Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Canning Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce

Death lies on her like an untimely frost, Upon the sweetest flower of all the field. – William Shakespeare

2L of delicious, garden-y goodness. At my beck and call for winter!

There’s no denying it now. Autumn has arrived on the calendar. I can’t say I’m pleased, but I guess one has to go with the flow.

One of those “flow” things is the lowering temperatures – especially overnight. If you have a garden, either plot or container, it becomes a major concern. You have to watch overnight temperatures and pick your remaining produce before it gets hit by frost.

We seemed to have had one of the untimely frosts of which Shakespeare wrote last week. (Illustration directly below...)

This is what our tomatoes looked like after last week's early "killing" frost.

I came back after a couple days away on business to blackened leaves on almost all our tomato plants. They were dead. I was left with no choice but to pick everything – red and green. 

So after my untimely harvest I had a large dilemma. One plastic grocery bag of ripe tomatoes and – harder to deal with – two bags of green.

Some of the green tomatoes will ripen indoors on the counter. You don’t have to do anything special to them. If they have reached the “breaking point” they will ripen quite nicely. That point is when tomatoes start turning from hard green to yellowish/pinkish. 

Make sure the cut faces of the tomatoes are facing up.
Unfortunately the taste isn’t quite as good as vine-ripened, but any tomato you grow at home will taste better than one shipped from who knows where that you purchase in a store.

There’s two of us in our family. We could never go through 30+ ripe tomatoes before they go bad. The thing to do was to preserve them for use through the cold months. So I made sauce. Roasted tomato sauce.

This roasted sauce is really tasty, if I do say so myself. It’s actually not any more involved than cooking tomatoes down on the stove. The difference is that the roasting of the vegetables removes some of the moisture, concentrating the flavour and adding a bit of charred, smoky depth.

If you find yourself in the same position as I was, try this recipe. It will soon turn into a seasonal fall back (pardon the pun) every time you have too many tomatoes. If you’re looking for a sauce recipe that doesn’t have a lot of “hands on” time, this is the one.

Don’t be afraid of canning your own tomato sauce. It’s actually very easy. This recipe made four full 500 ml jars, plus about 3/4 cup. That was just enough for me to “test” the sauce on some pasta. The trials I go through for you...

Now I have to turn my attention to the 50-60 green tomatoes on my counter. Hmmm.

Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce
Prep: 10 min  |  Time: about 3 hours  |  Yield 2 L
30 plum tomatoes, halved
2 medium yellow onions, cut into eighths
3 heads garlic, peeled but left whole
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp each, salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 tsp citric acid, or juice of 1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve the tomatoes along their long dimension. Quarter the onions and then halve so they are in eighths. Peel the garlic.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well with your hands to coat. Divide the vegetables between two rimmed cookie sheets. Make sure the cut faces of the tomatoes are facing up.

Place the tomatoes in the oven and roast for 1 hour 15 minutes, switching the sheets on the racks in the oven halfway through (top sheet on bottom, bottom on top). Let cool slightly, then put all the vegetables in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid.

You could easily make a cream sauce by adding heavy cream
to the sauce when using it. Don't try to can the sauce with cream
already added. Do it as you use it. Vodka would also be good.
Add the wine and herbs to the pot and then crush the vegetables slightly. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let the mixture simmer for an hour.

Once the sauce has simmered, let cool slightly and then purée either with a stick emulsion blender or a regular blender. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. If the sauce is too thin, you can continue to cook.

Now add the citric acid or lemon juice. The acid is important because tomatoes are borderline acidic (4.5 pH) for preserving. The acid lowers the pH of the sauce, making it safer during canning.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and then promptly remove from the heat. While the sauce heats, sterilize four 500 ml jars. Fill the jars, leaving 1/2” air space at the top of each jar. Make sure not to get sauce on the rim. Place the tops on the jars “finger tight.”

Process the jars in a hot water bath that covers the tops of the jars by about 1”. Let them boil in the water for 12-14 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool on the counter. In a short time you will hear the seals “pop” on top of the jars. Tighten the rings on the jars, let cool completely and then store. They will keep for a year in a cool place.

If a top doesn’t pop down, that jar is not sealed. Either try to process again, or keep refrigerated and use within one week.


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  1. so far we have not had it cold enough to kill my tomatoes. i still have a lot turning red on the vine. i better start canning because my freezer is packed. can you start cooking some more? i love your recipes!!!

  2. I hope I didn't do it wrong; I had followed directions that never mentioned about the acidity. This time I didn't can the results though. I froze the jars. I will make a note of your method for next year though. This has to be one of the easiest ways to preserve a good harvest and heaven knows, we all love tomato sauce in so many ways in our house.

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