These last few months our family has been trying to eat less processed foods. We have never been the family that ate frozen lasagna or chicken nuggets, but I would use a can of cream of chicken soup, or taco seasoning mix, tomato sauce and canned beans to make dinner preparation easier. But it always bugged me. So the last couple months I decided we were cutting out all cans and seasoning mixes. Beans, tomatoes, chili, spaghetti and taco seasonings were now going to be homemade. This transition has been easier than I expected....making my own beans has been so much more economical and healthy, and I have found some great recipes for homemade seasoning mixes and cream sauces. Canned tomato sauce was going to be more tricky, though. I have never canned before and when I started doing research online, it really intimidated me. (I know some of you can things all the time, but when you don't have any of the equipment and have never done it before, it can seem scary.) So since we had a freezer in the garage that was half empty, I decided to make freezer tomato sauce.
First thing you need is garlic. I peeled about 6 cloves and coarsely chopped them.
Then the tomatoes. I found a farm near us that was selling ripe tomatoes for 50 cents a pound; I started out with 10 pounds. These were Pink Girl tomatoes.
Cut the core out on the top and then get a pot of boiling water going on the stove with a bowl of cold water next to it.
Put each tomato into the boiling water for about a minute, and then into the cold water bath.
When the tomato is cool enough, peel using your fingers.
Keep peeling the tomatoes in batches until they are all peeled.
Next coarsely chop. I decided to use the seeds and all.
In a large pot over medium heat, put 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and after it has warmed, the garlic.
Let me tell you, this is one of the best smells on earth.
After they have sauteed for a couple minutes, add the chopped tomatoes.
Every pot of good tomato sauce needs some good wine in it, and they say never to use wine in cooking that you won't drink, so of course I needed to test it....
Pour in a half a cup of some good wine. This was a Merlot.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bring it slowly to a simmer, then turn down and let cook for 30-40 minutes.
This really brings out the juiciness.
At this point I removed it from the heat and let it sit on the back burner with the lid on. I think it was a couple hours until I got back to it.....you know, homeschooling, housework, owies.....those kind of wonderful and fulfilling distractions. I actually think that having it sit for a while let the flavors really marry well.
The next step was to blend it in batches in my blender. I'm not sure why, but I didn't get any blender action shots.
This is what I poured out of the blender:
The next step was to pour into freezer bags. I put the Ziploc bag into a measuring cup to hold it steady.
I put about 2 1/2 cups into each bag...out of this batch I got 6 bags.
After this batch, I wanted to test the sauce to see if it met our expectations. I used a homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and my freezer sauce and it turned out really good. The flavor of the tomatoes was so much better than the one from the can! I also put some of the tomato sauce into a saucepan, added basil, oregano and thyme and used it as pizza sauce for our weekly Friday night pizza. So the next time I went to the farm I picked up another 20 pounds and processed them over a couple days.
This time I froze a batch in ice cube trays.....that way I can use them in my Spanish Rice recipe or toss a few into a pot of soup if it needs a little tomato flavor.
I love the convenience of having them on hand this way....
I could have omitted the blender step and had frozen chopped tomatoes, or even drained the juice from the simmered pot to make more of a tomato paste....I did find that my sauce was not as thick as the commercial tomato sauce, but that can be easily fixed with a little recipe tweaking. Enjoy!
Freezer Tomato Sauce
10 pounds tomatoes
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Core tops of tomatoes. Immerse into boiling water for 1 minute; then immediately into an ice water bath. When cool, peel off skin with fingers. Repeat until all tomatoes are peeled. Chop tomatoes. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauteing 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and wine if desired. Bring to a simmer and then lower heat, keeping tomatoes at a low simmer. Let cook for 30-40 minutes. When mixture has cooled, place 3 cups at a time into blender and blend. For a chunkier sauce, blend at low speed and only for a few seconds; for a smoother sauce blend at medium speed for 10-15 seconds. Divide sauce into freezer bags or ice cube trays and store in the freezer.