Jack’s magic marinara

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Got nothing to do this weekend? Let’s make some marinara!

Jack had been waiting all summer for the tomatoes to finally come in so that he could brew a big batch of sausage marinara. He started with one case of tomatoes (approximately 23 pounds) and it yielded 17 pints of sauce.

And oh boy, is it good! 17 pints may not be enough to last us an entire year.

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this posted, but it took some work to pull the recipe out of Jack. He put this recipe together like Italian grandmothers—not from a recipe, but from his heart. He walked around our local produce stand and said hmmmm, what feels good? What’s calling to me?

I think there may have been a spiritual experience.

So, here’s the thing … this is a great base recipe, one that you can modify and make your own. It doesn’t have to be precise down to the letter. As long as it’s 75% tomato based, you’re golden.

Now that we’ve got all the disclaimers aside, here we go …

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Skin the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water for two to three minutes. Then immediately dunk the boiled tomatoes in a bowl of ice water.

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And peel. The skins should come off like butter.

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Hint: You’ll be doing the peeling process in batches. Depending on the size of your pots don’t cram too many tomatoes into the boiling water, you don’t want them in there too long or sitting in the ice bath for too long or they’ll soak up way too much water and start to get overly mushy. Just boil enough tomatoes so that you can quickly peel them and move on to the next batch. For us the right amount seems to be  eight to ten at a time. It moves along quite quickly.

Anyway, boil, shock and peel all of your tomatoes.

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Then squeeze the crap out of ’em to release all the excess juices.

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Until you have something like this.

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Next get out all of your vegetables, herbs and meat, essentially all of your other ingredients, and prep them … or as some high falutin’ foodies say, mise en place. We don’t say that. We just say prep. We are not high falutin’.

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2 large onions: one white, one red.

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2 BULBS of garlic (just grab the outer cloves of each; don’t fuss with the small ones in the center). Slice one bulb and leave the cloves of the other bulb whole.

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Aaah-so. You will be smooshing the whole cloves through a garlic press. The slices are eye-candy. You want to see some slivers of garlic in your sauce. For some reason if you can see it, it’ll taste better.

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Slice two pounds of mushrooms. In this case he used all button, but I think a combo of button along with porcini and a few morel would have added a lovely complexity to the flavor. But we didn’t have any at the local stand and Jack didn’t want to use dried. It’s still too early for fresh mushroom season, which will come around November.

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3-4 Tablespoons of Hawaiian sea salt, dried marjoram, fresh oregano (go easy, it’s strong), fresh basil and dried rosemary. You’ll add ground black pepper to taste along with a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes.

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Now, let’s heat the vegetables. Here’s where you might have a difference in technique, but this is how Jack did it—he prefers to have a little more control of the cooking time per vegetable. Plus, you’ve got such large quantities that not everything is going to fit in one pan anyway. You’ll use three different saute pans for this process; essentially it’s one pan per vegetable, except you’ll heat the garlic and onions together. In each pan heat 3T olive oil (you can add a pat of butter for flavor if you like) and add mushrooms to one, bell peppers to another, and onions to the third. Cook the onions on medium for five minutes and then add the garlic while reducing the heat. Let all of these cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 25 minutes. While they’re cooking, season with a little salt and fresh cracked pepper. You will want to eat the mushroom right out of the pan, but resist doing so otherwise you might end up eating the whole pan. (Jack’s side note: I can’t resist adding a little butter to the mushrooms while they’re sauteing, after they’ve been reduced a little. Be sure to drain off the excess moisture)

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Next up: the sausage. We’ve got three pounds of Italian sausage here, two sweet and one hot. Here’s an important hint: REMOVE THE CASINGS before cooking. Add  3T of olive to oil to one of the pans you cooked the veggies in (no need to dirty another pan) add the sausage, which has already been removed from the casings and broken into chunks. Alternatively, cook the sausage first and use the drippings to saute the onions and garlic…Mmmmm. Either way the sausage drippings should make it into the sauce.

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Fry up the sausage, stirring occasionally until well cooked.

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While the sausage is cooking, go ahead and put the whole tomatoes in a huge pot and place over medium-high heat. We are now starting to assemble the sauce.

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To the tomato sauce add 30 ounces of tomato paste.

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Dump all your herbs and seasonings in.

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Now take all those garlic bulbs and run them through your hand dandy garlic press. Dump in all remaining garlic slices.

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If you have a hand blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools), run it through your sauce to evenly break up tomato chunks. If you don’t have a hand blender, it’s no big deal, you don’t have to do anything.

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Add about a cup of red wine.

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Here’s the wine we used: a medium bodied French red wine, something akin to a zinfandel. As you can see from the price tag it wasn’t too expensive ($7.88), but it was smooth.

Now pour yourself a glass, it’s all good, man.

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Taste. Adjust your seasoning accordingly.

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Now, add your cooked veggies and stir.

Then let the sauce simmer for an hour on low heat.

In the meantime, prep your jars for canning.

Add sauce to hot, sterilized pint jars and heat in a pressure canner for one hour at 10# pressure.

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And voila, you’re done!

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Enjoy all year long.

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Jack’s Magic Marinara

Makes 17 pints

22-24lbs Roma tomatoes, peeled
3 bell peppers, sliced
2 large onions, chopped
2 bulbs garlic, one bulb sliced, one with cloves left whole to be crushed
2lbs button mushrooms, sliced
30-oz tomato paste
3lbs Italian sausage
1 cup red wine
6-10T olive oil

3-4T each
Hawaiian sea salt
fresh oregano
dried marjoram
fresh basil
dried rosemary
ground black pepper

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