Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the great tomato debate

For the second week in a row, as I was picking my farm share, I once again thought that it was a fabulous idea to purchase a box filled with 25 pounds of tomatoes that needed to be dealt with within the next 6 hours. No matter that I have had a rough time of freezing tomatoes. My eyes went all glassy and I probably mumbled something about food for the winter. And that is how I found myself making tomato sauce at 11:00 last night.
People make all sorts of claims on the freezability of tomatoes. All I know is the ways that I have tried have resulted in me defrosting curdled tomatoes with a texture of really old milk. So I'm trying it two ways this year. Last week's tomatoes I treated in the following manner:

Core and quarter the tomatoes. Spread on a parchment lined backing sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fresh herbs and crushed garlic if you wish. Roast in a 400 degree oven until the tomatoes dry out, about an hour. If you have more time, roast in a 250 degree oven for two to four hours, and this will be a bit more superior. Cool and load into freezer bags. This is the method prescribed by my friend Elizabeth Keen of Indian Line Farm. And she certainly knows how to deal with an excess of tomatoes.

Last night (and nearly into the morning), however, I made sauce. And let it be known here that I have always been lazy with my tomato sauce. I don't tend to take the skins off, and I have never "coaxed the seeds out" as Alice Waters puts it. But last night, I did it all. And oh, the horror.

Yup, I really showed those tomatoes. Here is my recipe...

25 pounds of tomatoes
4 White onions (I used fresh eating onions), diced
2 heads of garlic, diced
the leaves of 3 large stems of basil, roughly chopped
fresh oregano leaves (to taste)
3/4 cup really good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Set aside a large work area. Cut a small t in the bottom of each tomato (thank you Molly for this tip). Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute, or until the skin starts to separate. Then drop in ice water for a moment. Peel off the skins.
Okay, here's the part where you make a big mess and stop wanting to ever see a tomato again.
Core and seed the skinless tomatoes. I did the majority of this work with my hands, but a knife will come in handy at times. Try to preserve as much of the meat as possible. And save whatever juice you can scoop up from the counter.
Get a very large pot. Heat the olive oil a bit, throw in the onions and then stir them around every so often for about 10 minutes, or until they are nice and shiny. Then add the garlic, then the tomatoes and juice. Gently boil for about 45 minutes, adding the herbs, salt and pepper along the way. Cover, then bring to a full boil. Don't take the lid off! Turn off the stove and finally fall into bed. Your sauce will stay sealed and sterile all night, and the flavors will meld. (Thank you Molly, again) In the morning, cook uncovered for another 30 minutes or so. Then, eith put some of the sauce in the blender for a few seconds, or better yet, use an immersion blender till it's blended but still chunky. Cool and freeze.

So those are the two methods. In a few months, we will revisit this issue, to see how they froze.

I can hardly bear the suspense...


  1. I am with you and Liz on the idea of freezing bags of roasted tomatoes. I have pureed a roasted batch this week that became soup when I added a cup of milk to it. Now, I will turn down the heat and let the trays roast. I really prefer that method. Will decide about pureeing them when I see how they look. xo Tomato-days. Love, S

  2. Malissa Bradshaw PipkinAugust 27, 2011 at 4:05 AM

    If you really want to be lazy try using a juicer. That's what I do. I peel first and run through twice. I peel so I can save the pulp and can it since I Use the pulp in soups and stews so I don't mind the seeds.