I had very good luck with tomatoes this year, despite the cold, frozen spring and virtually non-existent summer the extra effort to raise them from seeds under growlights and on heat mats in the basement, then move them to the greenhouse, then transplant into large containers using wall-o-water insulators paid off.
I’m one of the few people up here than managed to get two good harvests. The woman who came to interview me and photograph my urban farm for a book she’s writing said she hadn’t seen any tomatoes like mine between BC and San Francisco.
The first thing I did was lightly score the skin off the bottom of each tomato; it only takes a few seconds.
Then I dipped the scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. I used a colander/basket here but you can use a slotted spoon or skimmer.
A quick dip into a bowl of ice water stops them from cooking and keeps you from burning your hands.
The skin slips right off and then you just cut out the stem. San Marzanos have virtually no core and very few seeds; so this is a super easy process.
You can squeeze the seeds and juice out of the tomatoes if you want it to take less time to cook down more quickly.
You can also skip the skinning step and run the sauce through a ricer after it’s cooked to get seeds and skins out.
Now it’s just a matter of cooking the tomatoes down into sauce (it thickens as the water cooks out)
You can see a few seeds in the sauce; when I make marinara, I run it through a ricer to remove them. (it’s not necessary; it’s an esthetic thing for me)
The next step for any sauce is the onions and garlic; even better if home grown. I had a good harvest of both this year. I chopped them up and sautéed them in olive oil until they caramelized. It’s not necessary to do so, but it sure makes for a richer more complex flavor if you do.
After they are caramelized, I deglaze the pan with some red wine and pour into the sauce (not necessary, but it sure does make it taste amazing)
One joy of home made sauce is adding whatever you may have around the house. In this case, I had some ground meat and sausage in the freezer which I browned with more onions, garlic and pepper.
I also had some pulled pork in the fridge which I added straight to the sauce.
The final step was fresh herbs from my garden; even the “bay leaf” came from the Bay Laurel tree in my back yard. Although not true culinary bay, it imparts the same flavor if used sparingly. I also add a few red pepper flakes to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes and give it a bit of spice.
I was out of cans, so I just poured sauce into freezer bags for later use.
A few days later, I harvested a second batch including my larger Juliets and some Brandywines and made a lovely marinara; no meat. Although I skinned the tomatoes and squeezed the seeds out, I ran it through a ricer before adding the onion, garlic and herbs, which created a lovely sauce with a beautiful texture.
Honestly, I don’t think this is any more work than opening up a bunch of cans of sauce/paste/tomatoes and it’s so much healthier, tastier and better for the environment.
It’s so nice to have tasty, home made sauce in the freezer to heat up on a cold winter night for a taste of summer harvest.