Saucing Up Tomatoes

Tiegan and I picked a few tomatoes on Saturday:

Most of these are Roma types (Monica and Bellstar). We picked all the red ones we could find and brought them in before it rained so we could get started on making pasta sauce. To do this, we had to dig up the old food mill:

Below you can see Tiegan cutting the tops off the tomatoes and quartering them. Then she throws them into the hopper where the red plunger is, and Kirk uses that to press them down against the grinder, which he is cranking. That pushes the juice and pulp down the chute, while the skins and seeds are filtered out the side. 

This thing is awesome. It saves us the trouble of peeling and seeding tomatoes (and I don't really see the point in canning them whole, when we're just going to end up crushing them anyway). Ours has a vice clamp that you attach to the edge of the countertop while you're working. 

Once we worked our way through that whole pile of tomatoes, we had three big pots of puree to cook down into sauce:

That pretty much took all night, except for the small one. That one got cooked down into paste by mistake while I was busy watching the Olympics instead of the stove. I just added it to the silver pot and stirred it up--no big deal. We ended up turning these down and leaving them to simmer on the lowest setting overnight, since they still had a long way to go (which is what happens when you start canning projects after dark).

By the next morning we were able to combine both large pots into one. It all reduced by about half to get to this nice, saucy consistency. Then we put it in the fridge, because we had a softball tournament to attend to all day on Sunday (and by "attend to," I mean play in three games so you can barely move the next day).

So the canning waited until this evening. That was a little bit of a pain, because we had to heat the sauce back up, but when it was done, we had these:

They are beautiful, but there are, alas, only six quarts. All those tomatoes really cook down, so it takes a ton to make pasta sauce. And these could actually be used for non-Italian things, since we just canned the plain sauce instead of adding basil and onion and garlic to make spaghetti sauce. Most of them will probably be used that way, but we at least have the option of using them for soup, or a curry, or chili since we didn't season them.

Good thing we have piles of tomatoes still on the vine, though — a half dozen jars is definitely not enough for this household to get through the winter! We were actually hoping for at least 20 by the time all is said and done.

In other tomato news, I finally packed our sundried tomatoes in jars with olive oil:

These are half-pint jars, and each baking sheet of sun dried tomatoes fills one. We keep these in the fridge since we don't seal the jars. It's not a perfect system if you use olive oil — it solidifies in the colder temps. It's no big deal to bring it back to room temperature when you need to pull some out of the jar, but it's just not very pretty. Still, using olive oil is totally worth it, because when the tomatoes are used up you can use the tomato-flavored oil in salad dressing or other recipes. It's hard to estimate how many jars of these we would need to get us through the winter. We don't use them all the time, but they are so delicious ... perhaps a jar per month in the non-tomato months of the year? That would be about ten, I think. Eight more to go!


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