When I was really young, my mom would spend hours every August blanching, peeling, de-seeding, and then canning mountains of tomatoes in our oh-so humid Missouri home.
Her unruly, curly hair would be pinned back with multiple bobby pins as she carefully lowered the tomatoes into the massive, black tin stockpot water with the Ball canning jar insert.
Not sure what happened, but after a few years, she stopped canning and started just putting whole tomatoes in pantyhose in the freezer. Each tomato was knotted off from the other, sausage link style, to apparently prevent bruising. It was always a little alarming to open the freezer to see the frozen red globes bound by old pairs of L’eggs pantyhose, but it worked for her.
In 1994, I got Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Italian Cooking and started making her to-die-for classic sauce Tomato Sauce and Onion and Butter in batches to freeze. After one mid-winter visit where we served my mom the sauce three different ways: over pasta, as tomato soup, and the base for our grilled pizzas, she never went back to her old ways of preserving tomatoes.
I generally have two ways I put up tomatoes for the winter: whole cherry tomatoes and pureed sauce. I don’t believe in taking the skin off or de-seeding, as I think it adds to the overall flavor.
1 bunch of cherry tomatoes
A few glugs of olive oil
1. Place cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle salt. Mix with your hands to be sure all the tomatoes are evenly coated with oil and salt.
2. Slow cook at 350 degrees until they are slightly blistered, melty, and smell heavenly.
3. Let cool.
4. Package in one-pint glass jars with a little extra olive oil on top. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.
5. These little flavor bombs are fabulous on focaccia, stirred into risotto, added to pizza, or mixed in with a little pasta cooking water into a simple bowl of noodles.
1. 5 lbs of tomatoes, cored; 3 onions, roughly chopped; 1 head of garlic, minced; olive oil; basil (optional).
2. In a large stockpot, add enough olive oil to the coat the bottom of the pan. Add in onions and garlic and cook on a low simmer for five minutes until super soft and melty. Add in tomatoes. Let simmer until tomatoes are reduced by a third or about two hours or thereabouts. It really just depends on how many pounds of tomatoes you are saucing at once. Sometimes I’ll do five-pound batches and other times I will do up to 15 pounds.
About 30 minutes before they are done, I’ll add a few handfuls of basil. Remove from heat and let cool. Puree in a blender to whatever consistency you enjoy. I always puree the hell out of it so it’s super smooth. Package in quart glass jars leaving about an inch of space at the top. We use this sauce nearly every week for either to be the base for soup, pizza, pasta, stews, and more.