A SAUCY SEPTEMBER LONG WEEKEND
Mm Mm Mm. How can you not take advantage of harvest season and the very best produce of the year being ripe and ready to devour? Sadly, the peak season is short lived and we all wish we could bottle it up and save it to have through the winter months. Well, it so happens that you CAN bottle it up- canning is a popular way to preserve all sorts of produce at this time of year. It’s an art. A practice of careful steps to ensure the jars are preserved properly so as not to make anyone come down with a case of botulism. In other words, a technical, intimidating process that I am not comfortable doing without the assistance of a much adultier-adult than me (for example, my In-Laws- they are pro’s!). So, if canning isn’t an option for you, how can you still bottle it up for a rainy day? Use your freezer!
We had planned to get away for the Labour Day Weekend but we decided against it at the last minute and opted for a stay-cation instead. I thought I would start with stocking the freezer with some home made tomato sauce- a staple in this household! I started the Saturday morning bright and early with a trip to a local greenhouse to round up everything I needed. Here in SE Alberta we are incredibly lucky to have greenhouse fresh produce at our finger tips. When purchasing right from the source is it a bargain. I left with everything I needed for only $18! That made 14 2-Cup portions- That’s only $1.24 each. You just can’t beat that.
Making sauce is a process. It is time consuming and requires your full attention. It’s the kind of kitchen work that should be rewarded with a bubble bath and a glass of wine at the end it of- you’ll be exhausted! From start to finish this took me about 5 hours, not including cooling and freezer bagging.
ROASTED RED PEPPER & GARLIC TOMATO SAUCE
1 Head Garlic
2lbs Red Peppers (Approx 7)
2 Red Onions (Chopped)
2 Yellow Onions (Chopped)
2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Pepper
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Dried Basil
Get a couple of your biggest pots out and fill one about half way with water and get in on to boil. The other you’ll use for the tomatoes once they are blanched so just have that handy for a little later. While your water is boiling you want to get roasting your red peppers. Crank your oven up to 450º. Line a baking sheet with foil. Rinse and dry the peppers (leave them whole). Rub a little olive oil all over the skins and put them on the lined sheet. If you like your garlic roasted go ahead and add your cloves to the same pan.
Once in the oven the skins will blacken rather quickly. Check on them every 10 minutes and turn them until all sides of the skin have blackened- About 25-30 minutes.
When your peppers are nicely blackened on all sides take them out of the oven and get them into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until later. The plastic wrap will cause the peppers to sweat and will make the skins so much easier to get off later.
While your peppers are roasting get started on the first step of the tomato prep- blanching. Add a few tomatoes to the boiling water and watch for the skins to start cracking. This is what it looks like when the skins start to separate from the inside. When you see that the skin has cracked all over remove the tomato from the pot with a slotted spoon and get into a colander to cool. Rinse with cold water so its easier to handle and then peel the skin off. Discard the skin. Quarter your tomato and put in the second empty pot you have handy. Repeat until all the tomatoes are de-skinned.
Once your tomatoes are all blanched and have the skin removed get this big pot on a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic. To deal with the peppers simply slice down the middle and pull the flesh away from the skin. The seeds will also easily peel away. Discard the skins and seeds. Add the peppers to the tomato pot.
Bring the pot to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. When everything is tender get your immersion blender out and carefully blend the mix until smooth. Once smooth add the salt, pepper, basil and sugar. Why sugar, you ask? If you taste the sauce without sugar you will find there is a bitterness to it. The sugar will counteract this. Stir. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.
IMPORTANT! Be sure to TASTE your sauce to decide if it needs more seasonings. All tomatoes are different. Bitter? Add more sugar. Too sweet? Add more salt. Needs more pepper? Basil? If you like a sauce with a little kick don’t be afraid to add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes. Your personal preference may be that you would like more of something. Tasting is a critical step to ensuring that you have a great sauce that you and your family will really enjoy.
Once you are happy with the consistency and the flavour of the sauce you have 2 choices:
1. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside to cool (this will take several hours).
2. Can it. I don’t have any directions to offer for this. You will either have to a- be versed and confident in this process, or b- find an adultier-adult that can assist you in the next steps!
If you choose to freeze the sauce you will need to wait until its totally cooled. Label and date medium sized freezer bags and then divide your sauce into the bags. I did 2 cups per bag but you can do more or less depending on your portion size preference. The average pasta sauce jar is around the equivalent of 2 cups.
KOCHIEMAMA TIP: Fill your bags by using a cup or similar container. Put the bag inside folding the top over the rim. Easily pour your sauce into the bags without spilling or making too much mess.
Seal your bags firmly, getting out as much air as possible. Stack the bags flat and freeze them flat- this gives you the most efficient use of space for storing them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to use the sauce you can defrost and use thawed. I have used the sauce from frozen in the slow cooker, and partially thawed for stove top cooking if I didn’t think ahead to thaw it earlier in the day. Both methods have been successful for me.
Did you make sauce this season? What do you love to add?
Until next time