Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tomato Sauce and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and More Tomatoes...

Well, we're into week two of VeganMofo (Vegan Month of Food Blogging) and I need to take a short break from my "This Is What 50 Looks Like" theme because I have TOMATOES coming out my ears and eyeballs.... (You shouldn't look like you have tomatoes coming out of your eyeballs when you turn 50, just to clarify...).

So the following is a variation on my yearly "Tomato" post. Apparently it's very helpful, because it always gets tons of hits and comments and people asking question abut what to do with THEIR tomatoes, so read on if you need ideas... Today, "50 Looks Like A Tomato Grower" I guess. If you need me to stick with that theme.

This year, for whatever reason, the Vegetable (Fruit?) Gods have smiled upon me, and my tomatoes took off! We've been enjoying them, but now that school and work have started, I'm again pressed for time, and faced with way WAY more tomatoes than a family of two can deal with.

Yes, the Internet is full of wonderful "What-To-Do-With-Tomatoes" pages. And they are very good suggestions, but most involve time-consuming peeling, seeding, sauteing, chopping, canning and standing over a hot stove as your sauce simmers. Projects I, sadly, don't have time for... (And can I remind everyone that it was 91 degrees here in Puyallup, Washington today!!)

But I digress. After years of dealing with bigger and smaller crops of tomatoes, I've narrowed down my favorites to these two ideas that have never failed me.
Here are my easy busy-day tomato preserving ideas:

Take any and all of your tomatoes, the split ones, the almost over-ripe ones, the big and small; Stem, cut in half or whatever and CRAM them into your slow-cooker/crock pot. Let cook down over night and run through the food mill to remove seeds and skin the next AM, resulting in 8 cups of lovely tomato sauce for the freezer (I don't have time to can, sorry!) for each Crock-pot-full.

I'm on my 4th round of this and will probably do a few more nights of tomato-stewing. Lots of cheerful, tomato-red freezer bags lining my freezer! Use whatever tomatoes you have, beefsteak, plum, Marzano, yellow, striped, black, red...

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce
10 - 12 medium-sized tomatoes (or as many as will fit in your size cooker)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine (*optional - preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)

Wash and stem tomatoes, cut into quarters, add to slow-cooker with rest of ingredients. Cook overnight or up to 12 hours (depending on how juicy the tomatoes are) on low in crock-pot/slow-cooker WITH LID CRACKED so steam escapes and tomatoes cook down (I run the vent-fan in my stove hood all night to keep my kitchen from steaming up and smelling super-tomato-y).

Turn off heat, allow tomatoes to cool a bit. Pour into food mill or ricer and process until all skins and seeds are removed and you're left with smooth sauce. Season sauce to taste with a bit of salt, pepper or whatever you prefer.

Freeze in zip-loc freezer bags. (I fill quart-size half-full and lay them on cookie sheets until frozen, then stack them like pretty red bricks.) This basic sauce can then be used in soup or seasoned, cooked down to thicken more if you want; It's super versatile - use it any time you need tomato sauce!!!

I use sauce from the freezer all winter; preserving 'guides' recommend using in 3 - 6 months for best flavor, but we have never noticed a problem even after a year!


We have gallons of cherry tomatoes just falling off the vines, and even though we eat them like candy, there's only SO many cherry tomatoes a person can eat.

So we cut them in half and dehydrated in a low oven overnight. Store them in olive oil, and they taste JUST like
those expensive "sun-dried" tomatoes from the specialty store. They also perk up soups and sauces and add a whole lot of tomato flavor with just a few tomatoes...

Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes

6 - 8 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp Kosher salt or flaked salt

Spread tomatoes, cut side UP, over a foil-lined, lightly oiled cookie-sheet.

Sprinkle with salt.
Place in a low (150°) oven overnight or as long as it takes to dry tomatoes not QUITE to a crispy

They should be a bit leathery, like raisins, but not moist.
Remove and cool.

Store in zip-loc bags in the freezer or pack in a sterile pint jar and fill jar with olive oil and keep refrigerated.
(The oil will solidify but doesn't hurt it's quality any).

Should you need further tomato ideas, I cannot recommend ENOUGH the "Fried Green Tomatoes" recipe from Bianca Phillips "Cookin' Crunk" cookbook. I reviewed it in this post here, if you're interested in what those tomatoes look like up close and personal... 


Catherine said...

I should really try making some sauce from the heirlooms we have in abundance right now. I can't can it, because of the inconsistent acidity, but I bet I could squeeze a few bags in my freezer! Thanks for the reminder.

elyse said...

your tomato sauce looks AMAZING! :)