Saturday, August 4, 2012
Freezing Me Some Summer
When I was a child, I did not like tomatoes at all. Until I tasted one grown in our own backyard. The love started when I tasted one grown in our own backyard and it continues today. My own plants are spitting out yummy little cherry tomatoes so far this year but this guy that sets up a good old back of his pick-up truck fruit stand near my house has huge glorious ones. You can tell they're home grown and he's friendly. Gotta be good tomatoes then, right? I like to keep as much of that fresh homemade tomato flavor as possible so I've developed my own creative way of using excess tomatoes with as little processing as possible. It's pretty simple.
All I usually do is cut off the tops and hack them into fourths and throw them in my chopper. I love this chopper! (Not affiliated, promise!) My favorite thing about it is that it runs on man power. Or kid power most often at this house. Since it's almost completely quiet, I can use it when my littlest ones are asleep. It's pretty quick and effective and not labor intensive. Anyway, the kids love to turn the crank!
After the tomatoes are chopped, I find that I have more juice than tomato! They are way too juicy to be used straight in any kind of sauce. Rather than cooking them down though and loosing a lot of the fresh flavor and vitamins and all, I just strain it to separate the juice and use the juice for other purposes. Fresh tomato juice is very yummy to drink straight. And this comes from a whole family of people that really isn't into suffering while eating healthy food. I gag at the thought of V-8 and it has obscene amounts of salt anyway. But even the 1 1/2 year old baby drank some fresh tomato juice today. Another use for the fresh tomato juice in this house is tomato soup. I got more than a quart of juice from just these tomatoes. Plus about three-ish cups of chopped tomato that I used for the pizza sauce.
I used my strainer with fairly small holes and we stirred the tomatoes a little and let them sit awhile to let the juice drain. You can use an even smaller wire strainer or cheesecloth in a strainer with large holes to keep all the seeds from getting into the juice but we're not too picky there. The seeds are definitely ok in the pizza sauce! I mean, you're going to be covering the sauce with cheese! CHEESE I said! Cheese covers a multitude of sins and tomato seeds really aren't a sin at all. There's no way you'll notice them under melted awesome cheese.
Today, I wanted to try peeling tomatoes for the first time. So before chopping, we put the tomatoes into boiling water one to two at a time for 30 seconds then put them straight into ice water. In a couple seconds they were cool and I was amazed at how easily the skins came off. Drew loved peeling them. I think she would have done it for me all day. But, if you're really not in the mood to boil, ice, and peel the tomatoes, I've made pizza sauce with the skins in many many times. As long as the tomatoes are chopped up well there's no large piece of skin and no one will notice. Cheese! Remember cheese? Yes, all covered with glorious melted goodness. And that means that you don't have to waste nutritious tomato skins and seeds.
Next I grabbed some garlic from where it's been drying (grew my own this year, yay!) and basil from the garden and I was ready to make pizza sauce. I used the chopper again to mince the garlic, then added in the basil leaves and chopped them up.
Even the compost container looks pretty after working with garlic, basil, and tomatoes! And the smell! I just love the fragrance. Would it be awkward if I admitted to sniffing my hands a few times after peeling the garlic and prepping the basil? Well, just forget that I said that if yes...
I added some of the garlic and basil to my chopped, drained tomatoes.
And stirred. And added salt to taste.You can see it's still plenty moist and looks so bright colored and yummy! In fact though I call it pizza sauce because that's what I use it for, it would be just incredible over some pasta or in a sandwich. Even after being frozen, it just tastes like summer to me!
To freeze in convenient amounts I pour it into my muffin containers. Each overflowing muffin spot holds about 1/2 cup of sauce and that's how much I use on each pizza I make.
When they are frozen I set them on the counter for a few minutes then pop them out of the muffin tin and put them in a freezer bag.
Notice all the "abouts" in the official recipe below. I've made this so many times and never really measured that I'm pretty sure it can't be messed up easily. Just start with lots of tomatoes, add basil and garlic till it looks pretty, then salt till it tastes awesome.
Homegrown Pizza Sauce
about 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes after juices drained
about 1 cup fresh Basil leaves
about 2 cloves Garlic
about 1 tsp Salt (to taste)
Mince garlic. Finely chop basil. Stir tomatoes, basil, and garlic together. Salt to taste.
What's your favorite thing to do with an overabundance of tomatoes?