Now is that time of the year when the farmers market is flooded with ripe tomatoes, zucchini galore, colorful bell peppers, and scented basil.
It is the time when you ask for two (2) tomatoes and you get two kilos at the same price.
What to do with all that abundance?
I recall my mother preparing the sauce for winter. It was an ordeal that lasted days, or weeks. Our kitchen was big, airy, and spacious.
Today our cooking spaces are more efficient, but more limited.
I forgo completely the idea of industrial size canning and preserving. I just do it as needed. If I have too many tomatoes in the house, I started by doing a tomato sauce for the next meal, whatever is left over I put in the jars, boil them, and store them for whenever the need be.
My favorite is by sautéing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil—the king of Mediterranean cuisine—carrots, garlic, celery, adding the chopped tomatoes, lots of basil, of course, and let it simmer for about 45 min., or as long as it takes for the vegetables to melt together.
The other alternatives are (1) to just cook the ripe tomatoes alone and cook them until mushy, then strain them to make the famous “passata”; and (2) to drop the tomatoes in hot boiling water, peel them, and can them.
Once in the jars, I boil them. One or two at a time is less of a tribulation. I boil them for an hour and let them cool in the water. They can be stored in the pantry and are usually very handy by Christmas time.
Important: when opening the jar they must “clack!”
The tomato sauce is one of the most prepared preserves, especially in the southern regions of Italy, where its wide daily use has made it the queen of preserves, made even more special by its unmistakable Mediterranean flavor.