|A Well Used Cauldron|
I've explained that I've made about 2 gallons of Chili Sauce, and I am sorry but I will still not be letting that cat out of the bag. Instead, I have two quick recipes and since I am cooking one of them as I write this and am a little pressed for time.
Before I forget, this is the last week of the West Georgia Locavore Challenge and Props go out to the Garry Farm for some seriously over ripe tomatoes that are perfect for what I'm writing about today as well as The Crager/Hager Farm for the Paste tomatoes, and Full Life Farms for some of the most beautiful and flavorful Roma Tomatoes I've ever tasted.
Tomato Paste and Conserva
A Simple Meatball Recipe
Both of these recipes are from scratch so it would be well to explain the blanching of tomatoes, which is quite simple. Set a large pot of water to boil with enough water to fully submerge your largest fruit and have a bowl full of ice water and an empty bowl large enough to hold all of the blanched tomatoes. Simply submerge one or two tomatoes at a time in the boiling water until the skin begins to split, immediately dunk it in the ice bath to stop the cooking process, and place the cooled units in the extra bowl kept handy. When ready, cut the top out and the rest of the meat should pop right out. If not, it should be very easy to peel. Also, boil the skins for a few in the juices from the bottom of the cold 'mater bowl. That will dislodge any meat that might have clung to the inside of the skins.
To the seasoned cook, this may sound elementary but I know people that read this that may not have taken this route before and I always like to inform everyone of how to get the job done.
Tomato Paste and Conserva
A ton of recipes call for Tomato Paste and I always buy the stuff in the toothpaste style tube. This year, I decided to make my own supply and, although I ended up with less than I thought, I still have a wonderful, flavorful Tomato Paste that beats the store bought stuff by far.
12 lbs. Very ripe Paste or Roma Tomatoes, blanched
2 bay leaves,
2 tsp coarse Sea Salt
5-7 hours of your life you're not going to get back
Place all tomatoes in a heavy bottom pot large enough to hold all of the tomatoes and crush them up with your hands. Add salt and bay leaves and simmer, covered, for about 30-45 minutes. At this point, you're going to want to use either a blender or a stick blender (my choice) and blend the mixture to break up the meat of the tomatoes. If you're using a stand blender, pulse it instead of turning it on Puree. The point here it is break up the meat to get it through a medium sieve while leaving the seeds behind. The seeds will eventually cook out or you could puree them in but they leave a bitter, metallic taste behind that it the sure sign of someone who was in a hurry with their tomatoes. Of course, the long, drawn out explanation above can be shortened with a food mill that has a medium screen on it. However, I am much closer to being an Impoverished Chef as opposed to a Pampered one, a food mill hasn't been in the cards.
Once the puree has been sieved, return to the pot and turn on a medium setting and begin to reduce, stirring very often. As it begin to reduce down and get thicker, turn the heat down and stir just as often. This is more of a project of love than it is something you can check back on. This is not a nappy day project.
After a few hours, it will begin to thicken more until the point where it can longer be stirred and simply "piles up" around the spoon as you try. 12 lbs of tomatoes should have yield you about 2-2 1/2 cups of super tomato concentrate. When cooled, you can either can it, place it in zip top bags and freeze it (my method), or you can place it in a sterilized jar while very hot and cover it with about 3/4" of olive oil. I've tried this method before with other things and it seems to work really well for preserving high acid foods for long periods of time in the fridge.
This is a semi-simple method to take your paste just a little farther. Simply spread the paste on a cookie sheet and place in an over at around 200 degrees or lower and let dry/concentrate for another 30-60 minutes, of course, while watching it closely. When the edges start to caramelize and turn a dark brown you're about done. Again, storage is up to you.
Tomato Sauce (Marinara)
Just my simple little recipe for a knock out Marinara.
20-25 large, very ripe Tomatoes, blanched
1 cup Carrot, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Sweet Onions, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Celery, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Green Pepper, finely diced
5-6 cloves Garlic, finely diced
1 cup Dry Red Wine
1 tsp each, Oregano, Thyme, Basil
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Instead of breaking up the tomatoes with your hands, cut them in half and try to remove as much of the seeds and middle liquid as possible. If a little bit of one or the other gets in the sauce, it's no biggie. Now you can break them up with your hands in the pot. In a large skillet, saute all the aromatics (garlic, onions, pepper, and carrots) until translucent and the edges are just starting to turn brown. Add this to the pot and simmer until thickened. If your sauce doesn't really have that rich depth of tomato flavor, add about 2 tbsp of the paste that you just made.
This base recipe has a thousand and more variations. Add browned ground beef, pork, or lamb (or all three) and simmer until the meat disappears and you have a simple Ragu. Cook the base Marinara or the Ragu down until quite thick and you have a top notch pizza sauce. One way or another, this little recipe can go far and if you make very large batches it will can or freeze well.
A Simple Meatball Recipe
I tinkered with meatballs for years and never could seem to get them right. I either over handled them, didn't season them quite right, or they were dry, dry, dry. However, by listening to a few people and repeated trial and error, and realizing that I could add fat (thereby adding moisture) into the recipe with Heavy Cream. Tis is what I came up with.....
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 lb. Ground Pork
1/2 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Sweet Onion, very finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, very finely diced
1 Egg (optional)
Sea Salt and Pepper to Taste
Start with .allowing the bread crumbs to soak in heavy cream until completely absorbed. Saute the onions with salt and pepper until they just begin to brown and caramelize, remove from heat and allow to cool. Blend all the ingredients just until combined, being very careful not to over handle. A
Form into 1 1/2" balls and brown in a frying pan, turning to brown as much of the meatball as possible. Don't worry about cooking them all the way through. You can either finish them in the over at about 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or do as I do and let them finish cooking in Marinara sauce.
To be honest, there have been some rather significant changes in my life this week and I have been very busy and lazy all at the same time. Having said that, I really don't feel like going through the process of writing about homemade pasta. I also don't feel like going through the motions of making homemade pasta, so I'll leave that for another post.
For now, I'm headed to the store to buy some pre-made pasta, eat some Italian for the night, and chill out. Tomorrow comes a new day and there are many things to be done. Watch out, Back Porch Spice is on the rise. And always.........
Party Well, Eat Better,