Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Case for Purity

So, who out there is a die-hard tomato farmer? Our backyard, once again, is host to way more plants than we can harvest half the time, let alone eating everything fresh! We (well, my stepfather) did cut down on our tomato-seedling purchasing though - I get a free pass because I didn't buy any pre-started plants but started my heirlooms from seed. We weren't sure if my tomatoes would even take in the garden, but oooh, boy - did they ever! In fact, this is now my best "from seed" growing season to date, with 6 plants of my own strong and beginning to produce fruit! In total, we've got 9 rows of 4 plants each and my seeds made 3 rows of 2 plants each, so to do the math... well, we've got a lot of tomatoes on our hands right about now.

Of course, if you remember my previous garden-power struggles with a certain stepfather, you know that he can be a touch anal about people picking "his" vegetables. It's not that he picks them, however. He would rather find all the tomatoes, beans, cucumber, peppers, eggplant and zucchini rotting on the vines (or in the case of the zucchini on the right, growing to over 5' long!) in the middle of September than admit to the fact that I do, in fact, know when vegetables are ripe! But, as with last year, I couldn't just watch such promising flavours waste away. So I grabbed our biggest bowl and (in the morning rain) picked to my heart's content. I wound up with just over 3 lbs of assorted tomatoes, having left the rest of the veggies alone, and I knew exactly what I was going to do with those that escaped my salad bowl. Sauce was going to be made for sure, but only tomato sauce, with a supremely concentrated, complex flavour. I adore roasted tomato soup for it's caramelized, slightly bitter notes that you just don't get from a can, and I knew that to get the purity of "tomatoeyness" I wanted in a simple sauce I wouldn't have to do a thing but stick them on a cookie sheet and cook them to perfection.

I wasn't disappointed! It's incredible how nothing but tomatoes, an oven and a food processor can translate into something so intensely sweet, tart, smokey and bitter, all at the same time, and all in the space of two hours, and cheaply too. Since I am in posession of a water-bath canner and plenty of jars, I opted to can the (fairly small) amount of sauce I produced, adding a touch of lemon juice for the acidity safe canning requires. By the time lunch rolled around, I had myself two pint-sized jars of "red gold" cooling on a rack (and the tablespoon or two left over in my belly!), and I was able to squirrel them into hiding so that my "ninja harvest" stayed unknown.

And I'm not telling if you don't!

Finally, all you "visual" people can just ignore that cayenne pepper in the photo on the right, I was planning to add it to the sauce as well but decided against it at the last moment. Of course if you are so inclined you can add anything you care to - garlic, pepper flakes, herbs - it's tomato sauce after all! Thinned out with a little vegetable stock, this also makes great soup, and will form a great "smoky" element to any meat sauce without the need to add bacon.
Roasted "Pure Tomato" Sauce
Makes 4 cups
3 lbs 3 oz (50 oz.) assorted fresh tomatoes (I mixed Yellow Pear, San Marzano and Early Girl from my garden)
1 tbsp lemon juice (if canning)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and line 3 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment or foil.
  2. Quarter plum-sized tomatoes (or cut them to approxmately the size of the cherry tomatoes, if using).
  3. Spread tomatoes, cut side up (or whole if cherries) on the baking sheets.
  4. Roast 1 hour, rotating sheets 1/2 way through.
  5. Scrape all the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor and puree smooth.
  6. Add lemon juice if canning, and process according to your location's altitude.

Amount Per Cup
Calories: 76.3
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 32.7 mg
Total Carbs: 16.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g
Protein: 3.1 g

This sauce is being sent over to Andrea for her Grow Your Own event this month.

7 comments :

Pille said...

Love the basked of mixed tomatoes on your photo!!

Pille said...

sorry, basket :)

David T. Macknet said...

Well done, on adding the lemon, rather than adding sugar. Of course, you could do both....

Or, you could can using a pressure-canner. Then you wouldn't necessarily have to add either one.

Lonesome Road Studio said...

Looks delicious, and so easy! I currently have tons of tomatoes that are about to ripen all at once; I usually do my homemade pizza sauce for the freezer but I might try some of this sauce as well.

Karen said...

They look delicious - we call this process 'bottling' here, & I remember my Mum doing it when i was little. (this site I found explains the process really well, & I'm tempoted to try it http://www.allotment.org.uk/allotment_foods/bottling-canning/Bottling-Canning-Methods.php). I rarely grow tomatoes, as a greenhouse is needed to get the best results, but occasionally i grown a tiny cherry variety, & any surplus is turned into chutney.

Andrea Meyers said...

How wonderful that you were able to grow the tomato plants from seed. You really do have a lot of tomatoes on your hands! Thanks for sharing your recipe with Grow Your Own.

girlichef said...

Growing heirlooms from seed is so gratifying...they worked out very well for me this year, too! Your sauce sounds soooo delicious- I can almost taste the sweet tomatoes from here. YUM!