This year, rather distressingly, I ran out of canned tomatoes in April, which led to a long and rather anxious wait until the tomato season rolled around again.
Yes, you can buy canned tomatoes, and no, I probably can’t tell the difference, once they are all mushed up in sauce or stew or soup. But I still prefer my own. I know the ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, perhaps some salt), I like knowing where they came from, and I like the taste.
So while last year we made up half a bushel of the stuff, this year we upped that to 1.5 bushels and I still fret it won’t be enough, especially as the spoils get split three ways this year compared to two in 2010.
But three people definitely make life easier when you’re talking bulk like this, and we got quite a production line going for peeling, crushing, chopping and juicing.
We started with simple crushed tomatoes, because they are so easy and they taste so good, although all the books warn you to be careful with the quantities to avoid botulusm contamination. It’s really simple. Peel and crush tomatoes, cook them down a little, perhaps with salt and slosh them into jars which each have a spoonful of bottled lemon juice at the bottom.
Then boil the living daylights out of the sealed up jars — 35 minutes for the 500 ml jars — and save for the days when tomatoes in the store taste of nothing and you want to remember what they really should be like.
After that we switched to Italian tomato sauce, which tastes wonderful, but takes forever because there’s so much deseeding, chopping, boiling and simmering. It had onion, garlic, carrots and peppers, as well as salt and pepper. The recipe said celery, but I vetoed that. Celery, someone once told me, is the only thing that actually takes more calories to digest than you get from eating it, and I can’t stand the stuff.
A couple of tips for next time, which is actually tomorrow because we couldn’t face finishing off that final box and need to try again.
- Give yourself a couple of days between buying tomatoes and canning them to give them a chance to ripen a little more. They will taste better and they might even be easier to peel.
- And nick each tomato after you toss it in boiling water for its deskinning bath. I started doing that midway through and was amazed how much easier it was they were to peel. We could have saved a lot of time and energy.
- Save the seeds/liquid that comes when you poke the seeds out to make the sauce. It makes a wonderful home made tomato juice, but it’s not just that. I used it instead of stock or water for an amazing tomato shrimp risotto today, with fresh corn and zucchini and jumbo shrimp added right at the end.
In fact, because I’m going to forget what I did if I don’t write it down, here’s the recipe for that risotto. All measurements are approximate.
Shrimp tomato risotto
2 cloves garlic
spices to taste (I used cumin, black pepper and a little cinnamon)
2 handfuls of arborio rice
2 cups of the liquid that comes from seeding half a bushel of tomatoes
a squirt of sriracha (or something else to give it a kick)
fresh vegetables (I used 1 orange pepper, 1 zucchini and kernels cut from one ear of corn)
6-12 raw shrimp (I used thawed frozen)
chopped cilantro (I could have used parsley)
Fry onion gently in olive oil until soft, then add garlic. Add whatever spice you are using (saffron would have been good too, but I didn’t have saffron), then add rice and fry until coated. Add tomato liquid, bit by bit, and when that runs out keep going with stock or water. Toward the end of the cooking, when the rice is tasting almost cooked, add sriracha, then vegetables. Just before it’s done, bury the shrimp in the hot rice, cover the dish and leave on a very, very low heat for another 10 minutes or so. Stir in cilantro right at the end and eat.
Sorry. No picture. You’ll have to make do with lots and lots of jars instead.
- 30 jars crushed tomatoes
- 11 jars tomato sauce
- 3 tupperware boxes of tomato seeds/juice
- another half box of tomatoes waiting to be attacked