Yesterday was totally food project day at our house.
My top stop at the farmer's market is the sort out bin: 65 cents a pound for a random assortment of supbar and overabundant vegetables. This weekend the bins were full of slightly bruised but intact tomatoes, so I filled a bag, dragged it all the way around the market, and then hauled my complete load of produce home. I think I may have to get a wagon or something in the future.
At home, we immediately started on the road to tomato sauce.
This stuff is designed for storage, so we kept it simple. This way we can use the resulting sauce for practically anything with no ill effect. I might even cut out the garlic in our next batch.
Basic tomato sauce
Essentially, we're going to skin the tomatoes, then stew them down with the onion and garlic.
To skin tomatoes, put a pot of water on to boil. Core your tomatoes and cut a shallow cross through their blossom ends. When the water is boiling, gently lower your tomatoes into the pan. We used a large pasta pot and pasta insert, so we could dip all our tomatoes simultaneously. Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for approximately one minute before lifting them out. When the air hits the tomatoes, their skins should start to split; if this doesn't happen (i.e. if you used so many tomatoes at once that they made the water temperature drop dramatically), you may want to put them back in the water for another 30 seconds or so.
Drain your tomatoes and let them cool. Dump the water out--if you have a lot of tomato matter in your water, you may want to save it for stock--and put the pot back on the heat. Add a generous slug of olive oil, a chopped yellow onion or two, and a handful of whole peeled garlic cloves. The proportions here are entirely up to you. We had about five pounds of tomatoes, so two medium onions and eight garlic cloves were plenty. If you're using more tomatoes, you may want to use more onion and garlic. Or you may want to omit them entirely, and just stew your tomato with a little olive oil and salt. Whatever floats your boat is fine.
Let your onion and garlic cook down over medium heat until they're beginning to caramelize. Stir occasionally to make sure everything is getting cooked evenly.
When the onion and garlic have just developed some delicious brown edges, it's time to add the tomatoes. Pick up a tomato and peel off the skin with your hands, making sure to keep as much flesh as possible. It's best to do this over the pot so you catch all the delicious juice. If you like, you can squeeze the skinned tomato in your hand before you drop it into the pot; otherwise, it's fine to chuck it in whole. Repeat until you are out of tomatoes.
Salt the tomatoes, stir everything together, and bring the pot to a simmer. Put the lid on the pot, leaving a half-inch crack to let steam escape. Turn down the heat.
Now let everything stew together for at least a good hour, and probably more like two. Stir every once in a while, making sure to gloat appropriately.
When the volume of tomatoes has reduced by about half, consider whether you want to puree your sauce. This is totally a matter of preference; I could go either way. For this batch, we took the pan off the heat (important!) and tackled it with the stick blender. If you like more texture, feel free to leave the sauce chunky.
From here, you can either store the sauce or cook it down even further. The longer you cook, the thicker and more concentrated your sauce. I personally just like to cook my sauce down until it's not watery at all, so we let the pot simmer for another half hour or so.
When your sauce has reached ultimate consistency, it is done. Hooray! Now you can either use it immediately, as you would use any tomato sauce, or you can store it. I put mine in the freezer; canning is also an option, for those of you.
Results: a good five or six cups of homemade tomato sauce. We win cooking!