The Art of Making Tomato Sauce; or how not to burn down the kitchen!

Tonight started out like many of my nights lately; plans to work in the garden, cook and can. I found a simple sauce recipe that I’ve planned on making and I picked up about 13 pounds of local organic tomatoes on Sunday. I had three pounds on the window sill from my garden. The ones I bought were grown at Pomodore Farms in Littleton, Colorado. My own tomatoes are not ripening fast enough to have 16 pounds at one time so I purchased from someone else. Since I’ve had them for a couple of days, I decided I would make the sauce tonight and can about 8 pints of fresh sauce for winter. I’m sure I can get this done in a couple of hours!

Sometimes I should just come home from work and do absolutely nothing. Not think about nor head out to the garden; not even make sauce. Even if the tomatoes might go to waste. After blogging about food waste, that was the last thing I was going to let happen. So after work tonight, I stopped and picked up two bottles of white wine, thyme and a can of olive oil. Ingredients I needed to start the sauce. After arriving home, I did go out to the garden and cleaned up some areas to prepare for garlic planting next week. Then I cut off three more pumpkins before the squirrels destroyed them. Sometimes I imagine several squirrels getting together and hoisting up a pumpkin, carrying it up over the fence and into some hidden cache where one might find leftovers of a feast from my garden! I know there are vegetables missing, I just know it! There were four pumpkins there yesterday and last night I found one completely gutted. Well, at least they seem to enjoy them. Next year, Mr. McGregor’s electric fence!!!

One of my problems, and probably not the only one, is thinking that I’m smarter than the average bear and don’t have to read something through before I begin. (I have worked in IT for over 20 years, what does that tell you?) Take for instance, the sauce recipe. I did read it through several weeks ago and evidently I should have read it again BEFORE I began. Wow, I have to roast all these tomatoes? Scoop out the interior flesh and seeds, save for later and place on roasting pans? I don’t remember the roasting part. 40 minutes? I might have to roast in batches if all the pans won’t fit in the oven? Evidently I did NOT read this recipe! Here I stand in the kitchen staring at all those tomatoes in the sink. I say to myself “let’s roast tonight and tomorrow we can cook up the sauce and can.” Yeah, that’s what I will do! 

So I sliced all the tomatoes in half, scooped out the interior and placed the flesh into a bowl. I then spread all the tomatoes on the pans. Okay, that wasn’t too bad. Let’s look at that recipe again. “Remove leaves from 36 sprigs of fresh thyme.” What? Mix with 18 cloves of chopped garlic. Sprinkle over the tomatoes. Drizzle with one half of the olive oil (1-1/2 cups). Whoa! Have you ever removed the leaves from 36 sprigs of thyme before? Yes, there is an easy way by taking if from the top end and sliding your fingers down the stem. But some stems have many little stems! And some of those stems have more little stems! Anyway, I did get that piece done. I was planning on making a vodka tonic while I was working on this recipe and forgot about it for the moment. Maybe that was a good thing!

So I sprinkled the thyme and garlic mix over the tomatoes and drizzled them with the olive oil  I popped three of the four pans into the 350F oven, setting the timer for 40 minutes. Okay, it’s 7 p.m. and I think I can get them all roasted, sealed up in the fridge and finish tomorrow. I walk into the other room, still thinking about making that vodka tonic and get caught up in something else. I walk back into the kitchen and I’m thinking that three of the pans didn’t have much of a lip around the edge. So I put aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch anything that might drip because I was thinking: olive oil + a hot oven. Not thinking this through again! Ten minutes later I check the tomatoes and flames are flashing up in the oven window! WTF! Deb, you idiot!

What to do, what to do? Leave it? Call the fire department? Throw baking soda on it? Mix a drink?

Believe it or not, I didn’t panic. I just walked over and turned off the oven and decided to quit opening the door! The house filled with a smell of roasted tomatoes and smoke! Shit, I thought, I just wasted 16 pounds of tomatoes and could have burned down the house! No, this isn’t a laughing matter and really not joking about it. Some serious damage could have happened. Maybe Uncle Cecil was looking over me for he was a volunteer firefighter for most of his life. I can see him standing in the doorway of the old farm-house scratching his head and hear him say: “Girl! What the hell where you thinking?”

Anyway, I opened up all windows and exterior doors and set a fan to blow out the smokiness. I decided to give the oven more time to cool down because the last time I popped open the door the flames decided to dance around the edges. Once the oven cooled down, I removed the pans of tomatoes and tossed them all together in a pot. Hey, they weren’t burned up! So I decided to put them through the food mill! Three pans of “roasted” tomatoes and one pan that never made it to the dance. Stuff smells pretty good!

I have a huge pot of sauce in the fridge that I will finish up tomorrow. Oh will those flavors meld together over night and tomorrow I will add the white wine, more garlic, onions, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It isn’t exactly the recipe that I was hoping to make, but it might turn out even better! Though I don’t want to go through this again!

After cleaning up the mess I finally made that cocktail! My eyes are still burning  and I feel drained. Panic? I didn’t think so, but mentally I did. It’s time to take a few days “off” and come home and do absolutely nothing but take my dogs for a much-needed walk and kick back and watch British murder mysteries on Netflix!

The recipe I found in a canning magazine uses 16 pounds of tomatoes, 6 cups of white wine, 6 cups of onions, 36 cloves of garlic, 36 sprigs of thyme, 12 stalks of fresh basil, 3 cups of olive oil, 4 tbsp. of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Just do me a favor, don’t flash roast your tomatoes like I did!

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