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Old 09-04-2012, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Wilkinsburg
1,661 posts, read 2,430,655 times
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I've usually made my tomato sauce the quick way -- garden tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic, and olive oil cooked for about 40 minutes in a skillet. Lately I've been making an old school meat sauce based roughly on this recipe:
-2 pounds pork neckbones
-3 28ounces cans of san marzano tomatoes (La Valle D.O.P., crushed)
-1 can of tomato paste
-several chopped cloves of garlic
-fresh basil and parsley
-sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic salt
-fresh grated Pecorino Romano
-Extra virgin olive oil

In a large stock pot I saute the garlic until it starts to brown in olive oil. I then remove the garlic and brown the neckbones. Once the neckbones are browned I through the garlic back in and then add the tomatoes, herbs, ~24 ounces of tap water, a shot of balsamic vinegar. I let the sauce simmer for 2 hours covered with the lid slightly cracked. After 2 hours I stir periodically (still mostly covered), and with one hour left I grate in a bunch of cheese, add a tiny pinch of baking soda, and add salt/pepper/spices to taste. The sauce cooks for 4 hours total and I do not remove the meat from the neck bones.

This recipe is similar to mine: http://www.food.com/recipe/spaghetti...70-1900-106003

The first time I made sauce this way the result was excellent (tasted like my grandmother's!). The meat would fall right of the bones and the sauce had a very deep and smooth flavor. A very round flavor with no sharp acidity. Unfortunately though, on subsequent efforts my sauce has turned out with a sharp sourness that I really do not like (tasted like my non-Italian aunt's! ). I've been trying to figure out what I'm doing differently, but cannot seem to isolate and fix the problem. Here are some thoughts:

-Simmering too hot or too cold?
-Simmering too long or not long enough?
-Cooking neckbones too much or too fast before adding tomatoes? Too much meat?
-Not enough garlic? Garlic somehow burning at bottom of pan? I've tried both minced and chopped garlic. It does not taste like burnt garlic though.
-During cooking, in the last hour or so some black liquid-y puddles appear on the top of my sauce. I stir it back in, but I'm not sure what the black liquid is or where it is coming from. Should I maybe try to skim it off the top?
-Should I maybe remove the pork from the bones after an hour or so?

I've done a lot of experimenting, but haven't been able to solve the problem. I only make sauce once a week, so when it comes out poorly it's really frustrating. Can anyone recommend a fix for my troubled sauce?

Last edited by ML North; 09-04-2012 at 11:41 AM..
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Old 09-04-2012, 02:22 PM
 
Location: In a house
13,253 posts, read 38,593,259 times
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I don't know why you're using vinegar or baking soda, at all. I've never seen any gravy recipe involving either of them. It's possible that there's a chemical reaction going on when a little of the soda hits a little of the vinegar.

Try not using either, and add a generous sprinkle of sugar instead.

Also, don't sautee the garlic til it's brown. That's too long. Sautee it until a few paper-thin slices of it turn translucent (see-through).

Lastly, simmer at the lowest heat your stovetop will allow, -after- you've gotten the pot all steamy hot. And stir more frequently, especially for the first half hour.
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Old 09-04-2012, 02:43 PM
 
Location: Wilkinsburg
1,661 posts, read 2,430,655 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnonChick View Post
I don't know why you're using vinegar or baking soda, at all. I've never seen any gravy recipe involving either of them. It's possible that there's a chemical reaction going on when a little of the soda hits a little of the vinegar.

Try not using either, and add a generous sprinkle of sugar instead.

Also, don't sautee the garlic til it's brown. That's too long. Sautee it until a few paper-thin slices of it turn translucent (see-through).

Lastly, simmer at the lowest heat your stovetop will allow, -after- you've gotten the pot all steamy hot. And stir more frequently, especially for the first half hour.
Vinegar is a common substitute for red wine in sauce, but I've only used it on occasion, and found it to make no detectable difference. Baking soda I've always used, but never sugar. I suppose I could give it a try. Thanks!

Last edited by ML North; 09-04-2012 at 02:52 PM..
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Old 09-04-2012, 03:45 PM
bg7
 
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The answer is adding a small amount of sugar.
I'm not a fan of sweet, I always go for a savory option over a sweet one, but most homemade tomato sauces need a little sugar balancing.
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Old 09-04-2012, 06:18 PM
 
Location: Wilkinsburg
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Well it's on the stove right now, fingers crossed! I browned the pork a little longer than I normally do, added an onion, and am cooking a little longer on lower heat. Towards then end I'll try a pinch of sugar. Should be done around midnight.
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:40 PM
bg7
 
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Well??!!
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Old 09-05-2012, 02:53 PM
 
Location: Wilkinsburg
1,661 posts, read 2,430,655 times
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Actually, the result was better than expected!

I did a few things differently:

(1) I sauteed my garlic only until the smallest pieces began to brown
(2) I browned my neck bones a tad longer (usually I only slightly brown them)
(3) I cooked my sauce at a much lower heat. I actually set my electric (sigh) stove to "warm".

I was prepared to try sugar, but when I tasted, I decided that neither sugar nor baking soda was necessary.

It did come out just a tab more runny than I like, but the taste was very good and the disgusting sourness was gone. I'm going to play around with different tomatoes until I get the taste I like.

Thanks for the tips!
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:01 PM
bg7
 
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Good move on the garlic, it does give a bitter flavor if you get it browned
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:44 PM
 
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Instead of sugar, try a tablespoonful of grape jelly to your sauce.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:41 PM
 
Location: Volcano
12,971 posts, read 24,932,341 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ML North View Post
It did come out just a tab more runny than I like, but the taste was very good and the disgusting sourness was gone. I'm going to play around with different tomatoes until I get the taste I like.
I suggest holding back some of the liquid from the tomatoes until close to the end. As you've found you can't easily take it away if it's too runny, but you can add it if the sauce is too dry.
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