Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tomato time

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.

Quin had a good go at this for ten minutes before he lost interest!

The sauce then goes into a sieve (such as an old bed sheet) in order to drain as much water as possible.

We left it to drain for a couple of hours while we had lunch (should have been pasta and wine but wasn't). Then you're ready to bottle. We use Fowler's Vacola, which involves cleaning jars, seals and lids and then putting the sauce in. Then you simply put a clip over the lid and boil them in a water bath for an hour or so to preserve them. Et voila (or whatever they say in Italian), leave them overnight and they will be vacuum sealed and preserved, should keep for years. We got 29 litres of sauce from 40kg of fruit, not bad for a few hours work divied up between three families.

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... 

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  1. Good stuff. Interesting to see the juice dripping onto the verandah - I'm sure I saw Jamie Oliver make a clear tomato soup by straining the juice from tomatoes.

    1. We use our car to dry stuff too. Sultanas last week.
      I know what you mean about the bananas, we have 5 or 6 bunches out there. I'm hoping they don't all ripen the same week!