Sunday, 18 February 2018

Tomatoes - lots of tomatoes

Its that time of year again. Late summer and the tomatoes are ripening fast.
There's only so many tomato sandwiches you can eat and a few more get used in summer salads so what can you do with the rest?
Here are some ideas so your surplus tomatoes don't go to waste.

Preserved tomatoes: Tomatoes are relatively easy to preserve. I mostly use the Fowlers preserving system as you can see in the photo but I have also tried hot packs in normal screw top jars which works just as well. I bottle whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and tomatoes packed in tomato puree.

Yackandandah Community Garden has several fowlers outfits available for community use. They can be booked at Yackandandah Community Centre.

Passata: The Yackandandah Community Garden has run a couple of passata days to show how this traditional Italian tomato pure is preserved. There are many ways to get passata but basically you just need to puree the tomatoes, bottle the sauce then heat treat the jars to preserve the contents. You can puree your tomatoes either before or after cooking them with a food processor, blender or sieve. A passata machine takes a lot of the work out of pulping the tomatoes and removes all the seeds and skins.
There is a Community Garden passata machine available for community use from the Yackandandah Community Centre.

Sun Dried tomatoes: Great for party nibbles or for added flavour in salads and very simple to do. Simply cut tomatoes into 1-2cm thick slices and place them on a tray in the sun for a few days (bring them inside at night or if rain threatens) until they reach your desired consistency. If you let them dry right out they will store in a sealed container in the pantry for use in winter soups and stews. We prefer them semi dried so the partly dry tomatoes are packed into jars, covered with olive oil and sealed then kept in the fridge. You can add garlic or other flavours to the jar if you like. I prefer Roma tomatoes for drying. They are just the right size when cut in half and are not as juicy as some varieties so the don't take too long to dry. Cherry tomatoes are just a bit too small and dry out to ultra thin tomato chips.
If drying food in the sun worries you dry them inside in a dehydrator. Your community Garden group also has a dehydrator available from the Community Centre.

Tomato paste: I cut up the tomatoes then cook them gently until soft then run the mixture through my Mouli mill. A blender or food processor should achieve the same outcome. The puree then goes back on the stove with any flavours and is cooked gently again to infuse the flavours and reduce the sauce some more. Remember to stir regularly or it can burn on the bottom of the pan. You could reduce it to the final paste consistency on the stove but I usually pour the mixture into my drying trays and sit it in the sun until it reaches final paste stage. That may take a couple of days. As for dried tomatoes, bring the trays inside or under cover at night or if it rains. The photo shows a tray of pizza sauce drying. I've added onion, herbs and garlic to the basic tomato puree for extra flavour.

Pasta Sauce: Cook up tomatoes, celery, capsicum, onion or whatever combination you like. When it has reached the desired consistency pour into warmed jars, seal and process in the oven, microwave or water bath to sterilise and vacuum seal the jars. This is great for a quick, easy winter meal - just cook some pasta and open a jar of your very own sauce. There's a bottle of pasta sauce on the right of the photo at the top of this post.

If you've got any good ideas for surplus tomatoes let us know so we can share them with others.



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