The tomato harvest this year is in full swing, and much larger than last year. Thus far, we’ve pulled in enough tomatoes to make about a gallon of tomato sauce, and there are about as many unpicked tomatoes out in the garden as we’ve already harvested; maybe a bit more. Now that we’ve gotten a very nice surplus of awesomely deliscious sauce, next I will be to produce a lions share of salsa… and maybe sauce again after that if the tomatoes keep coming.
Ironically, neither TacoMa’am nor myself are very big fans of raw tomato… even as I’ve grown a bumper crop this year. Rather we immensely enjoy tomatoes in their sauce, salsa, and stewed forms. And, as I’ve yet to purchase a pressure canning pot, we mostly just make sauce that will be used quickly in a marathon of pasta, marinara, and other such goodies that are 200x better with homemade sauce from garden tomatoes, and enough salsa to keep us through the winter via standard canning (which does not require aforementioned pressure canning system).
Now, making sauce is quite a task that can go down a few different ways. The first method I ever used was least fun method that I’ve found. First the tomatoes are stewed with seasonings and some onion & garlic. Once the liquid portion of the tomatoes has steamed off to the desired thickness, you dump the mess into a strainer and push it through with a spoon or other sturdy implement. This makes a huge mess, and requires about an hour of mashing the sauce through the strainer. And at the end of it all you have to clean that strainer, ugh. Plus, your arm is sore for a few days.
Last year, I used a more sophisticated, and less arduous method. First the tomatoes are blanched and then cooled in ice water to make the skin easy to remove, then they are halved and the seeds removed. From there the tomatoes are stewed with seasonings, onion, and garlic. Once it’s all stewed to the desired liquid content: blend the whole thing until smooth. Done. Still a lot of work, but less than using a strainer and way less clean up. Most of the work is done on the front end with the blanching, skinning, and seeding. With a medium crop of tomatoes that can still take several hours.
This year, however, we got a new toy to help us on the saucing… and I LOVE IT! For Christmas last year my in-laws chipped in together and bought me a very, very nice KitchenAid mixer that I absolutely love (I have nice in-laws, a rare gift I’m told). It makes bread, rolls, cookies, and sweet breads so, so easy to make, and decreases the mess significantly. For my birthday, they sweetened the deal with:
A food strainer/grinder! First, tomato sauce and next
the world applesauce! It’s also got the grinder, so sausage and ground meats eventually too. Mmm. venison sausage.
So how does it work? In one word: Awesomesauceingness! I’ve tried two methods, and already found a preference. First, I tried straining and then simming the sauce down to thicken it. It worked OK, but the mixer strained a bit with some of the tomatoes and the take up wasn’t very good. I also think some of the flesh made it through the strainer that could have been sauced. What worked better was stewing the tomatoes first (skin, seeds, and all) with seasonings, onion, and garlic then letting it cool in the fridge over night. Processing the stewed tomatoes went much better, the pickup was almost entirely automatic, the end product was finished and of proper thickness, and less flesh was wasted by the strainer. And best, it took far less effort than previous methods and produced a greater amount of sauce in less time. With a toddler who desires direct parental attention for 95% of his day, saving time is a solid plus.
So, “How about cleaning it?” I hear you asking your computer as if I could hear you… which I’m claiming to actually be able to do. Cleaning the strainer is pretty easy. You can throw almost the whole thing in the dishwasher if you want (minus the spring axel), but cleaning it by hand is pretty easy and quick that I don’t bother. The only tough part is the strainer mesh cone, which can get bits of food stuck in the holes. But, a few passes with a bottle brush makes quick work of cleaning it, so no big deal. Everything else is plastic with non-stick surfaces, so they clean readily.
It’s a bit of a specialty attachment, but if you do a lot of saucing it’s a big time saver. A job that used to take several hours now only takes about a half hour (minus the stewing, which you have to do either way, and you don’t have to stand there watching it simmer. Unless you like that sorta thing). Certainly a tad pricey at around $80 (not counting the cost of the mixer itself), but the time savings (for me) would be worth it. Plus, it includes both the strainer and the grinder. With hunting season often producing venison once a year, a grinder will certainly be a useful tool to have.
Now, if you need me I’ll be saucing stuff in the kitchen. Where did I put that melon…
-Confusion is a state of… sauce?