Monday, September 12, 2011

Easiest Way To Make And Freeze Tomato Sauce A Few Pints At A Time - As The Tomatoes Ripen!

Nothing soothes the soul more than making tomato sauce.

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9/11 Tenth Anniversary
While the world remembered the 10th anniversary of this tragic day, my thoughts were on the town where I grew up. Although I left Manhattan when I went to college, I remember gazing at the beautiful twin towers when I came home to visit my parents' apartment on E. 8th street. At one time, my mother worked in one of the buildings. The most traumatic memory of that day was being waken up to find out that this attack happened about a mile from my daughter's apartment.
Still shaken, I could only do things that comforted me yesterday. I went to a service in the morning at the Center for Spiritual LIving and came home and cooked. Nothing soothes my soul more than that. 
I decided to put up a few tomatoes from my garden. Coincidentally, my daughter was doing the same thing. 

And Here Come the Tomatoes - Finally!
While most of the U.S. has had record breaking heat this summer, it's been cool here in northern California. And while many people enjoy this moderate climate, the tomatoes do not. So here it is, September, and I'm finally getting enough tomatoes to eat and put up for the winter. Better late than never!

Unlike a Fruit Tree
When peaches ripen, you suddenly have an entire tree of fruit that has to be canned immediately. But tomatoes ripen a few at a time. Even with 6 or a dozen tomato plants, you may not have enough ripe tomatoes at one time to inspire you to begin a big canning project. So this year I tried something different and it's so easy, I may do this every year! Instead of canning them, I'm freezing them. And instead of peeling and seeding them, I'm just throwing them in a food processor. Since it's so easy, I can make a few pints at a time and freeze the tomatoes as they ripen. Last night I had around 5 pounds of tomatoes, made  2 pints of sauce, froze one pint and used the other one for dinner. It was a breeze!

Tomatoes ripen a few at a time

The Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene - even the orange ones. This carotenoid is a powerful antioxidant and has been associated with the reduction of heart disease. Research has shown that lycopene and other phytonutrients in tomatoes can improve the blood lipid profile - decrease total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. 
But lycopene isn't the only star in the line-up. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C and contain flavonols (like rutin and quercetin), and other important carotenoids (such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene). 

Cooked vs. Raw
Although I usually promote food in its raw state, some scientists believe that lycopene is better absorbed when cooked and with some oil. So a simmered tomato sauce with some extra virgin olive oil should be a good, absorbable source of this important, fat soluble carotenoid. 

Freezing Tomato Sauce - Step by Step
1. Prep - Wash the tomatoes in cold water. Cut off the blossom end and cut into small pieces. 

Cut tomatoes in quarters or even smaller. 

2. Process - Place tomatoes in a food processor with an S blade and process until tomatoes are broken up. No need to over process. Do this in batches. No need to remove skin or seeds! It's easy!

Don't overfill the food processor - do this in batches.

3. Make sauce - You can use your favorite recipe but here's one of mine. (Or you can freeze at this stage and use tomatoes for sauce or other things later).
For every 2 pints (or 4 cups) of finished tomato sauce, you want to start out with about 6 cups of processed tomatoes. You can double, triple, quadruple, etc... this recipe.

6 cups processed tomatoes (about 4 - 5 lbs depending on type of tomato)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup red wine
8 fresh basil leaves, sliced
4 - 6 drops liquid stevia (optional)

Clean and process 6 cups tomatoes - set aside. 
Heat oil and add crushed red pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.
Add onion and cook on medium low heat until soft (5 to 8 minutes).
Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes, red wine and fresh bay leaves. Let simmer, partially covered, until reduced down to 4 cups (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or more). 
Taste, adjust seasoning. Add stevia if desired to sweeten.

Simmer until it thickens

4. Put in Freezer Cups
Let sauce cool completely.
Fill 2 (1 pint) or 1 (1 quart) BPA-free plastic freezer cups. Mark the date on the cups and place in freezer until needed. How long they keep will depend on your freezer and the container but many people say that they will maintain their flavor for up to a year.

Use BPA-free freezer jars.
BPA, bisphenol-A, is a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics and mimics the female hormone, estrogen. 


Hidden Oaks said...

Loved doing it this way! Thanks for sharing.

Victoria said...

Love this recipe! Have made four batches of sauce so far and am planning on making more when the tomatoes ripen. Thanks Joanne.