As a canner, the next three or four weeks are the pinnacle of my preserving year. While it’s true that there are good things to can all year round, there is nothing better than the moment when local tomatoes are in season, available from local farmers, and sold by the 25 pound box. And that moment is now.
Over the years, I’ve developed a tomato strategy. Sometime in August, I get my hands on about 100 pounds of sturdy paste, roma, or plum tomatoes. I lay a tarp out on my dining room table and I arrange the tomatoes on top. The ripest tomatoes are positioned closest to the kitchen and the least ripe ones get a few days to redden up on the far end.
I then proceed to make somewhere between five and seven different preserves. Whole peeled tomatoes take up the lion’s share of my work, with about 40 pounds going into jars after being cored and peeled. The rest are divided between basic sauce, roasted corn salsa, pizza sauce, tomato jam, and a few precious jars of oven roasted tomato paste.
The reason that so many of my tomatoes go into jars whole and peeled is that they are my most versatile pantry ingredient. I add them to stews, I turn them creamy soups, and I make Marcella Hazan’s Butter, Tomato, and Onion Pasta Sauce.
If you’ve never cooked down tomatoes with butter and a bit of onion, you are in for an absolute treat. The onion is cut in half, so it expresses its flavor into the sauce without overpowering the earthy marriage of tomato and butter. The resulting sauce is magic with pasta, but my favorite way to serve it is with braised kale and these chicken ricotta meatballs.
While I wish I could can the finished buttery sauce and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice, dairy products don’t do well in the canning pot. However, having my own home canned tomatoes on the shelf means that the finished sauce is never more than 45 minutes away.
This weekend, Craftsy is also having a sale and all Food and Cooking classes are up to 50% off. If there’s a class you’ve been wanting to take, now’s the time!