Thursday, September 6, 2012

Taking A Break From Baking....

We have been really crazy busy baking for our great customers here on Whidbey Island and the Bayview Farmers Market the past few weeks... weddings, anniversaries, birthdays not to mention the big end of the summer push last weekend for Labor Day.  Things have really not calmed down  yet, but for this post I felt like something totally different, so here it goes.... 


Roasted Rustic Tomato Sauce
  • 33 Lbs. Roma Tomatoes 
  • 4 cups Water
  • 1 Lbs. Onions, Roughly Chopped       
  • 3 Bay leafs (Fresh if you have them)
  • 3 Sprigs Each, Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme (left whole on the stems)
  • 8 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1 tsp.  Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 oz. Fresh Basil (Roughly Chopped)
  • 2 tsp. Salt (Or To Taste)
Yield: 9 Pints

September is the time of year tomatoes ripen and become affordable here in Washington.  While living in Western Washington, (Whidbey Island, specifically) is the land of green, we do not have the best climate for raising tomatoes.  Yes we have vine-ripe tomatoes just about the time apples begin to ripen, but we just don’t have the heat required to produce the massive quantities  needed for commercial use.  That said, just over the mountains lies the Yakima Valley — with  all the heat needed for tomatoes (and about anything else that can be grown in a warm climate.)

This summer (like most over the past six years), we are so busy baking for the Bayview Farmers Market, special functions... oh and lets not forget....weddings, we just don’t have the time to make the trip over to Yakima to pick up tomatoes (and other products) from the growers.  This year, thanks to Jan and Pete who went over to pick up tomatoes for themselves, they got us a lug of Roma style tomatoes. 

In the past, I have made this sauce using “regular” canning tomatoes, those great big round red orbs that you see this time of year.  When Jan asked “Roma or Caning”? I said “whatever.”  So, by chance, we got Romas and, guess what: I think they made the best sauce. 

The one thing we can grow here are fresh herbs, and in this recipe they are all fresh ones from our garden. I recommend you use fresh herbs, find them somewhere...your garden, a local farmers market of if need be the grocery store. Garlic... garlic is not just “garlic”.  I don’t have the space to grow garlic, but I am fortunate to have one of the best late summer supplies around.  Just check at your local farmers market and if you are lucky you will find a farmer that grows a full range of garlic...hard neck, soft neck, hot, mild, spicy and so much more. The type in your local grocery store is well.... boring.  

Regular canning tomatoes have more seeds and juice then the Roma, but the Roma have more “meat”.... more solids that is, and the sauce is much thicker (note the addition of water).

So here it goes.... Roasted Rustic Tomato Sauce

Your tomatoes need to be ripe (please not those funky things from the grocery store) ... and fresh.  I have found the best way to “slip” the skins (if you leave them on the skins just get tough) is to either fill a big pot with water and trough in a bunch (like for 2 minutes) and then toss them in the sink (and repeat) or as my mom did... fill the sink with the tomatoes and pour in the water... what ever works for you. 

My mom... she was raised in Iowa a second generation (an very proud of it) Danish woman who  love to can...and she’d can anything.  I remember way back when I was just a kid living in San Luis Obispo California, her telling me a story of a friend of hers who told her to hold each tomato over a gas flame and singe the skin so it would slip off.  She then would say that “my lord, Linda was a home economics teacher and she did it one tomato at a time...just fill the sink with boiling water and get the job done, who had the time to do what with 4 lugs of tomatoes”.  Lesson learned!

After the skins are off the tomatoes, cut them in half and place them in a single layer on a pan (not aluminum, or they will taste metallic),  sprinkle with a Kosher salt (not too much, you can always add more later) and drizzle with olive oil.  I use a shallow stainless steal steam table insert pan, but any shallow pan will work (I had to use four, but you can just do it twice).

Roasting the tomatoes... in a450 oven for 30-45 minutes or until they start to brown.

Stir and return to oven and roast for another 30-45 minutes.  The roasting time will depend on individual oven conditions. If you have a convection oven it will speed up the process.  Just look for specks of brown here and there. Depending on how many pans you have, this may take a while, but the roasting is the most important part.  You are concentrating the flavors and reducing the liquids... can you say flavor?           

As you roast the tomatoes, put them in a stockpot (stainless steel, please).  Once you have them all roasted and in the pot, add the water, chopped onions and everything else except the salt.

Once the tomatoes have come to a boil reduce to a simmer (no lid, please), and simmer string periodically for an hour.  What you are looking for is viable chunks of tomatoes in a semi thick sauce.

Once the sauce is to the thickness you like, you will need to decide on how to preserve it.  I canned this batch using USDA canning recommendations, but you can also freeze it.  What ever way you choose to preserve it I hope you find this a great sauce... plain on pasta, or as a base for another dish.


Meanwhile back at the bakery...