Monday, July 1, 2013

Q & A on Tomato Processing

     Summer in the south means tomatoes, and plenty of them. As local friends and family share in the bounty, they also share in the joy of preserving their harvests. Several comments, questions, and bouts of exasperation have crossed my message box. From skins to seeds, to aching feet from all day at the stove, many of us are frustrated and quite aggravated with the process.

      Let's address issue number one: skins. Few things ruin the delicious joy of fresh tomato sauce like a nasty       piece of skin. My grandmother stood at the sink with paring knives skillfully skinning their home grown tomatoes before cooking them; I hated that. It seems the crafty knife skills they possess skipped me. Some ladies blanch them before peeling to release the skins; they slip right off. Not my thing either. Instead, I oven roast my tomatoes, sliced in half, drizzled with olive oil, and salted. The meaty tomato goodness slips out of the skin leaving a roasted caramelized goodness. Unbeatable flavor- and so easy.

      Next issue of disaster: seeds. For some this is just as irritating an issue as skins, yet, seeds don't bother me. I have never 'seeded' my tomatoes before saucing or cooking. When I roast my tomatoes either in the oven, or the crock pot, the juices cook down to a nice consistency. If you are determined not to have seeds, scoop them after roasting. They are gel-like and easy to scoop.
      The last big issue: thickening the sauce. You bet my grannies stood there stirring all day; not me. No time for that on my homestead. Oven roasted or crock pot roasted tomatoes are mashed, blended, or run through a mill to give me the sauce/salsa texture and consistency I need. Longer roasting lends thicker sauce, while a shorter roasting will keep it more loose.

      Just a few notes from me:
      * I do roast my cherry tomatoes for sauces and find running them through a food mill is the easiest way to deal with those little skins.
      * Yellow tomatoes for sauce? Sure. Only once did I make a 'yellow' only sauce- my family said it was quite unattractive, so these days I mix the yellows in with the red tomatoes. Bear in mind..yellow tomatoes have lower acid content, so they really need the addition of a lemon juice or balsamic vinegar before canning.
       * Freeze tomatoes? Of course. Sauced tomatoes are frozen in two cup portions. It will be a bit more watery when thawed. Frozen whole tomatoes? Only when I am in a time crunch. Like I said, a bit more watery when thawed.
        * Water bath or pressure? Water bath. Tomatoes have a nice acidity level, lending well to this method. If you have added other veggies to your sauce, or are canning a meat tomato sauce then pressure is better.

        I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to share your experiences with us. Our harvests are the results of our hard work; let's preserve them as efficiently and as successfully as possible.

For the original posts on our method of making sauce, please go here for the oven version, or here for the crock pot version.


Michelle said...

I do my tomatoes the same way. I love the flavor the oven gives them. After they are done I put them in my food processor with my spices and puree them. The spices blend into the sauce as I give it a water bath. The seed aren't a problem, in the final process you can't see or taste them.

Simply Scaife Family said...

Excellent! Thanks for sharing, Michelle.