SalmonBerry

Not Yo Mama’s Marinara

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe on January 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm
marinara - cooking tomatoes

Hurry, make them into marinara before they turn to mush!

Growing up in Alaska gave me this do-it-yourself kind of attitude. You couldn’t just run to the nearest shopping center to get what you (thought you) needed. Add the fact of if you are choosing to live in Alaska, you are most likely quite eccentric; however, also quite resourceful. This lends to the attitude of “why purchase it when you can make it, build it, grow it, kill it – yourself?” As I live now, everything is available for purchase and yet sometimes I still insist on DIY just to prove to myself that I’ve got skills (useful ones, that is).

So I picked a Sunday at the end of the tomato growing season – November here in SoCal (I know you’re jealous) – and dedicated the day to stocking my freezer with tomato sauce. I took an hour break to watch the sunset and I met a girlfriend for lunch but otherwise my day consisted of buying tomatoes, coring and pureeing tomatoes, and boiling and simmering tomatoes. I had to write this blog post standing at my kitchen counter lest the pot of sauce start sticking.

marinara - 30#

How will I get 30# of tomatoes home?

I used a fantastic marinara recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s very herb-y and non-traditional. The first time I used the recipe, I harvested all the tomatoes from my garden at the end of the season and thought I would be able to stock my freezer full of tomato sauce for the whole winter. “No one will starve this winter, family, I have taken care of it!” Like I was Pa Ingalls settling into the The Long Winter. As a child, I really empathized with Laura Ingalls Wilder and re-read that series more than twice during the long, dark Alaskan winters. Previously, my “harvest” yielded about 9 cups of marinara sauce. Clearly, we’d starve if left to our own devices. This time I headed to the La Jolla Open Aire Market for the tomatoes since my garden is currently, um, underutilized right now. And, in my exuberance for this project, I promised quite a few people that I would just hand over some of the sauce when it was done. I am no longer feeling so generous. This was a lot of work and I mean to enjoy it all. These 27 cups of marinara are just too precious.

marinara and sausage

My marinara with a friend’s homemade sausage.

I heart Barbara Kingsolver – like a lot. Like stalker-level. But only in my mind. I don’t write her wacko fan letters or find out where she is vacationing in San Diego. But, like, I kinda want to be her. She’s a scientist and a writer – two things that I like to call myself. We both have degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (hers is a Masters and mine is a Bachelors) so I feel like it’s possible to be even a teensy, weensy bit like her. Her books often focus on the interactions between humans and their environments as well as biodiversity and her writing is smart and insightful with a dry wit. All things I love or want to be. My favorites are: The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The Poisonwood Bible had a whiff of my childhood about it with the missionary parents and all the daughters named after religious figures (check out my sister’s photography) and living in another culture but, luckily, none of the madness and tragedy. Prodigal Summer really spoke to me because of the themes of interconnectedness between all things living whether human animal, wild animal, or plants and the elements on which they all depend. And then there is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you thought you were a local foodie, think again. Kingsolver chronicles the year her family lived on their farm and ate only local food whether they raised it themselves or traded with other local farmers. It’s fascinating and funny and discusses food politics, nutrition, and environmental sustainability as well as the practical issues of trying to explain to your children’s friends why bananas are not allowed in your house.

marinara - tomatoes in blender

This is not the best way to puree tomatoes. I switched to a food processor.

So I tried out Barbara’s life for a day and, phew, this was quite the undertaking. It didn’t exactly take me all day as far as hours were concerned but you will definitely need to clear your calendar for the day and have no further objectives other than the process of making tomato sauce. You’ll notice (or maybe not) that this sauce doesn’t have any olive oil in it. The original recipe was meant for canning and adding oil to a canning food is a dangerous liability from a food safety perspective. From a nutritional perspective, fat makes the vitamin A and lycopene in the tomatoes much more accessible to the body for assimilation. I recommend making it as is and then, when you are defrosting and reheating this winter, swirl some olive oil into the pot for added flavor and nutrition.

Family Secret Tomato Sauce (makes 6-7 quarts) from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30# of tomatoes)

4 large onions, chopped (processed into a soupy foam)

marinara - ready

Ingredients all lined up and ready to go.

1 cup dried basil

1/2 cup honey

4 TBSP dried oregano

3 TBSP salt

2 TBSP ground dried lemon peel

2 TBSP thyme

2 TBSP garlic powder, or more, to taste

2 TBSP dried parsley

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

marinara - pot

Maxed out sauce pot.

Add pureed tomatoes, onions, all the spices, and honey to a REALLY large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours until sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. You may need to stir frequently towards the end to avoid burning. Transfer to freezable containers (leave some head space if using glass and make sure sauce is cooled first) and feel good about yourself that you’re stocked with marinara for the long, cold winter.

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