tomatoesSeptember is when the market is full of big, ugly tomatoes. The best kind. The inside is solid flesh. They have flavors, each variety contributing a different perfume.

tomato-slicesSeptember is also when the weather cools down so that indoor cooking again becomes possible. We don’t have air conditioning nor do we want it. But when it’s 95 degrees outside and 75 inside because of careful juggling of shutters and opening of windows at night, you don’t want to mess up your hard-won coolness. With day temperatures in the upper 70s and nights in the 60s, the stove can be used again.

chez-fufu-outside
“Sale of garden plants” says the sign. The door on the left leads to a garage full of crates of vegetables.

The abundance of tomatoes at the season’s lowest prices (about €1 per kilo) coincides with ideal conditions for cooking. We have a number of gardens where fresh produce is sold out of a barn or hangar daily—no need to wait for the market. This is sometimes a good option, but then, we don’t go to the market just for vegetables but also for the social aspect.

However, the market involves a long walk back to the car, dragging the shopping cart. If 10 kg of tomatoes were in the cart, they’d be sauce before arriving at the car. So for the large quantities we head to the garden source.

chez-fufu-inside
Chez Fufu, the vegetable gardener. Get a load of that fireplace!

Once you have homemade tomato sauce, the industrial version tastes strangely…industrial. I haven’t canned—you need to maintain a certain level of acidity to prevent botulism, and my resistance to following instructions makes me leery of risking food poisoning. Instead, I put the sauce in zipper bags and freeze them.

freezer
Just part of Batch No. 1, millesime 2016.

Also, I put a lot more than tomatoes in my sauce. It’s an opportunity to toss in extra nutrients from other vegetables. So besides lots of onions and garlic, I add carrots, red peppers, beets, butternut squash—whatever’s on offer at the garden. Squash and beets make the sauce sweet without added sugar.

An aside here about stoves. We had gas but a few years ago got rid of our propane tank and switched to induction. What a dream! The first time we used it, to make pasta, we turned it on and off like kids, amazed at how it went from not boiling to a rolling boil to not boiling in a second.

cristel
Cristel cookware, made in France.

I raved about it to French friends, who informed me they had induction for years. Count on the French to be on top of the best cooking technology. Induction is as quick and versatile as gas, but with advantages: it works via magnets, so anything nonmagnetic on the stovetop doesn’t heat up, even if the stove is turned on.

I did have to replace my nonmagnetic copper pans with new ones. They are Cristel, a French brand, whose ads say “buy once for life.” There’s a removable handle so they stack very compactly, yet the lips for the handle are big enough that I often don’t even need the longer handle. An excellent investment.

washedHere’s a recipe of sorts:

10 kg of tomatoes (about 22 pounds). Go for real ones: UGLY. Not the perfect, tasteless hybrids that are raised on chemicals.

thyme
thyme

4 onions

10 cloves of garlic

A nice handful of fresh herbs (I cut some from my garden: mostly thyme that I rip off the stems, but also parsley, basil and oregano).

4 red peppers

4 carrots

1 butternut squash

1-2 big beets

choppedCut out the core of the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Some people peel them but that is just too much work!

Chop up everything else into about half-inch pieces. You want them to cook through.

Brown the onion and garlic in a tiny big of olive oil. Then dump everything else into a gigantic pot (I have to use two), cover and bring to a boil. I don’t add water—the tomatoes will let out plenty of liquid.

simmering-sauce
Simmering

Reduce the heat to a simmer. This is where induction shines. You can put a pot on at the lowest temperature to simmer and it won’t burn on the bottom. Love it. Stir a few times per hour.

cooked-down
Reduced by half. Almost no liquid left, which makes a nice, thick sauce.

Let it cook for several hours, until the volume has reduced by at least half. Cook longer if you like thicker sauce.

blenderUse an immersion blender to purée it, or else let it cool completely before running it in batches through the blender or food processor. Anyway, you need the sauce to be cool before it goes into the freezer.

spooning-in-bagTo put it in bags: put your bag in a plastic container that’s about the right size. This will keep the bag from flopping over as you’re trying to fill it. Use a measuring cup to ladle the sauce so you have an idea of how much is in each bag. Ideally, enough for a dinner.

tomato-coeur-de-boeuf

Suggestions/comments/other recipes welcome!

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35 thoughts on “Tomatoes!

  1. its interesting that u dont add vinegar to it. i do miss having the tomatoes glut available to make sauce with. so much so that there is even a tomato festival in spain where people throw tomatoes with abandon. such a waste!here in london we never get that at all and tomatoes remain expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I hav an ultra simple starter that always goes down well.
        Thinly sliced big tomatoes straight onto the plate, sea salt & black pepper, a little finely chopped garlic over, chopped parsley. Then drizzle over a teaspoonful of good sherry vinegar, followed by a dribble of really nice olive oil. chill, eat.Voila!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds yummy. It is surprising (and discouraging) that as a home gardener it is difficult to grow tomatoes in our South Florida heat and humidity. Plus the supermarkets seem to be full of the pale, flavorless ‘gassed’ variety. Next week Italia where I am sure I will get my hands on the real deal and whip up some sauce. Best, Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We got an induction stove last year. It really is amazing. Yes we had to replace all of our pots also, except for the cast iron frying pans. It did’nt take long to become a convert. I keep a small magnet in my bag to check if it really is stainless steel when purchasing another new pot. The house we stay in in France has an induction stove. That was how we learned about them and grew to love them.
    The sauce recipe sounds heavenly. Anything that involves tomatoes, garlic and is cooked for hours has me licking my lips.

    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I bought a set of Cuisinox pans when on holiday here in France staying to self cater and not liking the quality of the pans provided! As the handle is removeable and the lids are oven proof, they also double up as casseroles. They stack nicely and I can do Tarte Tatin and baked eggy veggy things in the frying pan.
    Mine are about 18 years old now. I have since bought a smaller frying pan and an extra handle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good morning! Tomato is my comfort food. Be it on pizza (the best), in a stew or as “Tomato Bread Soup” or mixed into my native Spanish food, this is a winning ingredient. When I was living in France, I could not take my eyes off of all the different varieties, and it was staggering to think of all the possibilities of transforming these indeed “ugly” tomatoes into a beautiful dish!

    Thank you so much for visiting my post. Our humble house has indeed reached another dimension, and the both of us have the scars on our hands and the aches in our bones to prove it! Much love, Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw a magazine spread about an apartment, in Barcelona I think, that transformed a featureless modern box into an amazing, ancient-looking space. Some people think that’s wrong, but not everybody can buy an amazing, ancient place, so I say, why not make your place the way you want. You have really succeeded.

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  6. Love tomatoes of all kinds. So far, we have only canned them but to be honest, I think freezing would be easier. I am going to try to do that to some of the San Marzano’s that will be ripe this week. We have gas at our house in Sablet but we want to get rid of the propane tanks so I will consider induction when we decide to move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tomaotes were sooo good this year – in fact there are still some in the garden. I turned my glut into passata and tomato puree this year, and canned all of it (no freezer 😦 ). For the tomato puree I just cut the tomatoes into large chunks, brought them to boiling point, and cooked then until they were soft enough. Then ladled everything into a muslin-lined sieve and let the watery liquid drain away for an hour or so. That liquid is going to be useful in soups. I sieved the puree with the help of a moulin a legumes, and then canned it. All ready for winter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi from New Zealand. I found your blog via “Bob and Sophie’s French Adventures” and have enjoyed reading about your part of France. I loved seeing photos of the French tomatoes and reading about what you do with them. For the last six years I have used Annabel Langbein’s “Harvest Sauce” recipe for my end of season produce. Her recipe uses similar ingredients to your recipe but she roasts everything so the vegetables caramelise to enhance the flavours. It is a really great sauce for having with cheese and bread, for pizza’s and pastas, etc. and freezes well. The recipe and her video are at http://www.annabel-langbein.com/recipes/harvest-tomato-sauce/292

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the recipe!! I’ve roasted the tomatoes in the oven and on the grill (to use up the charcoals), and it is great! But a bit more labor intensive.
      I love Bob and Sophie!

      Like

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