Oh beloved heirloom tomato, another moment on the lips and you'll be gone again until next summer. No tomato in January will every steal our hearts the way your seductive jewel tones win us over. With a pledge never to buy a tomato in winter, how do we keep from missing your succulent flavor until we make it through the next three seasons?
After one of these harvest hauls, we swear to start a canning assembly line to capture the flavors of summer fruits (tomatoes included). For now, we have a sneaky short cut. It's as easy as chop, simmer, buzz and freeze. It started out a few years ago as a quick sauce we'd make for an easy pasta meal. It didn't take long to figure out that we could make it in larger batches and freeze it for an easier pasta meal. Halving or doubling the recipe yields the same wonderful results. (As a side note, it has turned out to be a great way to reuse assorted yogurt containers and tubs.)
In its simplest form, toss the sauce with pasta and shower it with freshly grated parmesan cheese for a comforting meal. Don't let us stop you there though. Dress it up with olives, capers and anchovies to make puttanesca sauce. Jump start a bolognese sauce when you add it to browned ground beef. Can you imagine the delicious lasagna you could make with this sauce? Even a handful of fresh herbs sprinkled on top before serving can add diversity. Think of it as a pantry staple in your freezer. How is it different from the jars of store-bought sauce currently in your pantry? It doesn't compare. It's light and fresh tasting with sun-kissed sweetness. And you made it.
What are heirloom tomatoes anyway? They are all basically from seeds that have been passed down from one gardener to another since before 1940. They are open-pollinated, which means they require birds, bees, wind or farmers to pollinate the plants, and will produce the same fruit as the seeds from which they descend. Think of heirlooms as the opposite of a hybrid. What does that mean to the cook? Hundreds of varieties of beautifully colored, differently flavored tomatoes with names like Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, Chocolate Stripes and Amana Orange.
heirloom Tomato sauce
(Yields about 12 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 lbs heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered or halved
2 tsp salt, plus additional
1 tsp pepper, plus additional
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Stir often, taking care not to let the edges of the onions brown.
Add remaining ingredients and partially cover the pot with a lid. Once the contents come to a simmer, adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for about thirty minutes, until tomatoes break apart very easily with a wooden spoon.
Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons more olive oil, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Blend a little more. (Alternately, allow to cool a bit, then carefully puree in a blender.) Cool completely. Portion into plastic containers and freeze.
Yogurt tubs work just as well as plastic storage containers. Label and date the lids. Include serving size or volume amount on the label. For best flavor and quality, use the sauce within 6 months of freezing.
Prior to cooking with the frozen sauce, allow it to thaw on the kitchen counter. Or, run it under hot water so that you can pop it out of its container. Put the frozen sauce in a lidded pot, over very low heat until it thaws completely.
Think of this sauce as a pantry staple from your freezer. In its simplest form, toss it with pasta and shower it with freshly grated parmesan cheese for a comforting meal. Dress it up with olives, capers and anchovies to make puttanesca sauce. Jump start a bolognese sauce when you add it to browned ground beef. Just a few ideas to get your wheels turning.