Well, she's come and gone, hasn't she? The power came back on this morning, the water pump cranked into high gear, and all that's left to do now is go out and pick up the litter, separate the tomatoes and dahlias from the storm debris.
All in all, I'd say we escaped fairly handily. There are a few under ripe fruits down, yes, and the topsoil is swept off the garden, and the yard will take some raking. But there are no trees against the house, the tomato plants are still standing, and the breads and meats and sauces in the freezer are still chilly.
Just before she hit, we harvested over 50 pounds of tomatoes from our 62 plants. The fruit is sitting on the kitchen counter, all laid out in a mosaic of reds and oranges and a tinge of green. Tomorrow—once we're back on our feet—I'll pull out the onions and basil and garlic I bought at the market Saturday and start the sauce factory. But for today, I'll be out in the yard—picking up another 20 pounds of fruit, and piling it on the counter, saying goodbye Irene.
This isn't really a recipe so much as an outline. My mother asked me how I make my sauce this morning, and I realized I do it by feel and memory. I don't measure or time, and I always make a big batch. So in case you have fruit of your own to put away, here's how I do it—at least loosely.
2-3 heads garlic, peeled and cloves minced
1 medium onion, diced
a third cup or so of old red wine
1 big mixing bowl full of quartered tomatoes
minced basil, oregano, rosemary, or thyme—or some combination of all four
Warm up a good glug of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for about a minute, or until it starts to get fragrant. Add the onion and sweat, stirring frequently, for 5-8 minutes, or until it's soft and translucent.
Turn the heat up to medium-high, let the pan warm up (keep stirring so the garlic and onions don't burn!) and pour in the red wine to deglaze. Let the wine reduce two-thirds, then season with salt and add the tomatoes.
I don't have a potato masher so I use a pastry cutter to crush my tomatoes, but if you have a masher, that's a much better tool—use it! The tomatoes should almost fill the pot, and they'll let out a lot of juice as they heat. Once you have them pretty well crushed and the liquid starts boiling, stir well and turn down the heat to a simmer. A big batch will take a few hours to reduce down, and you'll get about two-thirds to half the volume you started with. When the sauce is fairly thick, add the herbs. Simmer for a few more minutes, then either puree or leave chunky, depending on your taste.
I freeze my sauce in quart Mason jars, leaving about 2 inches headspace so they don't break. A one pot batch yields about 3 jars.