This is an exciting time of year with the produce coming in from the garden in buckets and baskets. It can certainly be overwhelming to get it all “put by.”
Tomatoes are often in the greatest abundance of all the vegetables. Although they can certainly be preserved as traditional canned tomatoes, I like to freeze them for later use. I simply rinse them and throw them into a bucket or freezer bags in the freezer. No blanching, no cutting up before freezing. When I’m ready to make sauce, I pull out what I need and run them under warm water briefly to loosen the skins. They can then be cooked or thrown into the food processor with onions, garlic and jalapenos for fresh-tasting salsa.
One of my favorite things to do with all the vegetables coming right now is to make “glut” sauce. A great result of this is that the sauce never quite tastes the same. Its base is made of tomatoes, but the additions can be any other vegetables. I will add eggplants, squash, peppers (chiles can make it really exciting!), onions, garlic, leeks, chard and kale. I season it with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley.
Once my sauce is made, I simply freeze it in freezer bags, labeling generally what’s in it so I know what to use it for. A glut sauce made of mostly tomatoes is great for traditional pasta sauce. Sauce with spicy chiles added is a good base for chili.
Making the sauce
Film a large roasting pan with olive oil and cut up about six pounds of tomatoes — this is a great time to use those that have blemishes or splits because you can simply cut that part away. Chop and add one or two cups of whatever vegetables are coming in at the time such as onions, carrots, zucchini and Swiss chard.
If you plan to use a food mill, you don’t have to take out tomato cores. If you plan to use a food processor, core the tomatoes before cooking. You can also blanch and peel and/or seed the tomatoes if that’s your taste. Throw in several cloves of garlic, some sprigs of fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley. Splash with balsamic vinegar and roast for about an hour. The sauce will cook down and lose a good bit of moisture, and the vegetables will start to caramelize. Run through a food mill, salt and pepper to taste, and use immediately or freeze.
If you feel more comfortable, here’s a recipe:
TOMATO GLUT SAUCE
6 pounds tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
9 gloves garlic, chopped
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
Roast 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Process briefly to leave slightly chunky; freeze. Makes 2 quarts. You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs — each batch of sauce comes out a little different.
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.