Well, the beans have shrivelled up, the cucumbers are no longer growing, and the melons, I don't even want to talk about. It's the end of the summer, so it's time to clean out the garden. I pulled out all of the beets, left a few carrots in just for the hell of it, harvested all of the remaining rhubarb and picked every last tomato.
|Mrs. Bott's Italian tomatoes. Pretty.|
The rhubarb was easy to deal with - I just chopped it up and stuck it in the freezer for whenever I'd need a little hit of summer in the dead of winter. But the truckload of tomatoes (I had more in the fridge - that photo is about the third of it) could only be dealt with in one way - tomato sauce, and lots of it.
I started off by chopping up the tomatoes which consisted of Kenosha and Mrs Bott's Italian. I probably ended up with a good ten cups of them. Oooof.
I then chopped up the pancetta into little lardons (forgot to take a picture - sorry) and finely chopped two smallish onions. I then threw the onions with a bit of olive oil into my heated, beloved Staub cast iron dutch oven (hee!), and cooked them until they were translucent.
Then came the tomatoes and the long, long wait. The secret to this sauce's tastiness is in the tomato-ey concentration of flavour - one that can only be achieved by patient simmering to eliminate water. Note to self: never start this tomato sauce at 7pm on a weeknight.
I lost patience halfway. Bedtime was fast approaching, so I did something that ended up being brilliant: I took the immersion blender and puréed the softened tomatoes to smithereens! The simmering sped up considerably and I had a thick, rich tomato sauce in no time. It was at this point that I quickly rendered the pancetta in a separate frying pan (omit this if you want to keep this sauce vegetarian - obviously) and threw it into the sauce along with all of the delicious brown bits from the pan. I did this at the end in order to preserve some of the flavour in the meat - had I added it to the sauce from the beginning, they would have only been rubbery pieces of flavourless nothing by the end. Ew.
Finally, and this is my brother-in-law Jean-Marie's trick for a fresh-tasting sauce, I added a crapload (yes, it's a technical term!) of roughly sliced and chopped garlic, I let it simmer in the sauce until it was cooked through and then took the whole pot off the heat. Adding the garlic at the end instead of frying it up at the beginning creates a whole new flavour experience - you have to try it. Anyhoo, once the garlic was cooked, the sauce was done! When I'd be set to serve it, I would just reheat it in a pot with a handful of fresh basil for a fresh-tasting, fragrant hit of deliciousness.
Of course, by the end of this process, it was waaay past my bedtime, but it was still too soon to put the sauce in the fridge. One should never put super-hot things in the fridge; it makes the temperature inside skyrocket, and then bacteria reproduce faster than they would to Barry White's greatest hits. Ew. So here's a trick I learned in cooking school for cooling off sauces and soups, lickety-split: fill your sink with cold water, put the sauce-filled pot in there (careful the water doesn't spill in!) and then keep cramming ice cubes all around it to keep the water freezing-cold. Keep stirring the sauce while replacing the melted ice, and your sauce will be cool in about five minutes.
So to recap, here's the how-to for the sauce:
- roughly chop your tomatoes (let's say 5 cups of chopped tomato);
- finely chop 1 medium onion;
- over medium heat, sweat the onion in a bit of olive oil;
- throw in the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, until soft;
- purée with an immersion blender and continue simmering until thick and no longer watery;
- chop approx. 4 slices of pancetta, pan-fry to render a bit of the fat and throw everything into the sauce, taking care to scrape out every last little brown bit;
- add 3 big cloves of roughly chopped garlic to the sauce, and simmer until soft;
- add a teaspoon of sugar or more to cut the acidity, if necessary, and season with salt and pepper if you wish (I didn't);
- just before serving, throw in a big handful of fresh basil and simmer until well-wilted but still fragrant;
- ta-daaa! Done.
- serve on pasta, on pizza or in a bowl with some baguette for dipping while watching Spaceballs for the 56th time.