Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Homegrown Tomatoes

This year, my tomato plants have decided to yield all of their tomatoes simultaneously. So, I knew I needed to come up with something to do with all of these tomatoes (fresh are my least favorite way to eat a tomato).

I have read lately that tomato based foods sold in cans are detrimental to your health. (Just wait for tomorrow's post on your body's health!) The acids that are natural in the tomato react with the chemicals in the cans over time. This means that when you eat the food product inside, you are getting more than what was naturally in the tomato.

No, I know what you are thinking, "Why is she going to make a tomato based food product that is overwhelmingly sold in glass jars?!" The answer is that I figure my first fresh tomato--->tomato food should be something that seems hard to mess up! Making spaghetti sauce seemed like a safe start, and if it failed I could add some beans and call it "chili"!

Here are the ingredients I used per my dad's recipe and a few extra ingredients of my own:

at least 8 fresh ripe tomatoes
3-5 fresh bay leaves (if stored in the fridge and moisture free the shelf life is fairly long)
2-3 stalks of celery FINELY chopped
2-3 cloves of fresh minced garlic
2 tbs chili powder
1 onion
1 pound of ground turkey, beef, chicken or sausage*
I added 3 tbs italian seasoning
I also added somewhere around 1-2 cups of vegetable stock
Then I added a small dash of cinnamon

If you buy seasoned sausage you might not need to add the Italian seasoning

 This is what you need to start, but there is going to be some work involved!

Meat preparation: in a skillet (electric or stove) cook the ground meat, garlic and onion. You don't really need a photo for cooking ground meat right? Right!

Tomato Preparation: Start a pot of boiling water to blanch the tomatoes in. While the water is heating, cut a small circle to remove the stem of the tomato. On the bottom end of the tomato score a small X. This X does not need to be deep, but rather just cut through the skin. After all tomatoes have been de-stemed and scored with an X, they can be blanched for no more than 15 seconds in the boiling water. This process is to very easily be able to remove the skin of the tomato. When I did this, I was very tempted to keep them in longer because I didn't immediately notice anything happening. As soon as you remove the tomatoes from the boiling water place them in an already filled pot of cold water. This move from hot to cold will really make the skin simple to remove.

Once you peel off the tomato skins, you are ready to quarter your tomatoes and remove the slimy seeded part of the tomato. I thought that I would end up getting rid of most of the tomato in this process, but surprisingly there isn't that much slimy gooey stuff when quartering it. I notice all the slime when trying (but failing) to cut nice looking tomato slices.

I recommend just using your finger to clean out the goo because you can feel what needs to come out and not have to worry about cutting out a usable part of the tomato.

Sauce Preparation:

Now that you have the meat cooked and the tomatoes peeled and seeded you are ready to combine all ingredients together in a crock pot. I cooked mine for around 8 hours on low, but I bet it is ready after about 6 hours if you have less time. Now think about your ingredients....are they all in very small pieces? This is where I went wrong. Every spaghetti sauce I have ever eaten and enjoyed did not have large noticeable pieces of anything. So make sure you have chopped and minced your ingredients small enough that the only really recognizable ingredient is the meat.

My sauce in the end tasted good, but really was more of a chili. I took the "smart" route and turned it into a replica of Skyline Chili's 5 way with spaghetti noodles, chili, kidney beans, cheddar cheese, and some crackers. I think the necessary changes I needed to make was cut my ingredients much finer, add more tomatoes (this would eliminate the need for adding stock), and add a touch more Italian seasoning.

Just remember, everyone's idea of the perfect spaghetti sauces is slightly different. Some like it sweet, some like it savory, some like it to have strong tomato flavor, and others like it to be cheesy. Good luck and happy cooking!

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