A Can-Do Way to Keep Fruit and Veg

As summer ends, canning the garden's crops

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For many of us, saying 'so long' to summer is not an easy thing. But there is one way to capture the sunny season in a bottle – or a jar, at least. With the abundance of wonderful fruits and vegetables that are bursting out of our gardens and farmers' markets, canning offers a way to eat summer tomatoes in the dead of winter. We speak to Takeaway food contributor Kathy Gunst, author of "Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast" and "Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations." We also talk to John Forti, curator of historic landscapes at the Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Click through for a recipe for Kathy Gunst's roasted tomato sauce

Recipe for Kathy Gunst’s Roasted Tomato Sauce
Adapted from "Stonewall Kitchen Harvest: Celebrating the Bounty of the Seasons" by Kathy Gunst, Jonathan King and Jim Stott (Clarkson Potter)

Every September, when the tomatoes are ready to be harvested, I make a rich sauce and put up glass jars so my friends and family can enjoy the flavors of summer during the deepest winter months. I used to make sauce the traditional way—peeling the tomatoes, removing the seeds, then chopping and mixing them with herbs and garlic, and simmering the sauce on the stove for hours. The results were always excellent, but the work was exhausting.

One year there were so many tomatoes that it seemed I would never be able to deal with them all. So I developed a short cut. I chopped the tomatoes coarsely, forgetting about all that tedious peeling and seeding, and tossed them in a large roasting pan with onions, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. Then I placed the mixture in a hot oven to make a roasted tomato sauce. The result was one of the best sauces ever. Roasting at a high temperature gives tomatoes a rich, slightly smoky flavor, and the onions and garlic become sweet as they caramelize.

The sauce can be refrigerated for three to five days, or it can be frozen in a tightly wrapped plastic bag for several months. The sauce can also be placed in sterilized Mason jars and processed (15 minutes in a boiling water bath should do it); it will keep for up to a year.

Toss the sauce with pasta, or serve it over grilled chicken or fish, or in any dish that calls for regular tomato sauce. You can cut the recipe in half or make a huge batch, all depending on how many tomatoes you have.

  • About 8 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, cored and quartered
  • 10 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and/or chives)
  • About 1/3 cup olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Generous grinding of black pepper
  • A few tablespoons sugar (optional)

(Makes about 10 cups)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large roasting pan, gently toss together the tomatoes, onions, whole and chopped garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes. Gently stir the vegetables. Roast for another 25 minutes and gently toss. Add any of the optional ingredients listed below and roast for another 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened and somewhat broken down into a sauce, with a golden brown crust on top. Remove and taste for seasoning. If the sauce tastes bitter, add a few tablespoons of the sugar.

Place in clean, sterile jars and refrigerate, freeze, or can. Makes about 10 cups.

Variations:

  • Add any of the following ingredients to the sauce after has roasted for about 50 minutes:
  • ¼ cup drained capers.
  • ½ cup pitted black and/or green olives.
  • 1 cup sautéed or raw mushrooms (see page 00 for more about different mushroom varieties).
  • About 1 cup of any chopped raw or cooked vegetable. 3 anchovy filets, minced, or 1 tablespoon anchovy puree.
  • A good dash of red chile flakes or hot pepper sauce.
  • If you like a smoother sauce, place the finished sauce in a blender or food processor and blend until it reaches the desired consistency.

Guests:

John Forti and Kathy Gunst

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

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