by Bridget O’Donnell
When I think of August  the first words that come to mind mostly pertain to the weather – heat, humidity, Tropical Storm Henri, rain, flooding, Hurricane Ida – and, TOMATOES[!!!]. This season my CSA definitely ‘Got Tomatoes!’ In fact, there were SO many, they extended an offer to anyone (members and non-members) interested in purchasing 10 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes, just byob[oxes or bags]. A few hours after reading about the sale I justified my late-night (maybe somewhat impulsive) purchase knowing it would help support the farm, and provide more than enough to share. Almost as important – and, before even considering fresh garden and Caprese salads and tomato sandwiches – I thought it might also motivate me to render and can the tomatoes that were already decorating, or more accurately monopolizing the [entire] countertop as homemade sauce.
Every season around this time my memories are mysteriously redacted, selectively omitting how long it can take to make garden tomato sauce. Add on work and day-to-day responsibilities, I start to feel like an accolade could be given for each splash I clean off of the most unlikely surfaces around the kitchen – for weeks following. More or less self-taught, I could honestly mistake a marinara for a red spaghetti sauce. However, reflections of some of the amazing dishes I’ve [accidentally] made using homemade sauce rewrite the narrative. The commitment is definitely worth the time and effort. And, for another year I approached the undertaking with an ‘it’ll be just like riding a bike’ mindset. This year, spread into three days, I followed the basic instructions in Ashley English’s Canning & Preserving (pg. 119, reviewed below). I blanched, pureed (then blended), seasoned, simmered and water bath canned vibrantly colored heirloom, slicing and sauce tomatoes as a tangerine-red sauce. Roma and a variety of cherry tomatoes would have been added if I remembered they were on the counter behind me but, “hindsight is 20/20.”
…The CSA sale ran successfully for a few weeks and as August came to an end, we were permitted to glean sauce tomatoes from the farm. ‘Practice makes better.’ This time I was meal planning months in advance. After measuring and dividing prepared tomatoes, I built a full-bodied red sauce over an aromatic base of sautéed garlic, onions, herbs and homemade broth. While the sauce simmered, six jars of diced tomatoes were carefully set into the water bath for processing. Five jars came out intact. Although a common occurrence, this was a first in my 3-year canning career. It happened quietly; nothing like in the cartoons where the lid blows clear off the pot but, that might have been ‘beginners’ luck. Patiently waiting for another clean pot of water and the jars to a boil (again) ended up being the best use of my time; everything went smoothly from there. …A third canning session requiring more lids inevitably ran into September. Serendipitously, this gave the cherry tomatoes I’d gleaned [unknowingly, before another heavy rain] time to ripen for pickling. Well into September the tomatoes are still coming. Another tomato sandwich, chips and salsa, Panzanella or maybe a little confit for bruschetta anyone…?
**PPLD’s What’s Cooking Blog is open to recipes from cookbooks, magazines or websites that aren’t available in the Mid-Hudson Library System. If you know of a great recipe or cookbook, submit a review and we’ll share it. When/if it’s available we’ll also consider adding it to our collection. Very Appreciatively,…
Title of Cookbook:
Canning & preserving with Ashley English: all you need to know to make jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys & more.
Author of Cookbook:
What prompted you to check out this cookbook?
August into September is [SO/uber] tomato season[!].
What did you like about this cookbook?
It provided a basic recipe for canned tomato sauce that was easy to follow and used accessible ingredients. Being able to look through the books on the shelf at the library also helped me decide what to check-out the same day.
What didn’t you like about this cookbook?
Nothing, I was looking for a quick reference to use later that day (after work) and this cookbook served the purpose.
Favorite recipe (that you tried from the cookbook):
“Tomato Basil Sauce” (pg. 119)
Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they?
Although the recipe doesn’t specify using “sauce tomatoes,” I handpicked a variety of tomatoes sitting on the counter, keeping a few that were too pretty for sauce. After seasoning to taste, I compared the ingredients in Ashely English’s recipe to the “Summer Tomato Sauce” recipe found in Foolproof Preserving (pg. 206). Between the two recipes I left out the sugar, and choose balsamic vinegar over red-wine vinegar.
Would you recommend this cookbook?
Have a photo of your completed dish, your creation mid-recipe, or happy eaters you’d like to share?