Episode Two: Tomato Sauce, The Finale

Did you see Episode One earlier this week about the art of making tomato sauce and nearly setting the kitchen ablaze? Well, I thought I would finish the story with Episode Two. We all make mistakes; especially in gardening and canning and some times we will find an easier process or a new recipe from the outcome.  

The next morning after the mini-drama, I could still smell smoked olive oil and tomatoes throughout the house. My eyes were still red and burning and I did not have but two cocktails the night before. Honest! I removed the pan of sauce from the refrigerator and took a whiff! WOW! That smells wonderful! I spooned some into a small jar and brought it to work for others to sample. I wanted to enlist the culinary expertise from a few of my coworkers.  The aroma was well received.

That evening I came home and after the usual chores began working on the rest of the sauce. Well, I thought to myself, if the smoked sauce smells and tastes that good without the rest of the ingredients then it has to turn out wonderful. Right?

The olive oil (1-1/2 cups) went into the pot along with six cups of chopped onions and 18 minced cloves of garlic. The onions and garlic had to sauté and become transparent. Oh and not to worry, I didn’t turn on the oven nor did I open the door! There’s an upcoming cleaning project and I am going to wait until I’m back from my trip. 

Once the onions and garlic were transparent, six cups of dry white wine were added to the pot along with sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Twelve branches of basil were tossed into the pot of smoked tomatoes while preheating. When the wine mixture was reduced by half it was then time to mix both together.  This isn’t how it’s written in the recipe, but after the first night I had to improvise.   I actually had to get out a larger pot to mix otherwise we’d be slipping and sliding on red hardwood floors! Next, the basil was removed and the lemon juice added to the sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  During the sauce making canning jars were in the dishwasher, the lids were in a pot of boiling water and all tools were assembled.  The last stage was to cook the completed sauce for at least 20 minutes before ladling into hot jars. While stirring the sauce I kept thinking to myself that it seemed somewhat thin and oily.  Could the recipe be wrong?  I think there’s way too much olive oil in this recipe!  In the first blog I mentioned the list of ingredients at the end and you’ll note there are three cups of olive oil listed.

Once cooked I ladled the sauce into three 1-1/2 pint jars, four pint jars, three half-pint jars and the rest went into some bowls and placed in the fridge. The recipe noted that one should can about four quarts of sauce.  If you add up the total ounces above you’ll note that there is a bit more than four quarts! How the heck did that happen when I didn’t use 16 pounds of tomatoes as called for in the recipe? My guess is because of the food mill and which extracted every bit of tomato and juice that could be pressed from those smoked tomatoes along with pressing the bowl of tomato “guts.”  So I finished ladling into hot jars, cleaned the rims, added the lids and rings and placed into the canning pot. The jars went through a 55 minute boiling-water bath.  (Note:  An additional ten minutes OR more must be added if living in high altitudes.)

I removed the jars from the pot and placed on the counter to cool and seal. Only one jar did not seal properly and into the fridge it went. I tasted some of the leftovers and it just didn’t knock my socks off; not like it did in the first batch of smoked tomatoes, thyme, garlic and olive oil. I’m thinking to myself this recipe I made with the purchasing of the someone else’s tomatoes, two bottles of wine, thyme, basil and olive oil became an overpriced mediocre oily smoky tomato sauce!  Yes, they are a bit oily as one can see in the image below.

A friend at work mentioned he would take a jar and see what he could do with it. I’m just not that excited about it, but the sauce was made and put up for the winter and I will use them.  In something!  Each time I open a jar I will remember the event, the cost of making it and the things that I would do differently next year.  Yes, I will enjoy it , too, because this smoky sauce has become a new family memory!

And with that, here is my plan for next year:

16 pounds of meaty tomatoes – which will be grown in my garden with better early planning

36 twigs of fresh thyme leaves – also from my garden next year

18 cloves of garlic – also from my garden, as it was this year

6 branches of basil – also from my garden, this year’s crop went to seed too early

1-1/2 cups of extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

I will split and scoop the tomatoes and place on roasting pans with at least a ½ inch to 1-inch lip. Then thyme and garlic sprinkled over the tomatoes and drizzled with the olive oil. Next they are roasted on the Weber grill in stages outside on the patio! When all the tomatoes are roasted they will be pressed through the food mill and added to the pot with the basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Peaches, Peach Jam, Peach Jalapeno Jam, Peach Butter, Smoked Tomato Sauce

The first batch of roasted tomatoes from the make-believe 3-alarm fire were perfect and didn’t need anything else. I wish I felt like making a new batch of the Radical Gardener’s Smoked Tomato Sauce but I’m a bit smoked out and broke!

As an afterthought here’s a nice poem I found about September and canning:

Storing September

You ask me what I did today.
I could pretend and say,
“I don’t remember.”
But, no, I’ll tell you what I did today —
I stored September.
Sat in the sun and let the sun sink in,
Let all the warmth of it caress my skin.
When winter comes, my skin will still remember
The day I stored September.
And then my eyes —
I filled them with the deepest, bluest skies
And all the traceries of wasps and butterflies.
When winter comes, my eyes will still remember
The day they stored September.
And there was cricket song to fill my ears!
And the taste of grapes
And the deep purple of them!
And asters, like small clumps of sky…
You know how much I love them.
That’s what I did today
And I know why.
Just simply for the love of it,
I stored September.

~ Elizabeth Rooney

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