Garden’s Bounty: An Awesome Marinara!

Garden’s bounty is upon us and, thankfully, I’m literally up to my elbows in those luscious Indiana tomatoes we all covet. I’ve roasted them with eggplant, herbs and parmesan into an amazing tian. I’ve made my favorite fresh chopped salsa. I’ve eaten them with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper at each and every meal. I’ve given a fair number away.

But by far, my favorite thing to do with tomatoes is make them into a very simple marinara and freeze or can it for a quick blast of summer in January. Marinara is the perfect backdrop for so many dishes. In winter I’ll sauté whatever veggies are available and add a jar my sauce to make pasta or rice dishes. I’ll make a frittata and use the marinara as a sauce topping. I’ll open a jar, add some oregano and a pinch of sugar, and cook it down to a thick pizza sauce. The options are endless really.

I really like the stripped-down five-ingredient simplicity of this recipe. I also like this recipe because it doesn’t require peeling tomatoes and it doesn’t ask you to mince garlic. The end result goes into a blender where it becomes a smooth sauce with no traces of garlic chunks or tomato peel. It saves a lot of work and when you’re up to your elbows in tomatoes, that’s a very good thing! This recipe can also be doubled or even tripled if you have a stock pot or pan large enough.

Here’s the basic recipe:

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ cup chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

salt to taste

3 tablespoons fresh basil, snipped

Heat olive oil in 4 qt. saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cook until soft and golden, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.* Stir in basil and remove from heat.

*The length of time will depend on the type of tomatoes you’re using and their water content. Paste tomatoes varieties such as Roma and San Marzano are meatier with less water and will require less time to cook down. Slicing tomatoes such as Big Boys, Celebrities, Brandywines, etc. will be much juicier and take more time. Ultimately, you will decide the consistency you desire and the time it takes to get there.

At this point you can prepare the marinara for freezing or for canning. I prefer pint-sized containers for my family. Quarts might be best for yours.

If freezing, cool to room temperature then, working in batches, blend to a smooth consistency. Pack into freezer-safe containers, filling to about a half inch from the top. Sauce may expand with ice crystals as it freezes so give it a little headroom.

When I’m running out of freezer space or want to make gifts of marinara, I can it in pint jars. While canning is relatively easy, I strongly recommend that you consult with the USDA or another trusted source for instructions on how to can and follow their instructions exactly. Botulism is nothing to fool with and can be avoided but only with deliberate care. Here’s the USDA’s site: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html

Enjoy! Lorrie Heber

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How to Recruit New Member Owners

Why recruit new member owners to Terre Foods? Without at least 600 members we cannot take the next step to opening the store. It’s that simple. It’s imperative. It’s must-do. And why not do it now?

The absolute BEST way to get new member owners is for our current member owners to recruit their family, neighbors, friends and co-workers to join!

How To Recruit New Member Owners to Terre Foods:

 

  • Come to a training!  You’ll learn more information, have questions answered and learn how to respond to objections. March 28, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1875 S. Fruitridge Ave., Terre Haute
  • Wear the buttons. They serve as great conversation starters!
  • Know your stuff.  Read information about Terre Foods and find an FAQ about the coop included in this toolkit or on the web at www.terrefoods.coop
  • Know the payment options. Remind them that it’s a one-time equity payment. No annual fees. We will likely invite them to make a member loan to provide necessary capital for the project but it’s optional.
  • Stock up on Membership Brochures and “Membership has Benefits!” discount info cards. Send email to info@terrefoods.org to request as many as you need!
  • Know your audience! Spend your energy talking to people who you think would be interested:
    • Foodies
    • Natural food/product people
    • New families, especially those with very young children
    • “Buy local!” supporters
    • Gardeners/farmers
    • Those worried about their health
    • Retirees and the elderly
  • Know that it will take multiple “asks” before they sign: A standard rule of thumb is to ask 6 times in 6 ways. So start now. In addition to your efforts, Terre Foods has an advertising awareness campaign going on now through April 30 to help bolster your message!
  • Use email. Tell your story about what prompted you to become an owner.
  • Use social media. “Like” Terre Foods on Facebook and follow us on Twitter then share our posts with your friends.
  • Have a party, invite a board member to come and informally talk to your guests about the coop. We love parties! Email to info@terrefoods.org
  • Work the Farmer’s Market. Help staff our table, Saturdays beginning in May. Contact Holly Hudson at hhudson40@gmail.com.
  • Invite friends to road trip. If you’re headed to Bloomington or Paoli, take a friend or family member along and stop at Bloomingfoods (3 locations www.bloomingfoods.coop) or Lost River Market and Deli in Paoli (www.lostrivercoop.com) and show them what it’s all about!

 

Don’t forget: For every member you recruit, you receive a $20 gift card to Terre Foods!

Cooking Skills and Food Insecurity

I’ve been excited to garden in my space this summer at the ISU Community Garden despite the extreme drought and hot, hot, hot conditions. The amount of produce has been greatly diminished in these conditions but has given us a bounty to enjoy. It is a challenge to work with that bounty, both to prepare and to preserve. It takes time and skills, some of which I’ve had to learn like canning. My mom canned amazing amounts of food every year but I wasn’t “present” enough in the process to fully remember it so the internet was my guide. And now I have lovely marinara and salsa lined up on shelves in my basement ready to provide that boost of summer when the cold winter winds blow.

My sister lives on a farm in southern Clay County and grew zucchini from the plants I started from seed. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with zucchini, however, and soon had fruits the size of baseball bats and no clue what to do with them. So I offered to take them to the Catholic Charities Foodbank and did. Some 45 pounds of zucchini. And some time later, I had a discussion with folks involved in the food distribution to the poor who lamented that fresh produce is often not the first choice when clients are selecting food from their shelves and often goes to waste. Seems a big problem is the lack of food preparation skills among many folks. I certainly understand that. Time, convenience, and the fact that the cheapest foods are generally prepared or fast foods has created a whole generation of folks who just don’t know what to do with a zucchini. Or a green bean. Or 4 pounds of tomatoes.

Then came news of a couple of soup kitchens in the area closing due to a lack of staff and/or volunteers.

And then I learned that people receiving Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) sometimes have a difficult time finding suitable work to fulfill the work requirement to receive aid and I thought: is there a way to connect these dots? What if we could have knowledgeable cooks in our soup kitchens teaching TANF recipients how to cook using produce from our food banks and giving gardens to feed the needy in soup kitchens? Hmmm. I’d be delighted to talk with anyone who has thoughts on this.

Why is this important to Terre Foods? Well, having a community who knows how to prepare and preserve nature’s bounty is essential to its long-term survival and the ability of the local food economy to grow and prosper. Let’s get reconnected to our food!