Most of my tomato plants succumbed to blight this year. So our usual August tomato glut hasn't really happened. But the silver lining is that the one new tomato variety I tried this year not only tasted good, but it has stood up to the blight better than any of my long time favorites. The Speckled Roman is really striking in appearance too. All things considered, I'm pretty certain I'll be growing this tomato again.
At the end of last week I gathered the largest bunch of tomatoes I'd been able to get together at one time all summer. It came to a bit over 6 pounds. Not a huge amount when it comes to canning, but certainly more than we were going to eat fresh. After letting them ripen a bit inside, out came my canning equipment and the stuff I use for roasted tomato sauce.
My sauce technique comes from a certain, shall we say, rather possessive organization which has been known to go after those who reprint their recipes, and whose name I'm not going to mention here. Fortunately, I haven't needed a written recipe to reproduce their sauce for a few years now. So what I'm going to present here is my roasted tomato sauce methodology. (Click any of the pictures to biggify.)
Firstly you'll need several pounds of tomatoes, a few onions or onion equivalents, some garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, and seasonings. You'll also need large sheet trays with rims, and some thin wire cooling racks or the ones from a toaster oven. You need to come close to filling each sheet tray with racks. Having a little extra space on the sheet trays that the racks can't completely fill is ideal. You also need aluminum foil, and previously used pieces will work just fine. A blender or food processor will be very handy, and then you'll need storage containers for your sauce.
Begin by lining your sheet pans with one large sheet of aluminum foil each. Place the racks over the foil. Wherever you have a fair-sized gap between the rim of the sheet tray and the racks, place a piece of aluminum foil that you shape into a little bowl or tray.
Arrange you oven racks to hold however many sheet trays you are working with. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C). In a large mixing bowl, put a few heaping tablespoons of tomato paste. (Use the ice cube tray trick to make sure the rest of the can doesn't go to waste.) Add a roughly equal amount of olive oil. Put in some seasonings such as salt, pepper, and a good pinch of whatever herb you like. Fresh basil or oregano from the garden is nice, but thyme could work well too, and don't disdain dried oregano either. Blend all these ingredients together with your fingertips until it's more or less uniform.
We were out of onions when I made this batch of sauce. So I used the first leek of the season from our garden. A small head of homegrown garlic is in there too.
Peel and coarsely chop a quantity of garlic, and about one small onion for every 2-3 pounds of tomatoes you've got. (Shallots or leeks will work too, if that's what you've got.) Set the garlic and onion aside. Next, cut your tomatoes in half from stem to blossom end. If you wish, remove the tough stem core. Working in manageable batches, add the halved tomatoes to the bowl with the olive oil and tomato paste mixture. Toss the tomatoes with your hands until they are well coated. You especially want the skins well coated. Arrange the tomatoes cut side down on the racks over your sheet trays. Space them as tightly as possible. When all the tomatoes have been coated and arranged on the racks, add the onions and garlic to what remains in the mixing bowl. Toss them well, soaking up the last of the liquid. Arrange the onions and garlic in the little foil bowls on the baking sheets.
Place the sheets in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. If you're working with more than one sheet tray, change the position of the trays top to bottom and rotate each of them 180 degrees. Then roast for an additional 20-30 minutes. The skins should be charred in places, and a fair amount of liquid should have dripped into the aluminum foil on the sheet trays. Remove the trays from the oven and let them cool a bit.
The tomatoes on the other sheet tray were better charred than these. But these leeks were nicely caramelized. See the orange liquid? Don't let that go to waste!
Working in batches, place the onions, garlic, and roasted tomatoes in a food processor, working with kitchen tongs. (I don't bother removing the skins, but you can do so if you wish. They should be fairly easy to remove at this point.) Process the sauce until smooth. You may want to include the light colored liquid that has dripped onto the sheet tray. This also makes a nice addition to light summertime vinaigrette though.
At this point, the sauce is ready to eat or to store in whatever way you prefer. I only got three not-too-large jars of sauce out of this batch. But as they say, half a loaf is better than none.
For anyone wondering about the mechanics of this sauce methodology, the natural sugar in the tomato paste is what allows the tomato skins to char nicely and give a roasted flavor to the sauce. The foil liner on the sheet pans doesn't really save you any cleanup (since you're going to wash that foil and re-use it, right?), but it does prevent the liquid that comes off the tomatoes from burning on the sheet pan and becoming useless. Trying this without the racks will give you limp tomatoes that have boiled in their own juices, without much flavor. The racks also allow some of that liquid to evaporate so that the sauce is naturally thickened, even if you add the drippings back in.