Fresh from the Garden: Homemade Tomato Sauce (Salsa, Pickles and More)

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt

August – the tomatoes are ripening faster than I can eat them. This is good! I don’t do a lot of food preservation, but I do make tomato sauce each summer. Hopefully, I am able to freeze enough to take me through to next summer when the new crop of those red, sweet globes ripen on the vine.

I realized, this year, that almost all of the ingredients for my tomato sauce were growing (or had grown) in my garden — tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, oregano and basil. Most of the tomatoes were already sitting on the kitchen counter, just waiting to be popped into the pot. The garlic and onions had been harvested earlier in the summer. And the basil, parsley and oregano were just waiting for me to stroll to the garden, scissors in hand, to snip a few sprigs.

But the purpose of this tale is not to share my tomato sauce recipe (that comes later, below) but to suggest that you can tailor a small garden to the ingredients in your favorite recipes. Do you love to make salsa? Add some cilantro and a few varieties of peppers to the produce list above. Are pickles your favorite side dish? Grow beets, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, dill, garlic and onions. Maybe you only have room for a small garden patch next to your patio. You can grow culinary herbs or tea herbs such as lemon balm or a variety of mints. If you grow what you love to eat, less produce will go to waste and you will have the satisfaction of eating the freshest and most nutritious food all summer long. And by preserving the harvest in some fashion you can continue to enjoy those summer flavors for the rest of the year.

I use this with spaghetti, lasagna and any other recipe where a tomato sauce is called for.

You can adjust the measurements to suit your taste.

11/2 to 2 gallons fresh tomatoes

11/2 cups minced onions

1 whole head of garlic crushed and chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 sprig minced parsley

Handful of basil leaves, chopped fine

1/8 cup minced oregano

1 tbsp sugar

Salt to taste

Quarter the tomatoes and toss them into a stock pot. Add about ½ cup of water. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer until all of the skins have pulled away from the meat of the tomato. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool a bit. Run the tomatoes thru a food mill to separate the skins and seed. (If you do not have access to a food mill, you will need to peel the tomatoes before cooking them.) Put the cooked tomato and all the juice back into the pot and simmer.

In a skillet, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until soft, but not brown. Add this to the simmering tomatoes. Add the herbs. Simmer until the sauce is the consistency you desire. I find it needs to cook down by about 50 percent. Add the sugar a teaspoon at a time to achieve the right taste. Add the salt in the same fashion.

I freeze the cooled tomato sauce in pint containers.

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