Saturday, September 05, 2009

My friend JK, who we see only these days on Twitter and Facebook has given me lots of ideas to chew on for blog topics, thank you!

The weather on the East Coast this summer has been dreadful - wet and not too warm. The tragedy of it all is that potato and tomato blight has struck with a vengeance. We small scale city gardeners can kvetch about our lack of B,L, &Ts, but its the commercial farmer - be it a monolithic farm or a small scale CSA who are really feeling the hurt.

However, it gave me pause for thought -- how much does it cost to grow that tomato on your patio? Did you buy a fancy new pot? Compost, one of those spiral hoses? Did you remember to get someone to water it when you went away for the weekend? If sunk a bunch of money into that lovely terracotta pot and an obscene amount of money for that heirloom tomato plant and only get three marble sized tomatoes and cost average it -- well, you don't want to know. Twelve dollars a tomato is a really nice salad at Chez Panisse or a medium pizza with a coupon at Papa Johns.

Yeah, the 10' or 100 mile diet costs, big time.

Due to my schedule this summer I have been spending a lot of time in our ppatch and maybe we have been lucky so far with the varieties we planted, TH's judicious pruning and the exceedingly disgustingly torpid weather - leading to crankiness for humans and bumper crops of tomatoes for us.

Today I picked eight lbs - mostly these tiny little paste like tomatoes that I abhor and TH loves and made a thick rich sauce that will get us through at least six lasagnes this fall and winter. I think we might have another twelve lbs to pick if the weather cooperates.

I realize that our own little garden costs as well - our annual renewal fees, the compost and seeds we buy and the extra we contribute each year to garden scholarships. We also give back -- pounds and pounds of summer squash, beans, beets, greens and soon hard squash to local food banks.

The sauce is simple to make -- if you have a mouli or Foley food mill. I'm a lazy cook - I'm not one for the tomato peeling and deseeding pre-cooking - besides you lose so much of the flavor in the juice of the tomato.

Sauce for lasagne -- suitable for freezing, but not for canning

In a very heavy, non reactive dutch oven -- combine and melt over low heat.

4 T olive oil
2 T butter

Add 3 cloves chopped garlic

once that starts to cook

chop two medium sized yellow onions

Add to garlic/butter/olive oil mixture

cook until transparent - about seven minutes

Meanwhile, take six lbs of tomatoes - paste is preferable, but whatever you have on hand and is ripe will work.

Core the larger tomatoes and chop into fourths. Pierce the skin of the smaller paste tomatoes to allow them to burst when cooking.

Add tomatoes to onion/garlic mixture -- mix well.

Turn heat up a bit - you don't want to scorch the tomatoes and cook for at least twenty five minutes or until tomatoes have started to fall apart.

Take off heat.

Use the food mill to remove the seeds and skins from the sauce. Usually I do this right into the new pot - still keeping to non reactive finishes. If you wish, you can season with some sea salt. Cook tomato sauce down until you have reached a consistency you like -- this batch has been sitting and slowly cooking at warm for the last six hours and its starting to look like sauce.

Once you have reached your desired thickness for your sauce - -remove from heat - let cool down and decant into your favorite freezer containers.

Making tomato sauce can be discouraging -- all those pounds of tomatoes for a yield of four quarts if you are lucky. The sauce is wonderful on a cold winter's night. In some cases, I add one or two sweet peppers to the onion mixture to add a little complexity. I'm not one for adding the herbs until I know what I am planning on doing with the sauce and sometimes they go bitter.

Why am not suggesting you can this? I'm not sure that the addition of the butter is going to be good with boiling water canning. Its better safe than sorry.

This year I am not canning any tomato products - its too much work for not enough return. Sorry, I hate to tell you that - sauce is easy, peeling hot tomatoes and then canning them for 35 minutes - not so much.

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