Sunday, July 18, 2010

Victory Sauce

I took advantage of a short break between summer thunderstorms to visit our local farmer's market yesterday, and snagged a bunch of tomatoes. At least once a summer, I try to make a batch of homemade tomato sauce. Since the rest of my weekend included finishing the revision (yay) and starting edits (with purple pen!) on my WIP set in 1945, it felt just about right to engage in that quintissential home front activity--preserving fresh veggies.
I selected second-rate tomatoes--the ones my favorite Menonite seller keeps in little bins off to the side. These have flavor just as good as first-rates, but happen to look kind of goofy, or have dents. They're perfect for sauce.

Betty Crocker looks on.

Most people know how residents of the WWII home front planted victory gardens to provide their families with fresh produce, leaving the bounty of industrial farming to go to the troops. Of course, gardens only produce a few months out of the year, making wise preserving an important facet of victory gardening. Women canned, froze, and made jams and jellies--many techniques that had been part of home economics for decades but hit on a patriotic note during the war years.
Incidentally, though it's common enough knowledge that rural and suburban dwellers tilled their own gardens in their backyards, I had guessed that city and town residents probably wouldn't be involved in victory gardens. Then I chatted with a lady who volunteered at a museum I used to work at, who lived in a middling-sized town in the Midwest during the war. She told me how the town would set aside communal victory gardens, where apartment residents and homeowners with plots too small to garden could have their own parcel of land. So fascinating--a tactic of land division that was used for centuries in European and colonial communities, and a way to get urban dwellers gardening that's experiencing a revival today!

Anyway--back to the tomato sauce. It's time consuming, but pretty fun once you get down to it.

First, you have to skin the tomatoes. This sounds worse that it is--the old trick? Get one pot of water boiling, and another pot of ice water.

Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, place in boiling water until the skins split and wrinkle (most sources say 30 seconds, but this never seems to be enough for me--about a minute or two, but no more or the tomatoes start to cook and get squooshy).

Then plop them in the ice water until they cool, and the skins peel right off.

No real reason for this shot except that I love the color and texture of the skinned tomatoes:

Somewhere around here I decided that a glass of wine and some Glenn Miller sounded pretty good to round out the afternoon's activity.

Point of interest--the spoons were my grandmother's--she was a housewife during WWII so I'm sure these saw their share of the trenches of canning!

Then, chop up the tomatoes. To keep things from getting too messy, I squeeze some of the juice out before I chop.

Meanwhile, I have diced onion and garlic sauteeing on the stove, in that same stockpot as before, minus the boiling water. I add red wine for more flavor.

Then I dump all the tomatoes in and let the whole thing simmer long as it takes. Kind of vague, I know. But I lost track of time. I do skim some juice off the top as it cooks to yeild thicker sauce. I add...herbs and spices...again, no proper recipe here.* This time there was red pepper flakes and rosemary. There's been basil galore before.

Of course, I don't throw away the juice I skim, or the juice I squeezed earlier--that wouldn't be a properly thrifty housewife at all! Instead, I strained it and popped it in the fridge--with a little extra flavoring and maybe some cream, it makes a lovely tomato soup.

If you've been thrifty, some skins, cores, and the wine cork should be all you've wasted!

*A quick note--I freeze my sauce for later. If you're going to can, you have to use a specific recipe that yeilds the right PH balance to avoid botulism. No one likes botulism.


Lua said...

Wow Rowenna! You make it look so easy (and fun) but I’m pretty sure if I were to go into my kitchen and try to do this it’ll be… well, WW III! :)
But yours look so yummy, well done! And good luck with finishing your revision (yay!) editing :)

Rowenna said...

Lua, you should have seen the counterops and stovetop when I finished! They looked tie-dyed. Complete mess!

brownpaperbaggirl said...

Mmm. Homemade tomato sauce! I canned peaches with my Mom one year...what a process it was.

brownpaperbaggirl said...

Mmm. Homemade tomato sauce! I canned peaches with my Mom one year...what a process it was.

Rowenna said...

Canning is more of an ordeal than just simple sauce-making--a group of friends and I canned tomato sauce one year. It was fun in a group, but I don't know if I could tackle it by myself!

missbluestocking said...

I'm so hungry now! And it's one a.m.

Rowenna said...

Hi June--though it's pretty easy, you wouldn't be eating til three or so :)