Roasted Marinara, thick and tasty

Canning season is here, so get Peter Piper’s Pickles picked and go to work. Well, we like pickles but not that much. What we do love is a great tomato sauce.

A great tomato sauce? Yes a sauce for all occasions, with a tomato flavor to knock your socks off. The only way that’s going to happen, is to use farm fresh tomatoes, and make it yourself.

We purchased our tomatoes, yes purchased. Our little garden consists of 10 tomato plants that get half the sunlight they need, great for our table use, some drying and a little canning, but not enough for the pantry.

We went to Wilco, a local farm hardware and supply for their once a year canning sale. We purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of onions, and a case of apples for Francene’s applesauce.

The preparation is pretty straight forward, but does take most of the day.

Pick your weapon of choice. I would love to tell you which one, but everyone has their preference and hand size. I opted for the Nakiri and a paring knife, and a 10″ chef’s knife for the onions. Francene used her 5″ Petite Santoku.

Half or quarter, depending on tomato size and remove most of the seeds. Also, do a very rough or large chop of as many onions as you would care to have in your Marinara sauce, same with bell peppers. We did probably 8 pounds of onions and 6 large peppers.

Now start the roasting, I use a little sea salt and some of our garden herb mix.  Place on cooling racks on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes at 425° . Remove from oven and transfer to a container large enough to hold everything. Continue for the next several hours. If you know you will be seasoning towards a Latin flavor or Italian flavor you might as well have an appropriate drink or two along the way.

After everything has been roasted, transfer the roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers with a large slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind.

We now ran the batch through a food processor to achieve a coarse consistency. Then we brought everything up to a simmer on the stove top, seasoned to taste remembering that the final use hadn’t been decided. In other words, allow for a re-seasoning appropriate for the dish it will be used in.

Follow the canning instructions for your canning equipment. We show both the large pot and the pressure cooker. We use the pressure cooker as a second large pot.

We ended up with 12 quarts of marinara.  With that great hindsight most of us have, we should have gone for 24 pints of a very rich and thick marinara sauce. Probably about 1/3  of the way between a normal marinara and paste.

This allows us to use full thickness, or thin with water or use either stock or wine as a thinner.

I must add that I always just cooked my tomatoes, seasoned them and canned them. But my friend, Kris Horn, told me how she likes to roast the marinara ingredients and also adds what ever strikes her fancy at the time. You could add most anything like carrots, artichoke hearts etc. to end up with YOUR sauce..

I tried roasting and then freezing two years ago, cooking and canning last year, and this year roasting and canning. I think this will be the preferable way from now on.

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The Holy Trinity

Cajun or Creole, to most of us they are the same. But if you live in Lousianna I wouldn’t say that too loudly. The food from this region is the best I have ever eaten. I just love the whole experience. For sake of space, I will call both types of food Cajun (even though they aren’t the same). Food from this region and style teaches us about building a meal. Blasphemy, to say throw everything in a pot. Cajun food is layered, a foundation, then the sill, then on and on. Then you blend the flavors. When possible, if I provide a recipe I will try to give both variants.

The best descriptive differences between Acadian/Cajun and Creole I have found can be read here. Even though I am married to a Cajun.

The Holy Trinity is the lowest part of the foundation. It consists of onions, celery and peppers (generally green peppers). I add a fourth component at this stage, and that is garlic. And I will probably add more garlic to some other layer as I go.

You will see that I have a mix of onions and a mix of green, yellow, and red bell peppers. Why? Because that was what was in the pantry, and needed to used up. Cajun and Creole food is about using what is on hand, you should never create the same Gumbo or Jambalaya, where is the fun in that? The mix consists of 2 parts onion to 1 part peppers and 1 part celery.

I used to be in a hurry and throw all of the trinity components into a food processor and chop away. Wrong, bad cook. All of the components are thin cell structures full of water. Over chop it and when you cook the layers you will end up with mush. Instead, take the time and do a medium to coarse chop and take your time. I would post on YouTube showing my fancy knife work, including the fancy blood spurting. But it’s kind of gross.

I have many skillets, but nothing beats the even heat of cast iron when cooking the Trinity. Over medium heat first add your oil, I used ghee* then add the onions and garlic and cook till translucent, and then add the peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes and finally add the celery, then cook for another 5 minutes, all over a medium heat and stirring more than occasionally.

What I show here is enough Trinity for 4 dishes. You usually cook 1/2 cup onion and 3/4 of a cup each of the peppers and celery.

What I accomplished this evening was creating the foundation for future dinners. I see all kinds of recipes for Gumbo made now, red beans and rice in 1/2 hour. Don’t even go there, you just can not make Gumbo, Jambalaya etc. on the fly. But if you take a boring evening and cook up 4 freezer bags of Holy Trinity/ Then some other evening or rainy Saturday make your Rue and freeze. Finish it off by getting some pork shoulders to make your own andouille sausage (not that garlicky, smoked stuff you buy in the store), and you will have the making for some truly fine food that can be assembled in a very short time.

*Ghee is a form of clarified butter that removes the milk solids from the butter, taste like butter but has a much higher smoke point then whole butter has.

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