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Monday, September 8, 2014

Tomato Sauce

Some years I have the tomato plant that never blooms. Other years I have the tomato plant that won't stop giving.

This year I had a cherry tomato plant whose sprouted with the intent of burying me in sweet, red cherry tomatoes. A wonderful gift, but there is a limit to how many cherry tomatoes I can get my family, neighbors, and random stranger I attack with bags of fruit to eat. Yes, tomatoes are a fruit. Savory, but still fruit.

And, yes, my neighbors did start hiding when they saw me approaching with bags full of tomatoes.

Normally I'd freeze them and forget until I needed to make a sauce of some kind, which can take years. But not this year! Waiting for the "right time" to eat the tomatoes is not a luxury I have with the move looming over my head. So I decided to try canning the tomatoes.

Which meant I tweeted about the tomatoes.

Which means I now owe all of you a tomato sauce recipe and a mass email seems complicated. This way is easier.

- one crock pot full of tomatoes (washed but nothing else matters)
- 1/4 water if your crock pot tends to overheat and burn
- 1/4 sugar (maybe)
- 2 tbsp salt
- lemon juice or citric acid for canning (only if you are canning)
- jars, lids, or other containers

1. Take the clean tomatoes and dump them in the slow cooker.
2. Turn the slow cooker on high and put the lid on. Leave for eight hours or so.
3. Mash any of the tomatoes that haven't burst.
4. Turn the slow cooker to low and leave overnight.
5. Take the lid off and watch for a few more hours. Skim the tomato skins if you like.
6. Cool the tomatoes so they aren't molten lava and puree in a blender or food processor (You could use a food grinder and filter out the seeds and skins if you want to be fancy. I don't have one, so I didn't.)
7. Put the tomato sauce back in the slow cooker on low with the lid off.
8. Taste. Add salt. Add sugar if needed. A little goes a long way so don't overdue it.
9. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches desired consistency (probably very soon).

From here you could put the sauce to good use as the base for chili, spaghetti, salsa, or pizza sauce. You could freeze it. Or you could put it in a jar and into the fridge for a week or so.

If you want to can the sauce you need sterile canning jars, sterile lids, a boiling water bath (literally a giant pot of boiling water - it's easier than cooking noodles), and lemon juice. The Ball canning recipe says 1 tbsp lemon juice per pint and 2 tbsp per quart.  Adjust depending on the size of your jars. Then boil for 35-40 minutes (the larger jars stay in longer) and let them cool on the counter overnight.

How simple is this? If you have a spare corner in your kitchen and a blender this is a recipe you can do in your sleep. Actually work time is less than ten minutes if you freeze the sauce.

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