ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: Part 1

I make boring tomato sauce. By “boring” I mean “plain.” I don’t jazz it up with too many spices, or add chunks of tomato, mushroom, red pepper… It’s basically reduced tomato puree with some minimal seasoning. There’s a reason for making boring sauce. Interesting tomato sauce – with mushrooms, meat, vodka, roasted red peppers, fresh basil, etc… is only useful as tomato sauce… you put it on pasta. You make lasagna! Voila! But boring tomato sauce is infinitely versatile. I can add cumin, oregano, vinegar and sriracha and turn out a decent enchilada sauce. Add stock and it becomes a tomato soup base. Reduced with vinegar, ketchup, and mustard and it becomes barbecue sauce. Tonight, we combined the sauce remaining after filling the jars with sausage, shrimp and rice and had jambalaya. I can still add mushrooms or roasted red peppers and dump it on pasta… Boring tomato sauce is like the pluripotent stem cell of the tomato world. (Well, technically the tomato is the pluripotent stem cell of the tomato world, but… the metaphor isn’t great… so sue me.)

Step 1: Puree Tomatoes.

20130901-185124.jpg Pureeing tomatoes is a fun process with the food mill attachment to the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. I estimate that I pureed 20 lbs of tomatoes into about 14 to 15 quarts of tomato puree.

Step 2: Add onions, garlic, spices.

Clockwise from the top is 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 3 onions chopped and 5 cloves of garlic through the press and sautéed until soft, and 1/4 cup dried oregano. Not shown is brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Cook and reduce.

We started the sauce about 8pm on Saturday, and cooked it overnight in the oven. Then, in the morning, it went back on the stovetop to cook through until about 3pm. Typically, we would have cooked the sauce overnight and seen a reduction of about 50% and canned it first thing in the morning. However, it’s REALLY damn humid here, so there was no place for the moisture to go… It took a really long time to reduce.

Step 3: Can.


I had enough tomatoes to make 7 quarts of tomato sauce, along with another 11 quarts of quartered tomatoes in their own juice. Those little jars are the onion jam that I’ll describe in a later post.

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You didn’t sign up for this…


Yesterday while I was at work, Addi the core author of this blog and my wife, went a little crazy and bought 50 lbs of tomatoes. She stopped by my shop to pick up our dog and say “hi honey! Guess what you get to do on your two day weekend?”

So, this weekend it’s jamming tomatoes in jars two ways. As you will see in the next post we also are doing basic tomato and basil sauce.

I’ve been threatened with pesto and onion jam as well.

The photo you see is six jars of standard red tomatoes and two jars of heirloom varietals we received in our weekly CSA share. TOMATO CONFETTI!