September 22, 2010 § 23 Comments
1 — Get up early. Have a big mug of coffee.
2 — Enlist a friend or loved one to accompany you (you’ll see why in a sec) to your local farmers’ market. Present your morning’s mission to your companion: to find the best darned tomato in the market. Sample all of the tomatoes; compare notes. Go to the farm stand that had the unilaterally best tomatoes and ask how much they’ll charge you for a 20-30 pound box (SFoodie reported prices at $1.60-$2 per pound for a box. I got a 30-pound box for 30 cents per pound at Alemany Farmers’ Market from the stand right near the Putnam Street entrance; they weren’t certified organic, but I asked, and the farm doesn’t spray and uses sustainable farming practices).
3 — Ask your companion very nicely to help you lug the box back to the car and into your abode.
4 — Put on clothes you don’t mind getting tomato-ey, and an apron.
5 — In your kitchen:
- Clear and clean counter space.
- Set up your biggest cutting board on the counter. Fold paper towels length-wise and nestle them around your cutting board to catch the tomato juices that will run away once you start cutting up tomatoes.
- Sharpen your favorite knife.
- Set up the other kitchen utensils you’ll need, depending on what you’re making (see recipes below).
- Turn on some lively music — whatever pumps you up.
- Pour yourself a glass of wine or pop open a beer (by now, it might be noon — at least, it is somewhere).
6 — Let the extravaganza begin!
I’ve ordered these roughly along the lines of how tasty they are relative to input of time and effort:
(1) OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES – Easy-peasy, super flavorful, very versatile and freezable
(2) TOMATO JAM – The sweet-savory punch is, in my mind, completely worth it; while it takes some time to prepare (and more if you plan to can it), the recipe is relatively simple
(3) TOMATO SAUCE – Time-intensive but not technically difficult, and fresh tomato sauce, especially in the winter, is a treat
(4) CANNED TOMATOES – Time-intensive and takes some technique (more on my simultaneous interest in / fear of canning in a later post), but then again…tomatoes in January? Awesome
Specific recipes are below, including the volume of tomatoes I used and yields I got and serving notes.
(1) OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES
Volume: 3 pounds of small-ish tomatoes –> 56 tomato halves
Total Time: 4-6 hours + 15 minutes. Prep: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 4-6 hours
Planning Notes: The prep is minimal, and you can roast these while you’re watching TV. Or, if you want, you can prep the tomatoes and stick them in the oven before you go to bed. Just remember to set your alarm to get up and take them out of the oven so you don’t end up with tomato hockey pucks.
Thank you to Chiot’s Run for the inspiration for this recipe (click here for hers).
However many tomatoes you want to roast
Chopped herbs, if you like (I used basil, but oregano would be tasty too)
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and drain in a colander.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice smaller tomatoes in half, larger ones into quarters. Arrange them on top of the parchment paper on the baking sheet, leaving ¼ inch or so between the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle chopped herbs on top of tomatoes if using. Put in oven (middle rack).
Tomatoes should shrink considerably (see pictures below); be curled up around the edges and about as firm to the touch in the middle as the meaty part of your palm (under your thumb) while still slightly moist; and taste like sweet-tangy, concentrated tomato.
Check in four hours. If the tomatoes meet the description above, take them out and let them cool on the pan. If they don’t, roast them for another one to two hours.
Once cool, you can pack into freezer bags; squeeze out the air before sealing. Or, you can put in an air-tight container and store in the fridge for a few days.
Great in salads, with eggs (chopped in omelets or egg scrambles; in an egg sandwich), on pizza, tossed into pasta or plain.
(2) TOMATO JAM
Volume: 3 pounds of tomatoes –> 24 ounces
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes; approx. 1 hour 45 minutes if canning. Prep: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes + 10 minutes processing time if canning
Planning Notes: If you’re canning the jam, make sure your jars, lids and rings are washed. Then, start bringing water to simmer in your boiling-water canner and put the jars in a 225 degree oven to sterilize them before you prep the jam ingredients.
I basically used Mark Bittman’s recipe (click here)
Notes On The Recipe
I doubled the recipe as I was canning it, so I used 1 large jalapeno and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne as I wanted a mellow heat to offset the sweetness, vs. a spicy jam. If you’re making the recipe as is, you could just use the jalapeno or do half of a jalapeno and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne.
Simmering the jam 1 hour 15 minutes as Bittman instructs did not yield a thick jam consistency for me, so I brought the jam to boil to the “gelling point”. There are three ways to test for the gelling point, but in my opinion the easiest way is the plate test: put 2 small plates in the freezer before you start cooking the jam. Bring the jam to boil; when it starts getting to a thick jam consistency, place a spoonful on the plate, put it back in the freezer for 1-2 minutes, take it out and run your finger through the jam. If the jam separates and slowly returns to its original form (vs. running right back together), it’s ready. If it runs right back, cook it 1-2 minutes longer and repeat the test with the clean plate.
Here’s my favorite: Slather this on a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit (click here for my favorite cream biscuit recipe), and accompany it with a finger of smoky-sweet bourbon.
Also great on toast, eggs, fish and chicken.
(3) TOMATO SAUCE
Volume: 6 pounds 7 ounces of tomatoes –> 2 ½ pints (about 3 pounds tomatoes per pint, or 6.5 pounds tomatoes per quart)
Total Time: Approx. 2 hours; 2 hours 40 minutes if canning. Prep: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 1 hour 40 minutes + 35-40 minutes processing time if canning
Planning Notes: If you’re canning the sauce, make sure your jars, lids and rings are washed. Then, start bringing water to simmer in your boiling-water canner and put the jars in a 225 degree oven to sterilize them before you prep the sauce.
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
However many tomatoes you want to use for sauce
Bottled lemon juice if canning the sauce (the lemon juice acidifies the sauce so it doesn’t go bad; using bottled lemon juice is key because the acid level is consistent, whereas fresh lemons vary in acidity)
Seasonings, if you like: chopped herbs, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper (I made mine without since I use tomato sauce in a variety of recipes that may not go well with certain seasonings)
Wash the tomatoes and drain in a colander. Slice in half, cut out the stem/core. Cut into quarters.
Simmer 20 minutes in a large saucepot, stirring occasionally.
Puree tomatoes in a blender or food mill. Strain puree through a sieve to remove seeds and skins into a clean, large saucepot.
Cook juice over medium-high heat until it thickens and reduces by about half, or to desired consistency. This will take, depending on the volume of tomatoes you use, about 45 minutes.
If freezing, pour into sterilized jars or air-tight plastic containers and let cool before placing in freezer.
If canning, put lids in a saucepan of water and bring to a simmer (but don’t boil or a seal won’t form). When the sauce is ready, put 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice into each pint jar or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice into each quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into a jar, doing one jar at a time, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim clean with a damp, clean paper towel or cloth; put lid on jar; screw on ring until finger-tight and place in boiling-water canner. Repeat process with remaining jars. Bring boiling-water bath to roiling boil, and from that point, process 35 minutes for pints, 40 minutes for quarts.
Great for use in chili, stews, pasta and pizza.
(4) CANNED TOMATOES
Volume: 15 pounds of tomatoes –> 13 ½ pints (about 1 – 1 ½ pounds of tomatoes per pint)
Total Time: Approx. 4 hours for 15 pounds. A lot longer with more tomatoes
Planning Notes: This is at least a half-day affair, all day if you’re doing a lot more tomatoes than 15 pounds. Just plan on being up to your arms (literally) in tomatoes, and don’t plan on much else that day!
I referenced The Bitten Word’s handy photo narrative and video (click here) and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Notes On The Recipe
According to The Joy Of Cooking, if you’re doing a huge load of tomatoes, instead of blanching them a few at a time in boiling water and then putting them in an ice bath, you can place tomatoes in a single layer in a large roasting pan, cover with boiling water, let cool and then slip off the skins. I didn’t try it, but it sounds a lot easier than the blanching / ice bath / peeling assembly line I did!
Great for use in tomato soup, chili and stews all winter.
Did you find this post helpful? Would you make any of these recipes? If so, please vote above or comment below!