Homemade Tomato Sauce

There is something about a ripe tomato that immediately takes me back to childhood.

When I was about thirteen my dad and step mom moved us from actually living in Charleston to…the country. Every teenage girl’s worst nightmare. It meant that my friends were more than a five minute drive away, I had to wake up TWO HOURS EARLIER for school every day, and {gasp}…no shopping! Unless you count the antique store at the corner where the one stoplight is. I don’t. On the other hand the country did have a few perks, like having this as a backyard….

Soon after moving I had traded my weekends of shopping (Well, some of my weekends of shopping!) for weekends wandering in the woods, kayaking on the intercoastal, and helping my step mom with our garden.

Oh that garden. It was a little piece of heaven, and I loved to get my hands dirty in it! We grew watermelon, okra, and of course, tomatoes. Those tomatoes are still to this day the best I’ve ever tasted in my life. Sun ripened, fat and juicy, they would make the best summertime treats. If you’ve never had a tomato sandwich or tomato pie, then I suggest you get your butt to the South as quickly as possible and order one or the other at the first Mom & Pop restaurant you can find!

Once the summer starts to wind down and those bright red orbs of juicy deliciousness start to get a little too ripe to be eaten raw it’s time to make sauce.

I no longer have the luxury of (or the space for) having my own garden, but there is a spectacular farmer’s market close by. So every Saturday Little Bear and I make the trip to see what kind of in season goodies we can find. A few weeks ago I made peach cobbler {oh my gosh was it good!}, but for the next couple of weekends I’ll be in the kitchen milling tomatoes and making enough sauce to last us at least through the fall and winter.

It’s so simple and cost effective, albeit time consuming, to make your own tomato sauce. Plus it just tastes so much better than the stuff you buy at the store.

HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE:                                                                           recipe makes 4 quarts of sauce

15 lbs of RIPE tomatoes                                                                                                     1 head of roasted garlic*, minced                                                                                         1 lg spanish onion, finely chopped                                                                                     1/2 Cup red wine                                                                                                                 4 Tblsp chopped fresh basil                                                                                               2 Tblsp Olive Oil                                                                                                               2 Tblsp Tomato Paste                                                                                                         1 tsp sugar                                                                                                                          1 tsp each salt & pepper                                                                                                      Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste; optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and boil the tomatoes until skin starts to crack. Then submerge tomatoes in an ice bath. This will make them easy to peel and soften the meat to make milling easier. In the meantime heat olive oil on low/medium heat in a stock pot or large Dutch Oven (I used my 5qt Le Creuset Dutch Oven). Once the oil is heated through add Red Pepper Flakes, if using, and let them simmer until oil is infused with their heat. Add onion and garlic. Sweat the onions  until translucent and almost caramelized and garlic is fragrant; about 10 minutes.

Once tomatoes are blanched, peeled, and cored you can start putting them through the food mill. Place mill over a large bowl and adding quarters of tomatoes, turn handle clockwise while tomato pulp fills the bowl.

A note on using a food mill: Not all of the tomato will be milled. You will need to clean out the leftover pulp about every two tomatoes. Also be sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the mill so that it doesn’t get clogged.

When onions have become translucent and are almost to the point of caramelization add red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Let simmer and reduce. When red wine is reduced lower the heat to a simmer and add tomato pulp as they are milled. Stir occasionally.

After all tomatoes have been milled and added to pot stir in tomato paste until dissolved. Add sugar, salt and pepper, and basil.

Raise heat and bring to a boil. When sauce is bubbling, lower heat back to a slow simmer. Let sauce simmer for at least two hours, the longer you let the sauce cook the better it will be.

Fill quart sized Ball jars with sauce and follow whatever process you use for canning.

If you’re not familiar with canning I highly recommend it. It’s a great money saver with recipes like these and it’s also great for gifts at Christmastime. My mom and I even made apple butter for Hubby and I’s wedding last December. It was a huge hit and I’m still spreading it on English muffins in the mornings!

* Roasted Garlic is super easy to make! Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the top off of a head of garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil (or enough to coat) over the whole head, wrap in aluminum foil. Pop in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the cloves are soft.

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