Many people scoff at my farm membership when they hear things like, “This week was awesome! We got 28 pounds of tomatoes!” Well, those people have never known the joys of homemade tomato sauce coming out of the dead-body freezer on a dark wintry day. The sauce and paste tomatoes from my farm are probably my single favorite thing about the membership; if there were only a quarter as many of the other veggies I’d probably still happily pay what I do now, just for the tomatoes. And yesterday, being home and only slightly gimpy from my surgery, I decided it was time to tackle the mountains of them that were piling up on the counter, if only because I’d just brought home even more mountains to add to the pile.
I started with an array of Plum Dandy and Amish Paste tomatoes, with a few standard slicing types in the mix. Normally I’d not bother putting the slicing tomatoes in the sauce because they’re so watery, but with that many paste tomatoes, I figured it wouldn’t hurt. I slapped them all on trays and roasted them at 375 degrees in the oven, just until they’re mushy and their skins are peeling off. They give off a lot of liquid this way, too, and I’ve read suggestions to roast them on a cooling rack set in the sheet pan so they don’t stew in their own juices. I can’t be bothered with this, since I don’t expect them to come out of the oven all dry and ready to be smeared on something as sauce. At the same time as the tomatoes were roasting, I roasted up some garlic too. For this many tomatoes, I went with six heads of garlic, with the tops lopped off, propped up in a little sleeve of tin foil, and drizzled with olive oil. Once the garlic is golden brown and oozing out the top of the head it’s good to go, and almost impossible to resist just eating on its own. I really, really love roasted garlic.
Anyway, I let everything cool to the point where I could handle it all, and then got to food milling the tomatoes. This was not a brief process yesterday; in five years of farm membership, I’ve never made this much sauce at once. I ended up needing to use my ginormous pot for it!
My sauce is hardly anything fancy. I smushed up the garlic and thinned it with some of the milled tomatoes to get it liquidy, then stirred it into the pot. Then I tossed in a bunch of salt, black pepper and a fairly large pile of fresh, chopped oregano. And then I let it simmer. And simmer. And simmer. It took about five hours to get it to a reasonable consistency, and even so, I’ll probably want to cook it down a bit more when the time comes to eat it. After the simmering, I tossed in copious quantities of freshly chopped fino verde basil, and then divvied into tupperwares. The end tally? Close to 22 cups of tomato sauce, ready to go into a chilly dormancy until a cozy January night when it will get doctored up and make us think fondly of the one thing about summer we like — the tomatoes.