Confessions of an EVERYDAY ECOTARIAN

creative, conscious and conserving ideas, thoughts and solutions

Attack of the Tomatoes! October 21, 2009

Filed under: On Food — adm @ 1:32 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m finally writing!  I’m finally writing!  It has been several weeks of steamy days in the kitchen canning, drying and putting away the summer’s harvest.  On top of that I seem to have found myself doing work of one sort another for 5 different non-profits.

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Oooh, steamy!

Needless to say, it’s been busy ‘round here.  To further complicate matters we had a very cold and wet

summer.  This caused our tomatoes to ripen very late.  We then had a hard frostand had to move in the tomatoes from our 70 plants in late September.  We had every surface in the basement covered with ripening tomatoes well into this month.  However, the onslaught of tomato preservation is slowing and as always, we’ve learned a few news tricks this year.

When we first started living the gardening, canning, and ever-evolving ecotarian life 9 years ago we did what many new gardeners do.  We planted everything we could think of, lost most of it to inexperience and attempted to preserve the rest.  That first year we had a particularly good crop of tomatoes.  We thought we’d make all kinds of tomato products:  salsa, all kinds of marinara and spaghetti sauce, diced

All colors of tomatoes ripening in the basement after a hard frost

All colors of tomatoes ripening in the basement after a hard frost

tomatoes, barbeque sauce, ketchup and more!  Although we were somewhat successful we burned ourselves out on canning right away.   We’ve learned a few things since that and now we stick to two rules for preserving the harvest:  1. Keep it practical.  2.  Keep it simple

We found that if we preserve the simplest tomato products possible we can then alter those tomatoes for different uses during the year.  Also, when you can you need to be mindful of the acidity of your product.  Tomatoes by themselves are high acid and can be canned in a simple boiling water bath.   However, when you start adding other vegetables it can lower the acidity too much and cause the need for a pressure canner.   So, because we like to keep things as simple as possible, this year we decided to stick to chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and dried tomatoes.   Here is what we did:

Roasted Tomato Sauce

In order to make great, smooth tomato sauce you need to do three things.  Remove the skin, remove the seeds and remove some of the water.  I used to cook the tomatoes down in a stockpot before running them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.  Not anymore.  I’ve found a much better way to get a great tasting sauce is to roast the tomatoes first.  Simply wash the tomatoes, cut out any bad spots and quarter them.  You can use any kind of tomato for this –even a surplus of cherry, pear or other small tomatoes.  Just to dispel the long-standing myth,

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Tomatoes ready for roasting!

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Smooth sauce cookin’ away

yellow tomatoes are not any less acidic than red so throw them in there!  Put them on a baking dish lined with foil or better yet a foil roasting pan, (unless you want a huge cleanup job later) and roast them at 275 degrees for about 2 hours.  I even threw a few cloves of garlic in to roast along with the tomatoes.   When the tomatoes are soft and have lost some of their water run them through a food mill to remove the skin

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Roasty Toasty Tomatoes

and seeds.  Put the remaining sauce back into the stockpot and cook it down until it’s as thick as you like it.   Then, just can it in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.   The end result is a lovely, deep and complex roasted tomato sauce.  When you’re ready to use it, open it up and season it with garlic, peppers, onions or whatever else your recipe calls for.

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Naked little tomatoes

Chopped Tomatoes

Nothing fancy here.  We remove the skins by plunging the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.

Then we pull them out and give them an immediate dip into an ice bath.  At this point their skins slip right off.  We then chop the tomatoes in our food processor, (the best kitchen tool we’ve ever purchased) for a few pulses.   When the tomatoes are sufficiently chopped we put them into a stockpot and heat them to boiling.  Then, we can them in quart jars in a water bath for 45 minutes.   That’s it.  Then they are chili, enchilada, marinara, even salsa ready!  Just season appropriately when they’re needed.

Dried Tomatoes

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Yellow Pear and Cherry Tomatoes

These are great to have on hand.  This year we had a plethora of small tomatoes including little round cherry tomatoes and adorable tiny yellow pear tomatoes.

You can throw them in with your tomatoes for saucebut what we’ve found is that they make lovely dried tomatoes.  We use a dehydrator and simply wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and place them face up on the trays.  When they are sufficiently dry, (You can’t squeeze a drop of moisture out with your fingers) we

“pasteurize” them in a 175 degree oven for 15 minutes.  This helps take car

e of any little organisms that might decide to cause your tomatoes to spoil.

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Pretty little dried tomatoes

Store them in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dry place.  Or for fun, store them in olive oil. You can also dehydrate tomatoes in the sun and in the oven.

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