Recently I realised I wouldn’t be able to purchase my favourite bottled tomato sauce — Roasted Garlic and Onion — from my organic box supplier. This is a total bummer, because I *love* that stuff, it’s delicious. It also comes in wonderful brown glass bottles which are great to re-use, as the brown colour helps keep the produce fresh (it filters the sunlight better).
My organic box service *does* offer “cooking tomatoes”, however, which are rejected first grade fruit. Normally organic tomatoes sell for $12 per kg, which is pricey compared to regular supermarket tomatoes at $8 per kg. But the organic “cooking tomatoes” are sold for $3.50 per kg, which is a total win.
So, recently I made up a batch of my own sauce, using these tomatoes. Here’s how doing it yourself compares:
- Bought sauce: $4.80 for 700 mL. Organic ingredients. Contains ONLY tomatoes, garlic, onion and NOTHING ELSE.
- My sauce: $3.50 for 1kg tomatoes (organic), 1 head home-grown garlic (organic), 2 onions at 99c per kg (not organic, I used what I had). This made 4 jars of 375 mL sauce.
Verdict: the professional sauce still wins on flavour, although my sauce was very good this time. The flavour would have been even better if I had time to ripen the tomatoes for a few days on my kitchen bench. In the end, my sauce wins on availability, and was cheaper!
These prices are in Australian dollars, and in our supermarket it costs $3.30 for a 500 mL bottle of a “leading brand” of sauce — NOT organic. Making your own sauce is a very affordable way to eat better quality food. No salt! No sugar! You just don’t need that stuff; tomatoes are delicious all by themselves.
Here’s how to do it (and it’s easy):
Slice up some tomatoes, and lay them in a baking dish.
Halve your onions and lay them cut-side up.
Pull apart a head of garlic (or half a head, or however much you want), and scatter the cloves about.
Drizzle everything with olive oil. You don’t need to drench it! Just for seasoning.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 °C) for an hour and a half (give or take). (Warning: this step will make everyone in your house VERY hungry.)
Let it cool on the bench, then remove and discard the onion and garlic skins.
Push all the bits through a sieve (a ‘mouli’, or ‘food mill’ is what I use, and it takes about two minutes). This bit is messier if you don’t have the right tools, but a sieve will do the job. Don’t use a food processor as this chops into the seeds and can give a bitter flavour to the sauce.
If the sauce is too watery for your taste, you can reduce the sauce for a little while on the stove. I would have done this if I had time, but everyone was hungry when I got home, and I just sieved-and-served, so to speak.
The mouli makes this incredibly easy. My mum used a mouli to make all my soft baby food, I believe, rather than using a food processor. You may find one worth the investment, especially if a food processor is out of your price range. It can’t do everything a food processor can, but on the other hand, it’s about one tenth the price. 🙂