Since we just moved on to the place at the end of May, this year's garden was a small one. Maybe it would have been wiser to wait until we could test and build the soil, but I hadn't had a garden in four years (unless last summer's balcony garden counts), and just had to have one! I finally got it into the ground in June, mostly with 20 cent seeds from WalMart. For tomatoes however, I needed to buy plants.
We love tomatoes fresh, and as sauce for pizza, spaghetti, etc, but I never used canned tomatoes in my cooking. We just don't care for them that way. Consequently, I like to plant two or three plants for eating right off the vine in salads and sandwiches, then plant a lot of paste tomatoes. I remember when we were a family of four, I would plant 18 paste tomato plants and about four "regular" plants.
Well, this year I couldn't find any paste tomato plants, I suppose because it was so late in the season. In fact, I couldn't find any heirloom varieties either, much to my great disappointment. I ended up purchasing eight Celebrity tomato plants. I chose them because they are determinate. They've produced pretty well, over 17 pounds so far, and they have an excellent flavor. However, I have not found them to be crack-free (though they're getting better), nor blight resistant as they are advertised to be. Oh well. At least we have plenty of fresh tomatoes!
So we've had plenty of fresh tomatoes to eat, and to give away. And I even sold a few. Well, DH did anyway. When I got home from last Saturday's weavers' guild meeting (of which I have the honor of being president), he handed me a $5 bill. In response to my puzzled look, he said an elderly lady stopped by and told him that our tomatoes looked so good that she wondered if she could buy some. She said they were just too expensive in the grocery stores, and she was so hungry for fresh tomatoes.... He told she could help herself. When she asked how much, he told her she could just have them. She said she couldn't possibly do that so he told her to just pay whatever she thought they were worth. I don't know how many she took, but she gave him $5.
Even so, I still have more than we can eat, so I decided to try making tomato sauce with the extras. I also decided to cook it down in my crock pot, because I knew it would take awhile. So I first quartered or halved them into a regular cooking pot...
... cooked them down till soft, and then ran them through my Foley food mill to remove the skins and seeds....
I added a handful of dried oregano and a handful of dried rosemary, a little garlic, plus a chopped onion and chopped green pepper. It took about two days to cook it down by half.
At this point I though it looked pretty good, so I added salt to taste and declared it done.
But here's the real test -- how well it lays down as pizza sauce. My homemade sauces usually look thick, but somehow they are still always a bit watery. Will this one be the same? Will the water separate out when I spoon it onto the rolled out pizza dough? Observe....
Sadly, yes. The sauce forms a ring; you can see it seeping up the edge of pizza dough. Ah well.
Readers, what's the answer? Cook it down longer? Add a can of tomato paste? Use a thickener? Let me know your sauce making secrets!
Taste test-wise, it passed with flying colors. It was a yummy pizza and I was pleased to be using our own sauce. That batch made about 5 and a half cups, and I'm starting a second batch today. If I end up with enough, I'd like to can it in pint jars. It's very handy to have around.
A Few Extra Tomatoes is copyright August 2009