Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spaghetti sauce and the nightshade issue

While my diet has swung more towards paleo since I gave up dairy, there are still a few things I regularly consume that definitely fall outside of the paleo realm. One of those items is tomatoes. Some paleo dieters avoid them because they are a member of the nightshade family. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, and tomatillos are all family members. The working theory is that since these are recent (on an evolutionary scale) additions to the human diet, compounds contained in nightshades can cause digestive and auto-immune problems.

As I see it, nightshades are a lot like dairy. Some people have no problems with dairy, and in fact, benefit from good quality dairy products, especially raw dairy from grass-fed cows. Others, like me, should avoid dairy. Tomatoes, because of their vitamin content, can be more beneficial than harmful for most people, especially if those tomatoes are homegrown in rich, nutrient-filled soil and grown without pesticides. Others must avoid nightshades.

If you have auto-immune issues that still haven't cleared up despite following a clean, low carb/paleo diet, try eliminating members of the night shade family for a few weeks, then reintroduce them one at a time and see if you have a reaction. This is the same method I used to determine that I had problems caused by dairy.

If nightshades do not cause you gastric distress, trigger allergies, or increase arthritis symptoms, tomatoes could be a delicious part of your eating plan. They are still in mine, and this time of year I am harvesting plenty of tomatoes from the garden. I will soon have enough to make and can spaghetti sauce. This sauce is far superior to anything you can buy in the store, and by using fresh herbs, you get a much more complex and interesting flavor.

Spaghetti sauce in its' infant stage

The Lazy Person's Guide to Roaster Spaghetti Sauce by Wifezilla

You will need a electric roaster. The roaster is your main measuring device. Without an electric roaster, you get to guess, but basically you will be reducing the volume of raw tomatoes by at least half. The one is use is an 18 quart older model. This recipe also uses a stick blender with a chopper blade and fresh herbs instead of dried. Adaptations to available ingredients and equipment may be required. I water-bath can my sauce, but it can also be pressure canned. If you decide to add meat before canning, pressure canning is required. You can also freeze this sauce.
  1. Fill a roaster to the top with fresh or frozen SKINNED tomatoes or a combination of the two. (Frozen tomatoes are easy to peel and do not require an additional hot water bath.)
  2. Squish the tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher to make it easier for the tomatoes to cook down.
  3. Cook the tomatoes on 275 degrees overnight UNCOVERED. You can cover the top with a piece of metal screen or some cheese cloth to keep the bugs out of your sauce, but the moisture must be able to escape.
  4. The tomatoes should cook down until the roaster is only half way full. If it needs more time, just let it go until you have a half-full roaster or turn up the temps and stir as it cooks down the rest of the way. 
  5. Use a stick blender to chop everything up and make your sauce nice and smooth.
  6. Add 1 - 2 cans of organic tomato paste to make the sauce thicker. If your tomatoes are really meaty, you might not need to add any, but have the cans ready just in case.
  7. Add 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar and stir, then salt to taste. Because a lot of modern tomatoes are lower in acid than they used to be, I consider this a step that should not be skipped. High acidity is required for safe water bath canning.
  8. Let it continue to cook a bit as you caramelize 4 large sweet onions. Once onions are cooked, add to sauce.
  9. Get your canning jars ready. No, I did not forget about other herbs and spices, but that will be the last thing you do before canning. So trust me, just get your jars ready.
  10. NOW you can add fresh chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, minced garlic, etc... Sorry, we didn't measure. Just grabbed handfuls of whatever was ready from the garden. Several hand fulls of basil and oregano if I remember correctly and just a little rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme. 
  11. Immediately put in the jars and water bath can after mixing in the herbs. Prolonged cooking of the fresh herbs can make them bitter so you don't want them simmering for a long time. They are fine through the heat of canning though.
The recipe is more like a series of guidelines than a true recipe, but since I am more a freeform cook and the ingredients available to me vary, it is hard to be more specific. If you are the type that wants specifics, give this recipe a try.

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