Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Squirreling for Winter: M.M.M. spaghetti sauce

How do you eat locally and seasonally in the winter? You store the produce when it is fresh! Making something that you don't need a canner for is a great place to start learning these skills. 

I love homemade marinara sauce - stuff in a jar just can't touch fresh with a ten foot pole. Unless you're carefully reading labels, store bought sauce is loaded with added sugars and salt and lacking in flavor.

I recently spent a Thursday night making sauce (and drinking a bit of sauce too, which made it even more fun!). There isn't an exact recipe, I just used a bunch of tomatoes and peppers from the farmers market. Some farmers will sell "seconds" - these are the fruits and vegetables that aren't as pretty, might have a nick or split in the skin or have a weird shape that makes them harder to slice or cube. This benefits the farmer because they get to sell produce that might not be purchased and it helps your wallet because the farmer is going to give you a bargain. Win!

I wasn't too precise with the ingredients because I didn't plan to can the sauce. If you can tomato products in a water bath canner, you have to ensure that there is sufficient acid to prevent bacterial growth. I wanted to be easy and just stuck the sauce in the freezer.

Nutritional note: don't skip the olive oil. Some of the nutrients in the vegetables, such as the lycopene in the tomatoes and tomato paste, are fat soluble. If there isn't any fat in the meal, we miss the nutritional boat!

M.M.M. Sauce
(aka Mushroom and Merlot Marinara)
Makes one huge pot of sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2-5 cloves of garlic, minced, per your love of garlic and fear of vampires
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
2-3 bell peppers, any color
10 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup of merlot, or so (and some for you too!)
4 ounce can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Basil, oregano, hot sauce, salt and pepper per your taste buds
  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil. Gently drop whole tomatoes into water and simmer for 30-90 seconds or until skin starts to split. Remove them from boiling water and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slip right off. If not, redunk in boiling water and try again.
  2. In your biggest pot, saute onions and garlic until onions become translucent 
  3. Add bell peppers and mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, merlot, tomato paste and seasonings. Go lightly with the seasonings here, because the flavors get concentrated as the sauce simmers. You can always add more later.
  5. Bring sauce to a boil and then drop temperature down to low and stir sauce occasionally.
  6. Put on a movie, pour yourself a glass of wine and remember to stir sauce once in a while. 
  7. By the time the sauce has simmered for a few hours, it should smell fantastic and have developed a rich red color. Taste it: does it need anything else? 
  8. Let the sauce cool. If you keep stirring, it will cool off faster. 
  9. Once cooled, ladle into plastic quart freezer zip-top bags (these are more heavy duty), plastic containers from take out or glass jars with a screw on lid. Either way, leave a bit of space for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Label with the M.M.M. sauce and date and pop into your freezer.
Ready to use the sauce? You could try my Mile-High Vegetable Lasagna in the slow cooker. Yummy!

See the skin peeling off? That's what you're looking for
Lots of onion and garlic...vampires beware!

Add tomatoes, wine and tomato paste
Ready to go!
Reader Poll: Have you put anything up for the winter (aka canned something, frozen surplus fruits or veggies or dried apples)?

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