Sweet Goodness

Several years ago a wonderful friend, Jill Bruns, shared what turned out to be an incredible recipe for a tomato sauce. We were working together at the time for an exchange student organization matching host families with teenagers from around the world and monitoring those sometimes tenuous, often-time beautiful relationships. For us, August and September were quite stressful times, and Jill’s recipe was nearly as hands-off as it was delicious.

Her recipe was one of the cherished items packed on our move to Listening Stones Farm more than four years ago. Along the way it has been altered somewhat depending on the year and creative muse. For a couple of years back when I was married we started smoking my ex’s beautiful eggplant to include in the simmer. In no way can I garden as well as she could, so last year after making the first batch “naked” … without the smoke … I made a second batch where the offset smoker was once again put in play. This time to smoke the skin-on tomatoes.

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Heirloom tomatoes are used, smoked on the offset using apple wood. When moisture rises into the opened core, they’re ready to add to the roaster.

This created a sweet and lovely aroma that seemed to encompass not just the kitchen, but the entire house, creating such a sweet goodness.

Our method then was to let it simmer overnight in the roaster, which allowed the sauce to thicken quite well. Since I have begun to can the sauce the same day because it seems to hold the flavors better. The delicate flavors are captured for winter joys rather than lost in the overcooking.

Last week I made my first batch of Jill’s Sweet Goodness. In my recipe I continued to use garlic and onions.

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From my first batch, with the basil leaves on top. 

As is typical, my garden has more tomato plants than should have been planted, and more fruit is coming off the vine daily. I have more than enough for my own needs, and a really good salsa has since been canned. One that is decidedly less vinegary than the one I made last year … which tasted just fine before being canned but was much too vinegary come winter. This one has more lime and much less vinegar, and is just what I like in a salsa.

Yet, I love Jill’s Sweet Goodness and have eyed making another batch, this time with two people in mind. My sister, Ann Roeder, and a dear friend, Mo Stores. Both suffer from an onion and garlic allergy. While it seems almost sacrilegious to make a tomato sauce without either ingredient I was curious if it was doable and if the flavor would hold.

So once again I smoked the tomatoes. All the various ingredients from the recipe were added along with about three quarters of a cup of chopped herbs. Included was a healthy sprig of rosemary, and about half and half of fresh basil and sage. A knife was used to chop the herbs finely before being added to the roaster. I had used fresh basil and rosemary in my original batch, though not the sage. My idea came from Ann, who sometimes uses sage as a substitute in her cooking. Indeed, this may be the best batch of the bunch!

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After the vegetables have been pureed, add three 12 oz. cans of tomato paste, and use the emulsifier again.

This is truly a simple sauce to make. My only change is that I peel the carrots and cut up the celery. Those tomatoes are cored before going onto the smoker. An emulsifier is used to puree the sauce, and to blend in the paste afterwards. Two of my friends wouldn’t can this without a pressure cooker, and two others, including Jill who is a county health nurse, stick with hot baths. I prefer the hot bath method and did it this way for years with no problems whatsoever.

The sauce is excellent for spaghetti and pizzas, and sometimes I add some pesto that I have frozen. All the vegetables are organic, including those I grow here on the farm. Here is Jill’s recipe, so please, enjoy!

Jill’s Spaghetti Sauce

(Makes 8-12 quarts)

50 tomatoes (enough to fill a large electric roaster. I smoke in an offset smoker with apple wood.)

1 batch celery — chopped

8 green peppers

8 onions

8 cloves of garlic

8 carrots

1/2 c salt

1 c sugar

1/4 t cloves

1/2 t allspice

1/2 t paprika

1/2 t oregano

1/4 t pepper

1 bay leaf

Several sweet basil leaves

3 12 oz cans tomato paste

Put cut up vegetables into roaster. Add all ingredients except tomato paste. Simmer for 4 hours at 225 F degrees or so, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can simmer overnight to puree in the morning, or all through the day. Use a blender or emulsifier to puree. Add paste and simmer for at least two hours. Put in jars and hot bath for 40 minutes. Rebecca used a pressure cooker at #10 for 40 minutes. Great for spaghetti, chili, lasagna and most anything using a tomato sauce. I use pint jars for more convenience of single living.

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I’m not an “organized” canner, using a variety of jar types and sizes. It’s what is inside that counts! 

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

2 thoughts on “Sweet Goodness

  1. Pingback: Sweet Goodness | Listening Stones Farm

  2. I still make this, though I use my food mill and then immersion blend once I add the final ingredients.
    The eggplant sauce is really a different animal. It starts with a plain tomato base to which I add smoked (this year grilled) eggplant, onion, garlic, peppers (often spicier ones) and the spices are Mexican oregano, cumin, and cinnamon. Salt and sugar to taste.
    But, like all of these sauces, what goes in the roaster depends a lot on what’s coming out of the garden!

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