Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

I originally posted this last year on my food blog Magpie Eats but I thought I'd re-post it here in the hope that some of you would find it useful. This is still a brilliant way to capture summer goodness and I have a batch bubbling away right now!

Is your garden overflowing with tomatoes? Mine is. Plus I was lucky enough to get a vacationing friend's CSA delivery for two weeks--more tomatoes! Though tomato sauce is a staple food around here, the thought of gently simmering a cauldron of tomato sauce for hours on end just didn't appeal to me during these warm late summer days. I inevitably get sidetracked while simmering sauces, resulting in a not-very-lovely scorched flavor. Mmmmm....

Wouldn't you know, the newspaper's food section came to my aid with a story on preserving summer's bounty with that most dowdy of devices: the crock-pot. Maybe you have one of the snazzy new ones? Mine is an earth-toned relic of the 70's complete with line drawings of herbs on the outside. It was old when it was given to me years ago but still works perfectly well.

The crock-pot method of making tomato sauce has numerous advantages. Your sauce can cook down to perfection without stirring because it won't scorch. It won't send bubbles of thick sauce all over your stovetop and your forearms. And it won't heat up the entire house on a late summer day. Having used the crock pot for apple and pear butter in the past, I knew it had potential in helping me handle the tomato avalanche. The recipe included in the newspaper wasn't quite what I wanted so, in classic form, I fiddled a bit as I went along, adding lots of garlic and upping the onions. I would imagine that bell peppers would make a fine addition.

I filled the crock pot with large chunks of tomato and cranked it up to high. Meanwhile I browned onions, garlic, celery, and carrot in a large skillet and then tipped it all in to the crock pot along with a bunch basil and another of parsley. The original recipe suggests throwing everything in the crock pot but I wanted a deeper flavor so I opted to brown the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots in a skillet. It was no big thing to use the stove for 20 minutes.

I covered the pot, and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Then I propped the lid slightly open with a wooden spoon so moisture could escape and proceeded to cook for 10 hours or so. Once cooled, I ran everything through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. I added a bit of salt to taste and then packaged everything up for the freezer. Filling my 6 qt stockpot gave me about 8 cups of delicious sauce.

The fist batch was made of all different types of tomatoes including many juicy slicers. The sauce was very tasty but took longer to cook than my second batch which used only paste tomatoes. It hardly matters. This is about the easiest thing in the world.

If you don't have a crock pot, ask around. Someone you know is bound to have one lurking on their pantry shelves. Offer them a pint of sauce in exchange for the loan. And then hang onto it and make another batch or two. I hate to say it but winter is coming. I know I want to go into it with a bit of summer saved.

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