At a recent community event, Nichols Canyon Co-op had a splendid table of local produce bounty. Shan and I handed out samples of our marmalades and talked Co-op, and I swear we did not call each other the night before to co-ordinate our tops. One end was loaded with our tomatoes, primarily from Jeff J in Nichols Canyon with a few from Mimi in Studio City. Check out Mimi’s chilis! P-P-Power spice.Marina also contributed her Bishops Hat chilis. I recently made tomato sauce with Jeff, using the whole peeled tomatoes, chili peppers, onion, garlic, red wine and fresh herbs, and it was fabulous: an assertive sauce, in the best possible way! But this time, I thought I would try something a little more adaptable, not exactly a blank canvas, but a very basic multi-purpose sauce. The tomatoes were triple washed, then simply quartered and put into the cooking pot and brought to a boil. I used a potato masher to help them break down and release their precious juices. (ok, say it in your Gollum voice, my precious…)The heat was lowered to a low boil or energetic simmer for 40 minutes, then I hauled out the handy dandy food mill. Yaay for no peeling or seeding, thanks to this simple invention!
The food mill was invented by Jean Mantelet in Minneapolis, Minn. The invention was patented on Aug. 8, 1933. However, with all respect to Jean M and the Foley Company, I have a feeling something very much like this has been used in other cultures prior to 1933? Anyone have some insight?
After letting the tomatoes cool just a bit, I cranked away and ended up with what looked a lot like tomato juice. Probably because it was. I reduced the juice by a third, then added the hot juice to sterile jars containing salt, fresh lemon juice, and fresh basil leaves. That’s it. Then it was into the canner for 30 minutes. This ends up being a thin sauce, and after sitting for ten days a layer of liquid separates on top of the more dense tomato solids. I haven’t opened a jar yet myself, but I think I would use this as a start for a sauce, a soup ingredient, or perhaps as part of the liquid for cooked rice, barley or couscous. Just remember that when you use it, it already has salt added. The salt and the added fresh lemon juice are part of the chemistry to keep this preserved food safe. The basil leaves were added simply for a little extra flavor. Let me know how you use it! And here is just one more look at our glorious table…yes, those are our own local passion fruit and pomegranates, more about them coming soon!