Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preserving the Harvest: Freezer Spaghetti Sauce

I'm very behind on my posts (as you can tell).  But who could resist reliving summer with it's abundant tomato harvest??  Certainly not me!!  Here's what I did with some of my tomatoes this season....

Since the theme this week is tomatoes, I thought what better way to highlight all the varieties I'm growing this year than spaghetti sauce.  I've heard that the best spaghetti or tomato sauce comes from a variety of tomatoes, not just plum tomatoes.  Heirloom tomatoes gives a sauce depth and flavor.

Since I wanted to add a lot of vegetables to my sauce, I knew it wasn't suitable for canning.  Tomatoes are not acidic enough to be canned on their own.  They need a little bit of acid in order to can.  I did find recipes for spaghetti sauce suitable for canning but they were basic tomato sauces.  They sounded bland and blah.  I'm sure they could be doctored after opening to make a yummy sauce but I'm a convenience kinda girl.  I wanted a spaghetti sauce that I could warm up and pour on my spaghetti and viola.  Instant dinner!

That's why I decided to use a freezer recipe.  This way I didn't have to worry about canning it and I could make it to my taste right off the bat.  This recipe utilized a food mill and a slow cooker.  I love love love the food mill for tomatoes.  It makes quick work of tomatoes, however, next time I think I'll reserve 2 tomatoes and dice them to add to the sauce later to allow for chunky tomatoes in the sauce.  You don't need the slow cooker.  You can easily cook the sauce slowly over the stove.  I liked leaving it in the slow cooker and walking away.  I stopped by every so often to stir the sauce.  That's it.  Easy peasy!  I froze the sauce in 2 cup and 4 cup portions for different uses.

Freezer Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 14 cups

16 c. (8 lb.) tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 sweet onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
16 oz. assorted mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large or 3 medium dried bay leaves
2 Tbsp. dried oregano (or 6 Tbsp. fresh)
2 Tbsp. dried basil (or 6 Tbsp. fresh)
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1) Decore and roughly chop your tomatoes.  For slicing tomatoes, use a paring knife to de-core the top.  Cut the tomato in half (stem to blossom end), then each half into quarters or sixths (depending on size).  For plum tomatoes, slice in half (stem to blossom end) then cut the core out by wedging it.  Then chop in half or fourths (depending on size).

2) Place some tomatoes in a large pot in a shallow layer and use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes to release some juices.  Your tomatoes will cook faster if there is juice on the bottom of the pot.  Add the rest of the tomatoes and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes to soften the tomatoes.

3) While your tomatoes are simmering, set up your food mill.  Once your tomatoes are soft enough, send them through the food mill.  I run the peels and seeds through the food mill a second time for maximum extraction.

4) Pour your tomato puree into your slow cooker and set on high heat for 4-6 hours.  Stir occasionally.

5) In the same pot you cooked your tomatoes in, saute your onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms in the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.

6) Add the sauteed vegetables to the tomato puree in the crock pot.  Add the bay leaves, oregano, basil, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper to the crock pot.  Cook for 4-6 hours on high heat.  Stir frequently.  If you've used a lot of slicing tomatoes, you may have to continue cooking your sauce down for a thicker sauce (or leave it a little watery).

7)  About halfway through cooking add the tomato paste and stir well.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.  Continue to cook.  

8) After the sauce is done, let the sauce cool.  It will be on the watery side if you've used slicing tomatoes in addition to plums.  Pour spaghetti sauce into freezer containers or freezer bags and store in the freezer.  If your sauce is too watery, you can always add tomato sauce to it when reheating to thicken it up.  You may need to add more sugar if you do this.


The Malaysia Project said...

I don't have tomatoes from a garden but can buy them cheap here in malaysia, I'll give this recipe a try thanks!!!

~Holly~ said...

the malaysia project: You're welcome. If you're freezing the sauce, you can add or adjust the seasonings to whatever you like.