Tomato Sauce (without the fuss)

Now is a great time to work on preserving the flavors of summer from your local garden, farmers market, or farm stand. Homemade tomato sauce is a perfect way to savor the flavors of summer all year round. Fresh tomatoes are at the peak of their season right now and there are several other produce items to add to this recipe that are fresh and delicious too, such as onion, basil, oregano, and garlic.

I don’t think you can go wrong when preparing a recipe with any of these fresh flavors and marrying them together; I literally can’t stop my mouth from watering when thinking about how delicious these flavors are together. Maybe it is my Italian genes, but I can’t get enough fresh tomato sauce, no matter what the season. I think that’s why I find myself continuing to make fresh sauce year after year, but each year,  I do try and find new ways to make the work less labor intensive without sacrificing these delicious flavors.

I have more recently scaled back on my canning adventures and have decided to put my efforts into just making freezer type items, like tomato sauce, because I have ample freezer space to preserve this treat. I also have chosen to put most of my efforts into making tomato sauce because not only is fresh tomato sauce one of my favorite foods on the planet, but it is also very useful in many recipes other than just pasta, such as soups and stews, which are my favorites to prepare during the cooler fall and winter months.

One of my new attempts with this year’s batch of sauce was to add all of my ingredients to a slow cooker, then go about my regular business while checking on the sauce periodically throughout the day, and several hours later Voila – sauce! I then ladled the sauce into several glass freezer-proof jars, allowed them to cool to room temperature, and then placed them in my freezer for a cool day down the road when I am reminiscing about warm summer days and fresh delicious flavors.

Why is making your own sauce and preserving it in the freezer or home canning a better alternative to sauce you buy at the store?

  • First, it is cheaper. High-end tomato sauces at the grocery store can sometimes cost you $5.00 or more/jar (and at my sister’s, more like $8.00 a jar). I purchased several pounds of tomatoes for $5.00 at my local farmer’s market (actually my parent’s local farmers market in West Virginia) this past weekend to make my freezer-friendly sauce.
  • Another advantage is that you can control what you add to your own sauce. Some sauces you can buy at the store contain high amounts of sugar, sodium, and preservatives. When you are the one doing the preparing, you can control how much of these items are added to the sauce and you can choose to scale back on these items making your sauce a little healthier in some ways than what is available at your local grocery store.

It can be difficult to get motivated sometimes to preserve these summer favorites, but it really is worth it when you can enjoy the fruits of your labor during the cooler months when you are really craving them!

I hope you give this recipe below a try and stock up on fresh, preserved summer flavors for the winter months!

Homemade Freezer Tomato Sauce

This recipe was adapted from: https://ohmyveggies.com/how-to-make-and-freeze-homemade-tomato-sauce/

Question: Does it matter what kind of tomatoes you use for making your own sauce?

Answer: Not necessarily. I prefer Roma tomatoes when making tomato sauce because I think I prefer the traditional flavors it brings to more like an Italian style tomato sauce. This year, I used ripe “Better Boy” tomatoes and I am really pleased with how the sauce turned out. I think if you use fresh, ripe red tomatoes in your recipe, you will be pleased with the results. You may also choose to do your own research before starting this process or ask your local farmer! They are typically a wealth of knowledge when it comes to which types of foods, especially tomatoes work well for preserving.

Ingredients:

10-11 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (a kitchen scale might be helpful for this recipe)
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 (4-ounce) cans tomato paste
1-3 teaspoons sugar or honey, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs or 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 fresh hot pepper (optional)

Instructions:

Prepare the tomatoes:
Have a large bowl filled with cold water ready and waiting. Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Working in batches, drop the tomatoes in one at a time, then let sit in the boiling water until the skins split open, 30-60 seconds. One at a time, remove tomatoes from hot water with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl of cold water. When cool enough to touch, slip off and discard the tomato skins and remove the hard stem end and core. Trim away any bad spots. Roughly chop the tomato using a food processor or blender, a knife, or by squishing with clean hands. Set aside. (I actually did not skin my tomatoes because it is an extra step, I do not mind the skin consistency in my sauce, and I try not to waste food when I can help it).

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Make the sauce:
Add the olive oil to an extra-large 8-10 quart stock pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is simmering, add the diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently with a large wooden spoon, until onions start to soften and turn golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn. Add the fresh tomatoes. I followed these steps until it said to add the tomatoes. Instead, I placed the onion, garlic and paste in the slow cooker, and then I added the fresh tomatoes to the slow cooker. I turned the slower cooker on the low heat setting).

 


Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and let simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, until thickened. Stir occasionally to make sure the sauce at the bottom of the pan isn’t burning. (Again, I used the slow cooker in this step and my sauce simmered in the slow cooker for about 6 hours total)

Add sugar or honey, if desired, along with the herbs, salt, and pepper. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. (I added some of these flavors at the beginning at the process, and then I added more at about hour 3-4 to layer the flavors in the sauce).

Freeze the sauce:
Let the sauce cool completely (to about room temperature). Pour into to freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Label well with date and contents, then transfer to the freezer. The sauces will last 3-4 months, or longer (up to 5-6 months) if you use a deep freeze.

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