“Well there’s a root cellar, a fruit cellar down below. Watch your head now, and down we go.
What with the snow, and the economy and everything, I think I’ll just stay down here and eat until spring.”
~ From “Canned Goods” by Greg Brown
There’s something supremely satisfying about reaching into your freezer or pantry on a winter afternoon and pulling out an edible relic of the growing season. Contained within that jar of crimson tomato sauce are all the virtues and joys of gardening. While snow pitter-patters outside, you can pop the lid with that satisfying thwunk and forget that you were pacing your garden rows in September singing your green tomatoes an encouraging tune called “turn red now, dangit!”
If you take a little time now–when harvest season is as intoxicating and all-encompassing as new love–you can eat locally all year long. And if you only have eight ripe tomatoes to your name and they’re all slated for tonight’s burrito, by all means buy a box of tomatoes from your local farmers market. What do the economic planners say? It’s an investment in your future. When you’re all bundled up in January, you’ll cruise smugly past the supermarket tomato sauce, feeling just a little bit warmer.
When I made my first batch of this roasted tomato sauce, a little cartoon bubble ballooned over my head. It read: This is why I push tomato seeds into indoor pots of soil in March, transplant them outside in June only to cover them with every sheet in the house during early June and late September frosts, pluck ginormous hornworms off their stalks and deliver feverish soliloquies to the children on why we never pick green tomatoes. This sauce is precisely why.
The Best Ever Roasted Tomato Sauce
Active time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
3-4 pounds tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup high quality olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
Cut tomatoes in half and place cut side down in glass baking dish in a single layer. Toss onions, garlic, sugar, salt and herbs on top of tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Cook at 375F for 2 hours or until tomatoes shrivel and collapse and juice starts starts pooling in bottom of baking dish. Process with blender or food processor until smooth. If you want to remove the skins and seeds (which is unnecessary, though makes a prettier, smoother sauce) run through food mill.
If you are going to use the sauce right away, you can put the sauce in jars and store it in the refrigerator for a few days.
This recipe has too much olive oil to safely can, so I pack sauce into freezer bags or freezer-safe jars (sometimes with additional steamed veggies). Defrosting a bag of gourmet, homemade tomato sauce makes “instant” synonymous with “delicious.” Mama likes that.
Rachel Turiel tends an urban homestead at 6512 feet in Colorado. Read more of her writing on her blog 6512 and Growing.