Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oven Tomato Sauce

Looks like this may be the last tomato harvest of the year.

We've actually been going through them so fast (and Bob's been giving a lot away too) that I haven't given a whole lot of thought as to what to do with them all and I haven't preserved any for the winter.

Recently, I read (on my sister's Yahoo list) a way of preparing tomatoes to use as a sauce and to freeze. I've made it twice before and this time, I was determined to get extra to freeze.

I picked as many tomatoes as I could find on the bushes as well as a few peppers.

I also found some basil and oregano, brought it all inside and added a few onions and garlic.
My son helped me by briefly dipping each tomato in boiling water and then plunging them into ice water to make them easier to peel. Peeling is not compulsory, but it makes the sauce a little more civilized.

The tomatoes were chopped into halves and quarters and I squeezed some of the seedy parts out as I was preparing them. I chopped the onions and peppers, smashed up quite a bit of garlic, cut up the basil and oregano and found a box of baby portabello mushrooms, then sprinkled all of those as evenly as I could over the tomatoes. A little salt and pepper and a good shot of olive oil over it all, and into an oven at 400 degree Fahrenheit for about an hour and a half.
I stirred it a couple of times as it baked and when it came out, it looked like this:
This was followed by a frenzy of eating! I made spaghetti and added the sauce. We served it with mozzarella and Parmesan and a loaf of Italian bread - oh, so good!

I don't have any pictures of the finished dish (see above frenzy!) Suffice it to say, it was delicious! We served 7 people with one pan of sauce and 2 pounds of pasta. The sauce appears to be thin and watery, but do not be mislead by the appearance. This sauce is full of flavor and especially good when served in a bowl.

I'm a bit excited because after the second pan of sauce cooled, I packaged it in zip loc bags and now have 2 quarts of this ambrosia in the freezer for the winter - or maybe the fall.

Next year, I'll be doing this all summer and we'll be well stocked! Sorry to tell you if you have received some of our overabundance this year you should not be expecting it next year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overheated Soap

Okay - I'm back. There may not be any beads for a while, but I do have a bunch of things I've been wanting to blog about and I'll start with the most recent first!

We've been making soap since the early 90's and there is something I have never experienced before. That is overheated soap. Interestingly enough, I've been reading a lot about it lately and was about to ask what is the big deal? My soap gets really hot in the mold while it does its' overnight cure. It settles down and is fine by the morning.

I've heard of "alien brain", which is something else I've not experienced and thought maybe that was the thing everyone was trying to avoid. I assumed that was the problem, that it sort of formed a wormy looking top or something like that.

Well, last night, we were making a couple batches of soap and decided at the last moment to make a batch of Goat Milk soap. The lye mixture is a little different for that one, and I mixed it up just before we started.

We made the first two batches with lye that had actually been mixed the day before and was room temperature. They went fine, but they were normal soap.

The final batch was the Milk soap and even though the lye was still quite hot, we figured it would be fine... Not so much. I walked away to do somethingin the other room while Tina finished cleaning up.

When I walked back into the "kitchen" area, this is what I saw:
The soap had swollen up like a souffle! It had even overflowed a bit:

Since we had never experienced this before, our first reaction was to tape the liners together to form a collar which would contain the growing soap. The next thing to do, of course, was to take a picture! Then, we carefully carried the whole mess out to the cool, cement floor in the open garage just on the other side of the door.

A bit later, Tina checked it and it had begun to collapse. We brought it back inside and put it inside an open window to finish whatever it was going to do.

This morning, I came out to find this:
We might get a layer of soap out of it (we usually get three), but we sure have learned why we don't want to overheat soap!