Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomatoes for All My Friends

As I mentioned in my last post, tomato season is at full tilt, but summer is starting  to fade into fall and those of us thinking we had all the time in the world to preserve summer’s bounty of tomatoes have suddenly come to the realization that we’d better get on it or lose our opportunity… so my tomato canning buddy and I purchased amazing  tomatoes from Soil Born Farms and did our cursory 80lbs
of canned tomatoes last Friday, netting us each about 14 quart jars of lovely fruit to enjoy all winter in hearty soups, stews and all things tomato, and next Friday we are hoping to whip up marinara sauce and tomato jam, so that we won’t be caught without.  But I personally decided that I wanted to try something new this year, so I ordered a 22 lb. box of the most beautiful Roma tomatoes from Full Belly Farm, the folks we get our CSA boxes from, and set about producing some tomato paste.  For some reason I seem to use a lot of tomato paste and the ‘good stuff’ can get spendy, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I looked up the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  It’s a pretty straight forward recipe, basically cutting up the tomatoes, dumping them in a pot and cooking them down to…paste.  They added some red bell peppers and garlic which I eliminated as I wanted just a straight tomato flavor, but otherwise I did what they said.   It explained that the ‘cook down’
portion would take about 2 ½ hours to reach ‘mound on a spoon’ consistency.  Well I am here to tell you that either those food scientists at Ball know something I don’t - which is all together possible - or they are on some sort of medication that makes time move really fast, because after 2 ½ hours my tomatoes no more looked like paste than I do.  So after 6 ½ hours, yes you read that right, I had a product that would ‘mound’ in my spoon and resembled something I would describe as paste.  All in all I would probably do this again and I would still describe the process as simple, it’s just not something to be done in an afternoon…lesson learned. 

Tomato Paste

Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

22LBS   Roma Tomatoes

4           Bay Leaves

2 tsp    Salt

Bottled Lemon Juice

1.        Wash and sort tomatoes.  Quarter 6 tomatoes and transfer to a large stainless steel pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Using a potato masher, crush tomatoes to release juices.  While maintaining a boil and stirring to prevent burning, quarter additional tomatoes, adding them to thepot as you work.  Make sure the mixture continues to boil vigorously while you add, stir and crush the remaining tomatoes.  When all the tomatoes have been added, reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are very soft, about 1 hour.
2.       Working in batches, press mixture through a fine sieve, or food mill to remove skins and seeds.  Discard skins and seeds.
3.       Return mixture to pot.  Add bay leaves and salt.  Return to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick enough to mound on a spoon - about 6 ½ hours.  Discard bay leaves.
4.       Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.
5.       Before filling each jar with tomato paste, add 1 ½ tsp lemon juice to the hot jar.  Ladle hot paste into prepared jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding hot paste.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar.  Screw band down until tight.
6.       Place jars in canner, bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Remove jars, cool and store.

Aside from the time issue, I did end up with 13 - ½ pint jars of tomato paste which made me pretty happy and next time I will know to set aside a day, not just a couple hours…