January is the time of year we start to think about preserving tomatoes. In the summer they are cheap and plentiful and fresh and yummy. Last weekend we had some unusually cool weather (26C, cloudy), so we took advantage of it by doing some tomato paste the Italian way. We loaded up the bike with our two Vacola sets and set off down the road to Hulbert Street.
Shani had bought 40kg of tomatoes for $32 at the local Italian grocer, which she had washed the night before. We had a quick cuppa and then got to work. The process is pretty simple: chop the fruit in quarters and pass it through a special tomato press (this removes the skin and seeds). Pass the skin and seeds through the press twice more to get all the juices out.
When you use the sauce you need to cook it for 30-60 minutes to get the best flavour and nutritional value and to reduce a bit. Add garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
We also scored some cherry tomatoes from Hilton Harvest. We wash them and remove the stork, then chop them up and place cut side up on an old fly screen. This then goes in the car to bake for a couple of days or until totally dry. Put them in a jar (no salt, no oil, just au naturel) and you're done, as long as they're dry they will keep for 6 months plus. We use these as a tomato paste replacement in soups and stews.
Last but not least come the classic tinned whole tomatoes. Just blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or two. Then pop them in cold water and the skins should peel off fairly easily. Then bottle them up as above with some tomato juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice.
We normally do 40kg to keep us going until next summer. 20 kg down, 20 more to do this year...