Despite the blight and the wet, cold weather, my tomatoes are finally ripening. Actually, my biggest threat to the harvest this year has been that all my Guinea hens have been eating them. It's quite annoying.
I got a great variety of tomato plants this spring from Seed Saver's Exchange and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and they seem pretty healthy. Plus, I did ask the experts at Organic Gardening, and even if there is a bit of blight, the tomatoes are still edible, which is a good thing, since being married to an Italian means I am responsible for a lot of sauce. Oh, I could buy sauce in the store, and we often do. But I feel the pull of tradition quite strongly, and can't resist. Store-bought sauce is always delicious, and thicker and saucier than homemade, but homemade has a taste of summer that just can't be faked. And so, I make sauce.
Over the years I've gotten my sauce making down to its most simple essence. I have tried removing the skins and seeds, which is really time-consuming, and there's not that much of a taste benefit, if you ask me. (Plus, don't you think there are a lot of vitamins in those skins?) I've tried adding all sorts of flavorings. I've tried canning. But I've finally landed on a simple sauce that I freeze in wide-mouth mason jars and everyone loves (or at least no one complains). You can always doctor-up the sauce when you heat it to eat, but for just plain old sauce that's good for everything, here is my secret recipe:
1: Take a big sauce pot and put it on the stove. Add a thin layer of olive oil.
2: Fill your blender, Vitamix, or food processor with cleaned and halved tomatoes, with every single bad spot cut out. This is a very important step--never eat, cook, or preserve something that isn't perfect.
3: Add one or two raw cloves of garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and a sprig of basil and blend to a pulp.
4: Add the garlic/basil mix to the pot.
5: Keep adding blended tomatoes, garlic, salt, and basil until you have run out of tomatoes. (Sometimes I'll have 8 to 10 blenders full of tomato pulp).
6: Simmer on the stove for hours. Really, hours. You want the sauce to at least get reduced to half of what it was when you first put it in. If you have patience to wait longer, it will only get better.
7: Clean some wide-mouth mason jars, fill with the hot sauce, and put the lids on.
8: When the jars have cooled significantly, put them in the freezer. Make sure to label and date them.
When fall and winter come around and you want to eat the sauce, either thaw it in the microwave (after removing the lid, of course) or let it thaw on the countertop. I often add butter, hard-boiled eggs, sausage, or ground beef. And I always top it with Romano cheese. But you can use it in dozens of ways. I pretty much guarantee you won't have any left by the time next summer rolls around.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to Maria"s Farm Country Kitchen.