So many signs fall is here and the growing season is at an end. Three cuttings of hay are cut, baled and sold out. Leaves are starting to turn here, and there are patches of color across the valley on the mountains. We’ve been picking apples for a couple of weeks, and trading them for pears with a neighbor. In the vegetable garden, what’s left of the basil has been nipped by frost, and the summer squash quit producing at the last cold spell. The delicata and kuri winter squash are picked and put aside for winter. Onions are ready to pull and hang, and potatoes are ready to dig.
There are still a lot of tomatoes on the vines. There are enough left to make a couple dozen more jars of tomato juice, and then we’ll pick the rest and bring them into finish ripening. Every year I plant a few experiments — this year they were two tomato plants I spotted at Greenhouse Garden Center.
One was “Trifele” – a Russian heirloom, and it’s fabulous.
The other one was “Sub Arctic Plenty” with a tag that said 42 days. Who could resist that? Several of us out here in Washoe Valley planted that one, and I haven’t checked with the others, but mine is just now making tomatoes — green ones!
Tomato products are the things I make the most — juice, sauce, purees for soup, stewed. But the one I couldn’t do without is tomato sauce. I make a basic sauce and don’t use a lot of specialized seasonings — like garlic, basil, cilantro, even peppers. Just tomatoes, parsley, carrots, onions, celery and lemon. That comes later, in the kitchen. I can in a variety of sizes of jars so I have some options. I prefer to can tomato products, but you can freeze what you make instead. Canned goods last a bit longer than frozen, and don’t take up limited freezer space.
You’ll need some special canning equipment and information if you’ve never done this before. So I suggest you do two things: get yourself a good book such as the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and if you can, spend some time with a friend or relative who’s an experienced canner. You’ll be glad you did!
HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE
This recipe will make approximately 10 pints or 20 half pints of sauce. It can be canned or frozen. Don’t use an aluminum pot to make it in. Use enamel or stainless, with a heavy bottom to prevent sticking and burning.
15 to 20 pounds ripe red tomatoes, stem and blossom ends and any blemishes removed.
2 cups finely chopped celery (leaves too)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped carrots
1 big or 2 small onions, chopped
Big bunch of Italian parsley, some stems attached, roughly chopped
Juice of one lemon
And at the end, about 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint, and sugar (not much) to taste
Cut tomatoes in pieces, add vegetables and lemon juice, and press down in pot to make some juice, or add a cup or so of water just to get the cooking started. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to bring cooked tomatoes to top of pot. Simmer until all ingredients are soft enough to pass through the medium disc of a food mill or a sieve. This will remove seeds and skins. (This will take an hour or so). Simmer the sieved sauce until it’s the desired consistency. Taste and add salt or sugar. Follow Ball Canning book directions for canning, or freeze in convenient size bags.
Aside from the usual pasta sauces, we use this in soups, stews, meatloaf, and to flavor pork chops or chicken or roasted vegetables cooked in the oven.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.