Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce

Turns out, this was a wise purchase!
So, I found this basic recipe by simply searching online for "slow cooker tomato sauce," and doubtless you can find a perfectly good recipe that way too.  However, as often happens, when I went to make it, I did several things differently.  I'll tell you what I did, and you, in turn, can make whatever adjustments you need to.

The main point I'd like to get across here is that using a slow cooker to make tomato sauce is WORTH IT.  No part of this process takes longer than 15 minutes of work, and it doesn't heat up the house.  As someone with a farm, a hungry husband, a bluegrass band, a 5-month-old baby, and not-exactly-stellar time-management skills, I have been able to process about 30 lbs of tomatoes into sauce in the past week, and boy does the house smell good.  The sauce will go into the pantry and the freezer, and maybe even onto pizza this very evening!

adapted from this recipe

For a 6-quart slow cooker:
7-8 lbs tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh herbs such as basil or parsley (optional)

Place chopped onions and garlic in slow cooker.  

Core tomatoes and cut out any spots of rot, mold, etc. (I am using farmstand "seconds," so I have lots of rot and mold spots to cut out; you may not).  Place tomatoes in slow cooker, whole or cut in half if large.  Cram in as many tomatoes as you can; I have a 6-quart slow cooker and I was really jamming them in there, and I managed to fit around 7 to 8 lbs per batch.

Sprinkle sugar, salt, pepper and oregano over tomatoes (don't worry about trying to stir).  Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours.  Once the tomatoes start to break down, they'll take up less room and be juicier and you'll eventually be able to stir, which ideally you'll do every couple of hours.  I've done this part overnight, though, and it's fine.  You don't have to get up every couple of hours to stir.  Just if, you know, the baby wakes up or something, go in the kitchen and give it a little stir before you go back to bed.

Once tomatoes are very broken down and soft, run mixture through a food mill into another large pot (you can also just puree with an immersion blender or food processor, but the food mill takes out the seeds and skins, which is nice).  The sauce will be quite thin and watery.  Simmer sauce uncovered on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to your desired consistency, maybe another hour or two.

Add fresh herbs, if using.  Use immediately or preserve (see below).

Sauce in jars

To can: Ladle sauce into sterilized jars, being careful not to fill beyond the headspace line.  Add 1 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, or 2 Tbsp.s to each quart jar.  Put on lids and rings and water-bath process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Refrigerate any jars whose lids fail to seal.

To freeze: Ladle sauce into freezer-safe jars or containers.  Allow to cool before covering, then place in freezer.  Use within a year for best quality.

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