We are big gardeners, and we grow between 15 and 20 tomato plants each year. Inevitably, all the tomatoes ripen at one time, leaving me with tons of ripe, ready to eat tomatoes. Once we’ve had our fill of BLTs, tomato sandwiches and garden salads, I have to find a way to preserve the rest of our harvest for future use.
In the past I used to can all of my tomatoes. I spent hours going through the trouble of skinning, chopping, and packing them. It wasn’t difficult, but it was certainly time-consuming. Since I mostly make pasta sauce with my canned tomatoes, I decided to try something different this year. And it has worked out great.
This year, rather than canning tomatoes, I have been making them into pasta sauce. Then I freeze the sauce in quart sized freezer bags (making sure to label them with the date and the quantity). This way, my family will be able to have garden fresh pasta sauce year round.
Wash the tomatoes and remove the core using either a tomato corer or a paring knife.
Once the core is removed, quarter six large tomatoes, and drop them into a large pot. Turn the heat to medium low, and let them cook until they begin to soften. Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes, releasing the juices.
Continue adding tomatoes, mashing after each addition, until all the tomatoes have been added to the pot. Continue cooking the tomatoes for a few more minutes, until they all the tomatoes are softened.
The next step is somewhat tedious, but it’s essential for a really smooth sauce. Using a food mill (I use this one from Oxo), mill all the tomatoes, removing the seeds and skins in the process. Personally, I run them through the mill three times – once on each setting. But if you’re not at all bothered by a few seeds or small pieces of skin finding their way into your sauce, running them through once will do the trick.
Once all the tomatoes have been through the food mill, return them to the pot and cook on medium heat until reduced by half. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how many tomatoes you used.
It’s important not to try speeding things up by turning the heat too high. This will only cause you agony. Especially when you find that the bottom layer of tomato sauce has scorched, giving your entire pot of sauce a burnt flavor.
Once the sauce has been reduced, add the herbs and garlic powder and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. The tricky part is finding the right combination of herbs – I typically use 1 tablespoon of oregano, basil and parsley, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder for every pot of sauce. My advice to you is to go easy on the herbs prior to freezing, and add more (if needed) when you are serving the sauce.
Let the sauce cool for a few hours, then begin spooning it into freezer bags. I usually freeze the sauce in 2 1/2 cups portions, which is enough for my family of three to eat pasta for dinner and for my husband to have leftovers for lunch the next day.