Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tomato Bonus Round No. 2 -- Pizza Sauce

So, another bumper crop of tomatoes.  I decided this batch would become pizza sauce.  With a bag of whole wheat pita breads, a jar of homemade pizza sauce, some shredded cheese and whatever other toppings strike your fancy, a simple, inexpensive and really good pizza is just 20 minutes away.  Perfect for a Friday night after a long week!  As fast as ordering delivery and waaaaay cheaper!

Before we get to the tomatoes, let's take a quick detour to talk about beans for a moment.  When I last mentioned my beans I was discussing how two of the varieties I had planted this summer, Grandma Rose and Alubia di Tolosa had drastically different growing habits.  In the basket above, on top of the tomatoes you can see the last of the Grandma Rose bean pods -- they're the mottled purple ones -- along with one Alubia di Tolosa pod that looked dry enough to pick for me to have a look.

Here are the Alubia di Tolosa vines having crawled up over the top of the trellis and the fence, into my neighbour's Rose of Sharon and back again!  You can see a few pods and there are many more hidden in the leaves,  Almost all of them are still green and it's end of September already.  I will leave them as long as I can and hopefully they will dry out enough.

Meanwhile, I brought the basket of tomatoes and beans into the kitchen for inspection and processing.  I really love both types of beans -- I'm just disappointed with the small yield.  Hopefully the Alubia di Tolosa will be more productive.

Alubia di Tolosa on the left.  Grandma Rose on the right.  Pretty, yes?

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming (a.k.a. tomatoes!!).  For the pizza sauce, I'm going to process the tomatoes a little differently than what we did for the diced tomatoes.  No coring, blanching or peeling (YAY!!),

Just use a good sharp knife, trim off any blemishes and quarter the larger tomatoes, cutting the smaller ones in half.

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with the chopped tomatoes and heat to boiling.  Use a spoon or potato masher to squash the tomatoes and release their juice.  You may want to start with a small splash of water in the bottom of the pot to stop the tomatoes from burning until enough juice has been released.  Gradually add more chopped tomatoes allowing the pot to return to a full boil after each addition before adding more.  Keep stirring to prevent scorching.

What we are doing here is neutralizing an enzyme that occurs naturally in tomatoes which starts breaking down their pectin when they are cut, causing them to release their water.  If we made sauce without pre-boiling them like this, the sauce would separate, looking like it was curdled.  It would still be tasty and totally edible, but it wouldn't have a nice smooth saucy texture.  Plus, pre-boiling softens the tomatoes up for one of my favourite gadgets:  the tomato mill!

This baby makes THE BEST sauce and it separates out the skins, cores, seeds etc.  If you make a lot of tomato sauce, I highly recommend getting one.  I got mine at Lee Valley.  In the photo above, I have it set up as it would normally be set for right-handed use.  But, of course, I am left-handed, so in the photos that follow, you will see it set up reversed.  Just so you know.

All right.  The tomatoes are bubbling and ready, so let's put them through the press and make sauce!

Now, let's add the seasonings and get the sauce simmering:

The recipe I'm using is this one from the Bernardin website.  While the sauce is simmering, let's get the waterbath prepared.

One thing I forgot to mention in the post about canning diced tomatoes was to add about a cup of white vinegar to the waterbath to prevent mineral deposits on the jars and the inside of the canner.  I had thought this was only necessary for areas with hard water, but even though our local tap water isn't particularly hard, I still find a thin cloudy film on the jars and canner if I don't add vinegar, so I am trying to get into the habit of doing so (not always successful at remembering, though!).  It's no big show-stopper if I do forget -- I just give the jars and canner a gentle scrub afterwards to remove the film -- it's more of an annoyance than anything else.

The reward!  The recipe calls for 4 pint jars, but I thought 8 half-pints would be more useful for pizza sauce as I don't use it all that regularly.  I had enough extra tomato purée for 2 additional pint jars of unseasoned, which will no doubt come in handy some cold winter evening when I fancy doctoring up some sort of pasta sauce.

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