The Tomatoes are Coming! The Tomatoes are Coming!

            Yes, I have a lot of them, too, and there are only going to be more.  The tomatoes are coming in about as fast as I can process them.  After making peeled whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, the next phase is making “Blank Sauce.”  I call it that because it does not have any herbs that might give it a hint of ethnic flavor.  We can use the blank sauce to create all kinds of tomato sauce very quickly.

            One piece of equipment that I strongly recommend is a food mill.  I frequently see them in thrift stores, which for me is a sad affirmation that people are moving further and further away from home processing.  Most food mills look like a pot with holes in the bottom, and a handle with a metal plate.  You can probably pick one up new for about $20- $25.  Some of them come with interchangeable plates, so you can puree the food to different consistencies.

          The drawback to the food mill is the small capacity.  When I am making a large batch of tomato anything, or berry, or apple, I use a Squeezo strainer, that I picked up at a thrift store for $5.  It was one of the best $5 I ever spent there.  New, they run about $100-$150, depending on the brand and the accessories.  My Squeezo has interchangeable cones that run from a berry mesh (fine enough to strain out berry seeds) to a squash mesh that makes perfect crushed tomatoes!

           One benefit of using a food mill, or tomato strainer, is that I get to skip the time consuming step of peeling the tomatoes.  Just don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago and dump the seeds in your compost.  I’ll make excuses for myself that it was hot and I was tired, and just didn’t think when I dumped all of those tomato seeds in the compost bin… but the aftermath, volunteer tomato plants everywhere, was an issue.  Actually it still is an issue.  I had tomatoes coming up in my cold frame this past spring.

 

 

Blank Sauce

 

·      2 T olive oil

·      1 large onion, cut in chunks

·      3 cloves garlic cut in half

·      10 quarts of tomatoes, cut in half or quarters and cored

·      ¼ C salt

·      1 T lemon juice

 

1.     Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot.

2.     Add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to turn translucent.

3.     Add tomatoes, salt and lemon juice, and cook down for about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the water content of the tomatoes.

4.     Turn off the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.

5.     Run the contents of the pot through the food mill or strainer, using the medium plate. 

6.     Return to the pot and cook down to the desired consistency.

I jar this in quarts and pints. 

 

 In November, when we are in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, we can whip up some sauce in no time:

 

 Spaghetti Sauce

 

·      1 quart Blank sauce

·      2 T olive oil

·      1 medium onion, finely chopped

·      1 clove garlic, finely chopped

·      2 T dried basil, crushed

·      2 T dried oregano, crushed

·      1 C red wine

·      salt and pepper to taste

1.     In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion starts to turn clear (about 5 minutes).

2.     Add the dried herbs and stir until everything is shiny.

3.     Add the red wine and reduce by half.

4.     Add the Blank sauce.  Simmer for  20-30 minutes.

5.     Salt and pepper to taste.

You can add crushed red pepper flakes to this to zip it up.

 

 If we want a Greek style tomato sauce, it’s even easier:

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped

·      1 t dried oregano, crushed

·      ½ C red wine

·      ¼ t cinnamon

·      1/8 t ground allspice

·      Salt to taste

 

1.     Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and stir.  Simmer about 25 minutes. 

This sauce is great over fish in addition to Greek style meatballs.

 

 How about clams or mussels marinara?

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      4 anchovy fillets

·      clams and mussels, scrubbed and sanded (put the shellfish in a tub of water with a lot of ground black pepper)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Pour the sauce into a large pot. Heat and stir in the anchovies.  Lower the heat.  Add the shellfish and cover.  Cook until all of the shells have opened.  If any shells do not open, discard that clam or mussel.

 

 My last quick use for Blank Sauce is pot roast:

·      One chuck roast, frozen

·      1 quart Blank Sauce

·      2 C red wine

·      ¼ C soy sauce

·      1 large onion, sliced

1.     Place onion slices in the bottom of a crock pot.

2.     Put frozen roast on top of the onions.

3.     Pour the remaining ingredients on top.

4.     Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.

5.     After 10 hours, remove the meat.  Poke around to see if there are any bones in the pot.  If there are remove them!  Using a wand (immersion) blender, puree the contents of the crock pot to make gravy.  Slice the meat and serve.

 

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