes.
I quartered 6 pounds of very ripe tomatoes, added a whole yellow onion and a whole head of garlic. I toss them in a bowl with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and a little sugar to jump start the magic of caramelization. I add whatever fresh herbs look good: in this case, some oregano, red basil and some fennel seeds. My daughter taught me that you can spread this in a cookie sheet, put it in a 250F oven for FOUR HOURS, and they taste like heaven. Okay, this doesn’t help the ambient indoor temp, but boy, does the house smell delicious!
After the pan cools, I shovel the lovely muck into a food mill, using the middle blade. Some tomato seeds get through, but the peel is left behind. It takes about 4 batches in the mill, turning until the only thing left in the top is dry-ish peel. Between batches, I wash the food mill to clean out the holes and remove the skin. (I can’t compost what’s left because of the oil, and I’ve learned that the coyotes don’t care for it if left in a bowl outdoors overnight, so I grind up the peel etc in the garbage disposal.)
The longer you roast, the darker the sauce. Plus, I’ve learned that the difference between a juicy tomato sauce and a thicker tomato paste depends on roasting time.
I put the sauce in a saucepan and simmer it while I’m sterilizing the glass jars, and depending on what I want, I might add some red wine to thin and darken the mix.
I’m getting better and more organized about the actual canning process. I always clean more jars than I think I’ll need – better to have too many than not enough. Notice the glass of red wine, which I sip while working. I’m pretty sure this enhances the sauce.
The filled jars are left in the canner for 20 minutes. I want to be sure this stuff keeps until the gloom of winter when a zesty fresh tomato is mostly a figment of my fevered imagination.
We couldn’t resist the lure of the dark red paste however, and made some of the best pizza in the world with a whole wheat dough in the bread-maker, grated fresh mozzarella and Romano cheese. I also add some of the sweet onion and thyme relish and more fresh herbs.