Last week I picked up a bushel of organic paste tomatoes from Fishkill Farms; at the same time, I got 20 lbs of heirloom paste tomatoes, a gorgeous red-and-yellow-stripey varietal with a deep magenta flesh, few seeds, and fantastic flavor. (I also grabbed some orchard nectarines, heirloom baby orange sweet peppers, NY maple syrup, and Flying Pigs‘ hot Italian sausage. Fishkill has a great year-round farm market, full of all sorts of local goodies, as well as a beautiful orchard: well worth a visit if you haven’t been.).
While my hybrid paste tomatoes were a bit under ripe, and are slowly ripening in the garage-cum-pantry, the heirlooms were perfectly ripe over the weekend, and I wanted to make a couple of recipes that focused purely on their stripey goodness, especially before they started getting too ripe. For this sauce, I decided to broil the tomatoes, to bring out their flavor and add some smoky char to the sauce, and went with simple & sweet aromatics: roasted onion, sweet bell pepper, a touch of garlic, and little else.
The final product is wonderful: smoky, rich, tomatoey, with flecks of charred tomato skin peppering the deep rusty-red sauce. I added just a bit of ground ancho chile to amp up the smokiness, but you could easily go the other way and add a dollop of honey or a splash of apple juice to play up the sweeter profile. Either way, it’s worth searching out some heirlooms for that one, special sauce this year.
Proportions of high-acid to low-acid ingredients determined from Italian-Style Tomato Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine
- about 7 lbs fresh heirloom paste tomatoes, to yield at least 8 cups purée
- olive oil mister or cooking spray
- 1 medium onion, quartered (about the size of a baseball)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, halved, stemmed and seeded
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, halved, stemmed and seeded
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
- 2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp ground ancho chile powder, or to taste
- ¼ tsp chile pepper flakes, or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Roast tomatoes. Preheat oven broiler. Wash and sort the tomatoes, removing any bruised areas. Halve and lay cut-side down on two rimmed baking sheets. Spritz very lightly with cooking spray (to enhance browning) and roast, one tray at a time, under the broiler until tomatoes are very tender, skins are nicely blackened, and tomatoes are very fragrant, about 20 – 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining tray.
- Prepare & reduce tomato purée. Working in batches, press tomatoes through a food mill or fine sieve to remove seeds, skins and cores. Measure tomato purée, (make sure you have at least 8 cups purée to match with the rest of the vegetables), transfer to a heavy-bottomed stockpot, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until purée volume is reduced by about half, anywhere from 2 – 4 hours.
- Roast vegetables. Meanwhile, lay bell peppers and onion, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Spritz very lightly with cooking spray and roast under the broiler, similar to the tomatoes, until vegetables are soft and fragrant and skin is blackened, about 10 – 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then slip the charred skin off of the peppers; finely chop the roasted peppers. Run the roasted onion through the food mill, removing blackened skin. If pepper skins do not slip off easily, you can always run the peppers through the food mill with the onions.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Finish sauce. Once the tomato purée is reduced, add the chopped peppers, roasted onion pulp, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Mix well and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to your liking and flavors blend. Taste and add ancho powder, chile flakes, and/or black pepper as desired.
- Can. Fill hot jars to ½-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes in the canner before removing.
Yields about 3 – 4 pints of a thick, chunky sauce, more if you prefer your sauce thinner.
- The proportions of low-acid vegetables to high-acid (tomatoes & lemon juice) ingredients were estimated based on Italian-style tomato sauce in the Ball Book, and I believe the final sauce is well within a safe pH range for water bath canning. Of course, all the usual caveats apply: I haven’t pH-tested this one, I’m not a food scientist, etc., etc., etc. You should always use your own best judgement; freeze or pressure-can the sauce if you have safety concerns.
- For safety in canning, you must not increase the total amount of low-acid ingredients (peppers, onions, garlic) or decrease the amount of high-acid ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice). Chopped roasted peppers + onion pulp + minced garlic measured approximately ¾ cup.
- A variety of heirloom tomatoes will make this sauce layered and complex.
- This recipe can easily be doubled, or more, if you have a large enough pot.
Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year. Frozen, store for up to 6 months. Refrigerated, use within 2 weeks.