Things are getting ominous around here. There have been frost warnings each of the last few nights, but we haven't gotten that growing-season-ending freeze yet. Still, I can almost hear the clock ticking as we roll into October. I am trying to preserve as much as possible from my garden, and this week came up with this all-purpose tomato pasta sauce. I used tomatoes, eggplant, and basil as the main ingredients, with rich flavor from roasted onion and garlic. Here's the ingredients, which netted five pints of canned sauce:
4 lbs. roasted tomatoes
1 roasted medium-large eggplant
2 cups diced basil leaves
1 medium white onion, roasted
1 bulb garlic, roasted
I allowed the roasted ingredients to cool before blending in a food processor to something thick but not completely pureed. Bringing the roasted and chopped vegetables to a simmer on the stovetop, I started working on additional flavors. Seasoning included dry oregano, 2 or 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, a liberal sprinkle of salt, some black pepper, and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar. I played around with these until I had something I really liked, so these quantities are rough guesses. I added the basil leaves at the very end of the simmering and seasoning on the stove top, to avoid overcooking them.
Canning is much easier than I used to think, but I recommend you follow the directions on whatever canning materials you're using, or find a reliable online source. If you've never tried canning before, I can't recommend it enough. It feels great to take food processing into your own hands, and the results are almost always better than what you'll find on grocery store shelves, which tend to be overly salty and loaded with an alphabet soup of chemicals and preservatives. Canning is time-consuming, but I enjoy my fall canning nights. The warm, steamy kitchen feels pretty good when the temperature drops outside. It is all worth it when I pop open those garden flavors in January to use on pasta or pizza.