Kitchen Garden Journal
- Published on Monday, August 08, 2011, 04:02
- Written by Tim Wilcox
Why is it that the moment for canning and preserving always falls on really really hot days? Everyone with childhood memories of canning remembers two things: the smell and the heat. For many, sadly, the trauma of the heat curtails nostalgic longing for the intoxicating aromas of jam and tomatoes.
Lately, the humidity has been awful and, of course, I seized my opportunity for canning on a particularly disgusting evening. I set out to repeat the most delicious product of last year’s repeated bouts of sweaty, tomato-vapored kitchen delirium: sugo.
Sugo means “sauce” in Italian. Jars of pre-made tomato sauce like Prego are called sugo pronto, ready sauce. My sugo isn’t really a heat-and-serve thing that you just dump on boiled spaghetti, but it does save a lot of time later when making richly flavored sauces.
Sugo is basically tomato puree that also includes onions, carrots, red peppers, celery and herbs. It’s like tomato puree and vegetable stock all rolled into one. I usually add it to meat sauces for pasta, but it’s great for other things like vegetable soups, dried beans, beef stew, and Spanish rice. It has a distinct sweetness from the onions and peppers and aromatic depth from the carrots and celery. You can feel all the warmth of summer on those cold winter nights.
And, most importantly perhaps, it’s a great way to use up some of the piles of partially rotting but perfectly usable tomatoes, onions and peppers that inevitably accumulate around the farm this time of year.
The method is very similar to my recipe for tomato puree. Basically, what you do is coarsely chunk up all the tomatoes and toss them in a big pot and bring it to a boil. Then, toss in coarsely chopped pieces of all the other vegetables and stew them in the tomato liquid until they’re soft. I also threw in a big bundle of basil and celery leaves that I took out before pureeing . (I also removed the celery so it wouldn’t make the sauce a yucky color: never puree red and green together, it looks like puke. If you have very light colored celery hearts, go ahead and puree them, too.)
So, for Christmas I asked for a mechanized solution to making this and here’s the verdict: the Kitchen Aid food mill attachment is really messy. I have never made such a mess of my clothes while canning; it even shot hot tomato water in my eye. (WTF!) Will I go back to the hand crank method? Hard to say. It was quicker and less physically exhausting, but not by much.
Anyway, if you want to make this—and I encourage you to do so—you can follow the procedure for tomato puree. You’ll find all the little tips and tricks I’ve learned in that post from last year.
So happy canning, and please, take a shower.