Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Day with 10 Pounds of Tomatoes ... Marinara, Salsa, and Veggie Stock!

Tomatoes on the vine and Roma tomatoes were on sale one week at our local produce store. I bought 10 pounds of  great tomatoes for just about $10. A few hours later we had 2 quarts of canned salsa, a quart of marinara, 2 quarts of veggie stock, AND a delicious batch of chicken parm and pasta for dinner. Here's a look at my day:

Tomato Prep:
Wash tomatoes and remove stems. With a sharp knife, score an "X" on the bottom halves of the tomatoes. Working in batches, drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove with a slitted spoon into a large bowl of ice water. Let stand 5 minutes, and remove peels (they should come right off from the "X"). Set peels aside, and divide tomatoes: 2/3 for marinara, 1/3 for salsa.  If you do not want the seeds in your sauces, gently squeeze the insides of the tomatoes out over a large bowl before chopping and set seeds aside with the tomato peels.

Marinara:
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 fresh or 2 dry bay leaves
2/3 of the processed tomatoes, rough chopped
1 cup red wine (something you would drink)
2 cups water
1 red pepper, diced small  
1 golf ball size beet, diced small
1 large carrot, grated
3 bunches basil (by bunch I mean the stem and leaves attached)
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 TBSP fresh oregano
red pepper flakes

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat over medium-high heat and add oil. Once oil ripples, add onion, garlic and bay leaf and cook until golden.

Add tomatoes, red wine, water, red pepper and beets. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Add basil, oregano, a dash of red pepper flakes,  and 1/2-1 tsp each salt and pepper (based on your tastes). Cover and simmer about 2 hours, reducing heat if needed to keep sauce gently cooking without bubbles escaping or sauce sticking to the bottom.

Remove bay leaf, basil and oregano stems for the sauce (leaves may fall off during cooking that can be left behind). Use an immersion blender to puree sauce halfway, or carefully transfer half the sauce to a blender and pulse with a towel over the top  (watching for steam) until smooth, and then re-add puree to chunky sauce. Adjust salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Continue cooking until enough of the liquids have evaporated to create desired thickness.

Serve immediately, freeze in quart bags or yogurt tubs, refrigerate for up to a week, or can sauce in quart jars. When serving, top with freshly chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Salsa:
2 large onions, rough chopped  
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped  
1 green bell pepper, diced into 1/2" pieces 
1 yellow pepper, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 jalapeno, finely diced (with or without seeds and ribs depending on heat level desired)
1/3 of the processed tomatoes, rough chopped
1 peach rough chopped (process the same way as a tomato, then peel)
2 limes, zest and juices
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander
1/4-1/2  tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup corn or black beans (optional)

In a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, add all ingredients except the corn/black beans. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to gently simmer about 20 minutes until vegetables are soft. If salsa is too chunky, gently work out the large chunks with a potato masher. Adjust seasonings to taste, and add corn or black beans and stir until heated through.

Serve immediately, freeze in quart bags or yogurt tubs, refrigerate for up to a week, or can salsa in quart jars.

Veggie Stock:
1 onion , chunked
2 cloves garlic, smashed
4 ribs celery or 1 1/2 cups celery tops/leaves, rough chopped
2 carrots, cut into 3-4 chunks
Tomato peels from processing tomatoes
parsley/cilantro stems
5-10 peppercorns

Place above in a large stock pot, or crock pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to low, and simmer about 2-4 hours. If you are using a crock pot, let steep 12-14 hours on low heat. Line a strainer with paper towels and pour contents through to strain. This makes a very fragrant, rich vegetable stock great for soups, fortifying pasta, rice, and gravy bases. You can throw in any other odds and ends you might have around the house like bones to make it a meat stock, mushrooms, or other herbs.
Use immediately, freeze in quart bags or yogurt tubs, refrigerate for up to a week, or can stock in quart jars.

Canning:
Check out these links on safe canning if you are a newbie:
I used washed pint jars with new lids (I replace the lids every year), a hot water bath, and my canning tongs and lid-picker-upper. A hot water bath is a HUGE lidded pot with a rack inside that helps you to drop the jars in and lift them out. The special tongs are perfect to help you safely remove the jars, and you want to let them stand for about 24 hours on the counter after processing and before storing. Don't be surprised if you hear any hissing or popping as its just the seals working ... and be sure to refrigerate and use within 30 days if for any reason the lids can still be pushed down to make the popping sound after 24 hours (it means they didn't seal right).




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