Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting my hands dirty in the name of cheapness.

I made my weekly trip to The Italian Market for fruits and veggies on Saturday. I like to spend an afternoon each weekend at the market, making up a weekly menu as I go, and buy all the fruits and veggies that I am going to need at once. I save a lot of money this way, by getting things in bulk (i.e. I buy a bag of onions once a week, instead of an onion every day. Yes, I eat at least an onion a day) and also by catering my shopping to what is freshest and cheapest. I know that this sounds like a serious time investment that can suck up some of our already precious time off, and it kind of is, but once you get used to (and good at) it, it doesn't take too long at all. I have also found that this is one of my favorite parts of the week.

Back to my story though. I was at the market looking through all the different produce stalls, and I came across a farmer that was selling big Jersey Fresh tomatoes 5 for $1. This kind of deal is exactly why I love going to the market. Of course I did have to dig through big baskets of broken and moldy tomatoes to find good ones, but I am not above getting my hands dirty. I found 20 perfectly delicious ripe tomatoes with just a little effort, and brought them home with the rest of my weekly bounty. Why would I want 20 tomatoes that were perfectly ripe and would be bad within a few days? I'll tell you why Fresh Tomato Sauce!! If you remember, at the bottom of my tomato sauce post I included a variation for making sauce from fresh tomatoes. I believe I mentioned how this will result in face meltingly delicious sauce. I know that I already posted about this, but I figured I don't make very many picture posts, and that this is the sort of thing that is enough of a pain in the ass, that it is nice to see it done once before trying to tackle it on your own.

So then let's get started. I got home from the market, put a large stock pot of water on the stove to boil, washed my kitchen sink, and then filled it with tomatoes and cold water. I made sure to get my hands on each tomato and give it a good scrubbing with a clean dish cloth. I didn't take a picture of that step, but here is my wok (aka the largest bowl I own) with 20 nice clean tomatoes in it.

Once the tomatoes were all cleaned, I set to the task of removing all of the stem/core spots and cutting a very shallow X on the bottom of each one. I then added them to the boiling water 5 at a time, let them hang out there for 30ish seconds, and then moved them to an ice water bath for a few minutes. After the tomatoes cool, the skins are nice and easy to peel off.

The skins of my boiled enemies.

My least favorite part of the whole deal is seeding the tomatoes. It is kind of a pain in the ass, but I just put on good music and keep mentally reminding myself how good the sauce is going to be. Each tomato gets cut in half, perpendicular to the stem line. Then I use a butter knife to scoop out all of the guts.

Make sure to save all the guts so that you can strain the juice out of them, and add it back into the tomatoes. I mean you could just throw them out if you were a no good, lazy, food waster.

Once you have all the tomatoes gutted, you are going to need to chop them up. I try to chop them as small as I can without making it take forever. Once they are all chopped, I use my hands to smash them up as much as I can. This part is fun, just wash your hands, stick them in the bowl and squeeze the chopped tomatoes in your fists over and over until they are good and smashed up. This is what 20 prepared tomatoes looks like.

The hard part is now over. All you have to do is have an afternoon to commit to babysitting your sauce while it boils away. I was just reading through my original instructions and feel like there are a few things that should be added.

1. You are going to want to let the sauce come to a boil over high heat, and let it boil for about half an hour, then turn it down to med and let it simmer all damned day. Be sure to stir it occasionally.

2. If you don't like your sauce too chunky, you can wait until it is done, and then runn it through the blender.

I also took pictures of most of the cooking process, but then I decided that it is probably over kill to post them all. You all know what a diced onion looks like. Also, the picture quality isn't so great, since I didn't have my good camera with me and took all of the photos with my cell phone. If you really want to see the whole deal though, you can find them on my flickr