How to: Make Homemade Tomato Sauce from the Garden

Tomato Zeal (noun): an April/May induced state of fervent excitement for growing tomatoes that causes people to have 2-3 times as many plants as needed without foreseeing the future consequences of an amount of tomatoes that becomes unsustainable to stay on top of.

I am a victim of tomato zeal.  Every year.  Last year, I grew 4 tomato plants, moderately sustainable.  This year, the zeal possessed me to plant 8.  Yeah, I know, 8 plants for 2 people.  The main way that I convinced myself that I could handle this many tomatoes was to learn how to make fresh tomato sauce from them.  I can make tomato sauce from a can of tomatoes, but all freshness?  That was a challenge that I couldn’t pass up.

So, a little research entailed.  A 2009 article from the San Francisco Chronicle (“From Vine to Freezer”) helped me get the basic technique and proportions, then, the sauce went with the imagination.

This recipe is perfect for using up unloved, neglected tomatoes or brand new ones.  In short, it is the best way to temper tomato zeal.

Printable: Homemade Tomato Sauce from the Garden

We’ll start with tomatoes.  The rounder the easier it will be to take off the peel, but heirlooms have an unbeatable flavor.  In the end, the peel comes off even the wild-shaped ones.

This one is old.  Perfect for tomato sauce the ultimate don’t judge a tomato by its peel.

To get the peel to come off easier, we have to score each tomato.  This means make and X with a knife on the bottom.  (If you have a food mill, you can skip this step.)

X marks the spot.

Some larger heirloom tomatoes may need a 6-pointed star because they are too good for an X.

We’re going to dunk these tomatoes in boiling water for about 45 seconds.  Just enough to blanch them.

The peel will start to roll up, the tomato may look like it’s about to burst.  Kind of like this.

That’s your cue to take ‘um out with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to cool off under running water.  It sounds obvious, but we don’t want to use our hands to peel tomatoes that are recently out of boiling water.

Run the tomatoes under water to cool them.  Then take off the peels starting at your X/score mark.

Set the peeled ones on a LARGE cutting board that you can fit inside a cookie sheet.

Why the cookie sheet?  It traps the escapists juices that inevitably wonder off while you chop the tomatoes up, and we want to keep everything (except the the peels and cores) that these garden joys offer us.

I realized I needed a cookie sheet in the chopping process and lifting up pound of tomatoes with juice running over the sides was not a clean process.

We want to take out the cores of the larger tomatoes.  The cores of the small ones can stay in- don’t make too much work for yourselves.

Chop them up.  Doesn’t really matter how.  This is a forgiving recipe, and besides they will all just disintegrate into sauce anyways.

Tomatoes peeled, cored, chopped.  Check.

Everything else is pretty easy from here on out.

Dump the water from the tomato blanching process and use that giant pot to make your sauce.

Saute 1 onion in olive oil until the color becomes opaque and translucent, about 3 minutes.

Dump in chopped tomatoes.

Don’t forget about the juice that trickled over the edges of the cutting board that you ingeniously captured with the cookie sheet.

Press 4 cloves of garlic into the pot.

Add herbs.

And honey.  For a hint of sweetness.

Mix everything well and bring to a simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.  It’s good to make a lot of tomato sauce in a batch so you rarely have to do this looooong simmering process once.

Now go do something important around your house- like attempt to conquer the laundry.  Or shirk your chores and cuddle down with a great book.  Guess what I did…

Every 20-30 minutes, about the length of one chapter, check on the tomatoes.  Mix them so the bottom doesn’t burn.  The sauce thickens as it cooks.  It’s done when you can stand your spoon in it, a monument to handling your tomato zeal with finesse.


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