Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

2009 Tomato Bounty
2009 Tomato Bounty

We’re in that little window of time in which we have ripe tomatoes here in Montana. It takes a long time to grow a tomato. I started these from seed in the basement in March. So far, the most productive have been the Mountain Princess, Jaunne Flamme, Prairie Fire, and Perestroika.

The nights are getting cool enough that I probably need to go put the plastic over them. Our usual first frost comes in around the 17th of September most years, but for the last couple of weeks we’ve had sunny, warm, dry dry dry weather.

sauce in the making
sauce in the making

Because someone in this house doesn’t eat vegetables, and because I can’t eat that many tomatoes myself, I decided to make sauce. Sauce is easy, especially if you work at home. I make a really basic one. I throw all the tomatoes in a pot, with a chopped onion, and a few chopped up carrots (from the garden as well, my carrots have done nicely this year). I like a little carrot for sweetness, and for color. Then I just turn the heat on low, and let it cook down until the carrots are mushy. An old potato masher is very useful for this — you can pop the tomatoes as they’re cooking and see whether the carrots are mushy yet.

Then I put everything through a food mill, and if it’s still too watery, I cook it down for a little while longer. I’ve also been known to add some Muir Glen or Italian organic tomato paste for body. While the sauce cooks down, I put the big pressure canner on to heat, and put the pint jars in to sterilize. About the time they’ve boiled, the sauce is usually ready, so I jar it up in pint and half-pint jars (the half-pints are handy for smaller recipes) and then pressure can it so it’s shelf-stable. I love my pressure canner. It was one of the best purchases I made last year.

Tomato Sauce and chicken broth
Tomato Sauce and chicken broth

I love that my pantry shelves are stocked with homemade chicken broth and tomato sauce, and that I no longer have to think so far ahead to thaw either of those staples. Plus, my freezer’s so full of pork that there isn’t room for the frozen stuff … but it makes it so easy. And of course, there’s the Little House satisfaction of having a pantry, and having stuff in it, so that if you get stuck one night, you can just make dinner without having to go to the store. You can’t see it in this picture, but losing my job has had a predictable effect on my tendency to hoard dry pasta when I’m feeling financially vulnerable. If we have to, we can live on pasta and sauce for a long long time. With fried eggs on top!

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