This year has made me realise something. If you give tomato plants the right environment (warmth, water, lots of sun and good soil), it will grow like a weed.
I didn’t expect all my tomato seeds to germinate, so I ended up with 40 seedlings and not wanting to waste any, I planted them all in my polytunnel. Since the summer was record hot, and I kept it all watered daily, I ended up with a tomato jungle. I couldn’t keep up with clipping the side shoots and anything that I wanted to throw away, ended up growing on the compost heap. This summer my biggest ‘weed’ problem was tomato plants.
Difficult as they were to maintain, they produced an abundance of sweet and juicy tomatoes. We had endless tomato salads and fresh tomato and basil based pastas. I gave lots of tomatoes away too, but I still had tens of kilos to deal with. I decided to jar it all up and use in winter as base for pasta dishes. It has worked a treat.
Here is a simple recipe:
- Prepping your tomatoes. You can do all the blanching and removing of skins, but I find that it’s best to just wash and roughly chop them, remove any hard bits too.
- Chunky or puréed sauce? To save ourselves a bit of work, I recommend chopping the tomatoes in a food processor or blender before cooking them. A few pulses will make a chunky sauce, and longer processing will make a very smooth sauce. Conversely, if you like a very chunky sauce, skip this step altogether and let the tomatoes break down naturally as they simmer. You can also chop the tomatoes by hand, run them through a food mill, or purée them with a stick blender after they’ve been cooking.
- How long to cook the sauce? I give a cooking range of 30 minutes to 90 minutes (1 1/2 hours). Shorter cooking times will yield a thinner sauce with a fresher tomato flavour; longer cooking times will thicken your sauce and give it a cooked flavor. Watch your sauce as it simmers and stop cooking when it reaches a consistency and flavor you like.
- Storing tomato sauce. Let the sauce cool, then transfer it into freezer containers or freezer bags. Sauce can be kept frozen for at least three months before starting to develop freezer burn or off-flavors.
If you want you can also hot-water can the tomato sauce by moving the hot sauce to sterilised canning jars, sealing tightly with new lids, and boiling for 30 minutes. Or, as I do, stick them in the Aga (or standard oven) for 30 minutes and the job is done.
Written by Agnieszka Butterworth