I don’t have much time, or kitchen space for elaborate preserving projects anymore. So, I have to be really selective and spend my time making the one tomato-y thing that will be quick, flexible, but still remind me in the heart of January that the dark, frozen nights will again be soft and desk, with tomatoes, still warm from the garden. See, that connection to my own Pennsylvania summer is a real spirit lifter – one which canned tomatoes from the supermarket just cannot match.
Elimination thinking makes my decision super-easy; this uncooked tomato sauce, straight from the freezer tastes exactly like summer, is compact and efficient to store in my freezer, and quick and easy to use in lots of ways later.
Before beginning, I’d like to make this one plea: Resist the urge to chef this one up until you’ve made it once exactly as it is. Yes, it’s a VERY simple, plain recipe, but therein lies the charm. The simplicity allows the special summertime quality of the tomatoes to shine which is exactly why I love it so much. You can add herbs and spices when you use it later if you wish. Oh, and this sauce plain is beautiful with fresh mozzarella… and allows a bit of good olive oil to really shine.
Here’s a link to the more specific recipe. It makes four servings to be eaten right away but to preserve larger quantities for freezing, simply repeat as many times as you like ( I just figure out how many pounds of tomatoes I have and work it backwards), throw the milled batches together into one large colander, drain over a large bucket then freeze the concentrated sauce in single serving portions.
The split skins will peel right away – then toss into your food mill. I use a Roma and run the tomatoes through two or three times to extract every last drop… If you don’t have a food mill, just do your best to skin, seed and chop as finely as you can. The texture won’t be exactly the same, but don’t let that stop you – it’s still going to be awesome.
The tomatoes after processing. Add kosher salt and ladle into your cheesecloth lined colander. Maybe you’re not like me with large pieces of cheesecloth lying around. Not to worry, you can use a simple cotton dish towel or pillow case but be prepared for it to be forever stained. I toss my clean cheesecloth into the boiling water for a few minutes before using. Line a colander with the cheesecloth and you’re ready to pour in your tomato mixture. Place the colander over a large bowl or bucket and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight
For me, one cup portions in freezer bags is the perfect size. One cup feeds two with plenty of leftovers for the next few days. Looking at the chicken scratch I wrote on my recipe, apparently I used 24 pounds of tomatoes last year and today I know it was not nearly enough. A word of warning: a little of this sauce goes a long way. I use 2 or 3 Tablespoons to dress a serving of pasta. Really.
Fill your freezer bags, squeeze out any air, and stack flat on a baking sheet or plate to freeze. Onse frozen stiff, the packages can be stacked upright in a container, and are easy to see and access in your freezer, and take little space.
Pouches of finished sauce, in my freezer stash. I freeze this in one cup portions in small freezer bags to use all winter. Thaw it in the bag and gently spoon over cooked pasta tossed with olive oil or butter. If you must heat the sauce, simply warm a little olive oil in a sauce pan and stir in the sauce until just warmed.
Because you are straining away most of the water, the volume will be greatly reduced. I started with a nearly full 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, and ended up with about 5 cups of sauce. This will vary based on the water content of the tomatoes and the amount of time you leave them drain.
Use your sauce to make summer-fresh Margarita pizzas, toss in the crock pot or dutch oven for a stew or braise, soup, with a pot of beans, anything that can use some fresh tomato flavor. Since the star of this project is the tomato, I wouln’t bother with thick walled, tough-skinned, weak flavored commodity varieties. This is meant as a celebration of the flavor of local, peak-of=freshness, sloppy, flavorful old-fashioned and heirloom varieties.
Home made pasta, uncooked fresh tomato sauce frozen from last summer’s harvest and some good quality parmesan or pecorino – perfection in its simplicity!
Also, when you’ve finished making this sauce, especially if you made a bunch for freezing, you’ll have lots of nutritious tomato essence (the water left after straining the tomato solids for the sauce) left.
- Base for Bloody Marys
- Braising liquid
- Reduction for intensely tomato flavored sauces
- Added flavoring for beer or vodka
- Base for gazpacho or cocktail sauce
- Poaching liquid for seafood, shrimp, calamari or lobster
- Dressing for fresh oysters
- Marinade for white fish
- Vinaigrette mix-in
- Liquid for cooking rice or grains
- Refreshing chilled beverage served over ice, with basil
Or, simply use it in place of any liquid next time you make stock, bread, rice, bulgur, barley or risotto. These are kitchen basics you know you’re going to do anyway, so why not add a little free flavor & nutrient booster?
An icy glass of tomato essence…. yummy and refreshing straight up, and so many great uses in coctails…
The most complicated part of this approach is using a food mill if you have never used one. It makes for a really nice texture and removes the peel and seeds. A food mill is not necessary though, and this sauce will be just as tasty finely chopped by hand.
If you could only do one, what would your single tomato preserving project be?
I have been thinking, even harder than usual, about the affordability of well raised food for those who need it most, the marginalized and low income. And today finds a whole new group of hard working people struggling to put food on the table. Some of us are prospering more than usual, or are maintaining normal, while others are completely devastated.
Honestly? I wish I could simply gift away every single bite of what I raise. This is in fact, a mission driven farm, as much as anything, and the mission is to build a Giving community. Stories and news features of people waiting in lines for food is seriously killing me.
At Auburn Meadow Farm, I have always wanted healthful food to be available to the marginalized segments of society. The single parents struggling to access and afford nutrient dense food, those financially struggling because of illness who need clean food more than ever but cannot afford it, or are too ill to even think about cooking. Our seniors, who are seeing their pennies pinched by increased fuel, isolation, and increased cost of food. So many instances of people in newfound levels of need.
It is crystal clear that generations will starve waiting for the Powers That Be to create workable programs all Americans will agree upon. What is inspiring me at the moment is those people who are just sitting down, having an idea, and going out, face to face, and doing it.
Person to person, eyeball to eyeball. Simple solutions. Why not us? So, here’s what I’m thinking. A direct, person to person, extension of understanding, solidarity, and hope.
How it works:
- Priority is on seniors, those struggling due to health issues, single moms struggling to feed their kids, and our seniors.
- All meats donated are USDA processed, top quality goods – no cast offs.
- Update: Square gift cards are apparently a bad approach for this. Sorry if I confused you, but I’ve gotta go outside and tend the beasts, so stay tuned. I will create a Venmo or other simpler account for this purpose. If you have already donated, no worries, I kept track and will forward the money to the new account. Redeem it with the code BIGGERTABLE, and those funds will be used to gift Auburn Meadow Farm meat to those struggling from economic hardships brought on by COVID.
- Auburn Meadow Farm will make the most of your dollars by filling the need according to a discounted price scale.
- Accountability and transparency – this is a simple idea, finding its legs. A donations newsletter seems to be the most effective way to communicate our progress, though obviously I do not wish to violate anyone’s privacy.
I would love also to donate meat to an organization capable of turning the meats into cooked meals, easier for those lacking kitchen facilities and time, as a collaborative project. If you are that organization, reach out.
- The first meat will be ready to distribute in January, but funds now to pay for butcher and distribution fees will help kick this off faster, and enable us to go further. We have plenty of pork coming in January, and with enough help, we can be filling pantries by the end of the month.
- And, if your food bank or church is in need, and you are able to accomodate frozen meat safely, that is an avenue we can pursue as well. If you know of someone or something, let me know.
I hope you love this idea as much as I do, and if you would like to work with me to help solidify it into a regular thing, let’s talk! We need kind and helping hearts on the ground and I can’t think of a better goal for 2021.
Some cuts of beef just are never going to be Ruth’s Chris caliber. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good, they are just something else.
A disappointing, tough, lean Delmonico makes a damn fine Chicken Fried Steak, or pepper steak. Ditching the supermarket has made me step up and learn a few things, and now I see how truly cheated we have been.
I kid you not, a well raised chicken fried steak is ten times better than an easy supermarket commodity-raised wet-aged steak. Regaining those food skills is well worth the effort, and honestly? Not even all that hard.
Restaurant style Orange Beef is an amazing treat, involving steps for dredging, frying, and otherwise giving your beef strips an amazing, crispy, tender texture, coated in rich, sticky, delicious orange-flavored sauce.
This quickie is not that. It has the flavors, but not the oil, the deep fried stickiness, the deep fry smell or fussy steps. It also doesn’t have that ethereal texture, or glaze, but being so quick, easy, delicious, healthy, and tasty, it’s exactly what a weeknight needs. Pleasing and satisfying fuel for mind and body, and a non-burger way to honor and enjoy the more complex parts of the animal.
I struggle a little with the sourcing of the frozen veggies, the Bird’s Eye I used are Conagra, which is… Conagra. But we live in the world we live in, and one battle at a time.
Makes about four servings
- 1/2 – 1 pound of some type of everyday beef steak; flank, round, sirloin tip steak, something chewier and not-too-fancy, thinly sliced across the grain and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sake or white wine
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tsp cooking oil (I use lard or olive)
Rub the beef strips in the baking soda, and refrigerate, approx 30 minutes.
Mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, wine, sugar and cornstarch.
Rinse the beef strips well, pat dry on paper towels. Heat the cooking oil in a skillet, add beef strips and brown, about 4 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Remove to a plate.
Add the package of frozen stir fry veggies to the hot skillet, with 2 tablespoons water, and cover.
Simmer for about 8 – 10 minutes to allow larger pieces to cook through, then remove lid.
Allow the water to simmer away, then add the soy mixture to the skillet and simmer until thickened and nicely coating the veggies.
Return the beef strips to the mix, combine well, and serve warm, alongside rice.
Sustainably and attainably delicious, twenty minutes or less.