Whether I want to admit it or not, our amazing summer is coming to a close and the abundance of tomatoes are disappearing with the waning days. This year, however, I am determined to capture summer in jars so we can enjoy throughout the winter.
The traditional way to preserve tomatoes is by canning (more about that another day). But if you are timid or don’t want to devote the attention, there is still a way to easily break down your tomatoes into a puree that you can bottle up and keep in the freezer.
My daughter and I were at the farmers market recently where we discovered large cardboard boxes full of super ripe, end-of-season tomatoes marked with a special discount. We looked through and discovered they were not bruised or old, just the end of a crop and they needed to move. After a moment of debate, we loaded the large box into our car, feeling excited and full of inspiration.
The box landed with a thump onto the counter and we took a look at the box, then at each other. Fear began to set in…what were we doing? As with any adventure, you sometimes need to dive right in. So we did.
I cut around the stem of each tomato to remove the core, then quartered and removed any discolored bits. As each tomato was prepped, it was then dumped into a pan for my daughter to press and stir with a potato masher (a wooden spoon could be used, too). Bubbling and boiling while stirring over high heat, the tomatoes quickly break down and we continue to boil until they dissolve.
While you can accomplish this next step with a fine mesh strainer, using a food mill is much easier and worth a purchase if you don’t already have one. It is a valuable and inexpensive addition to any kitchen and can be used with fruit and vegetables year round.
Using a food mill, we quickly churn through all of the tomato pulp. The food mill removes all of the peel and seeds leaving behind only beautiful tomato puree. The puree can then be boiled to thicken. We spoon the cooled puree into jars and place in the refrigerator overnight then onto a shelf in our freezer.
We worked our way from box to puree in about an hour, not including cleanup, so it’s easier and more enjoyable to work as a team. Transforming the rough box of tomatoes into perfectly packaged jars is surprisingly satisfying. So much so that we are tempted to buy another box of tomatoes while they are still around.
Fall is almost here and the tomatoes will soon be gone but the great taste of summer is now at hand. If we keep it up, we might have enough of the summer season to enjoy all winter long.
- Tomatoes (best varieties are plum or San Marzano because of its firm flesh but most varieties will do.)
- *With the variety of tomatoes available, it is virtually impossible to give exact amounts.
- The following is a technique rather than a traditional recipe.
- Garlic Cloves, peeled
- Using a sharp serrated knife, cut out the stem of each tomato. Slice into quarters lengthwise.
- Remove any yellow or white parts of the tomato and place into a large stockpot over high heat. If using garlic, add to the tomatoes.
- Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes and garlic, if using, into a pulp and continue to stir and mash for about 10 minutes over high heat until completely dissolved.
- Let cool for a minute.
- In batches, place tomato mash into a food mill fitted with the small or medium-small disc(holes should be just a little smaller than seeds so that they do not go into the puree). Turn the handle back and forth and puree the tomatoes into a bowl. Discard the seeds and skin left in the mill. OR Place tomato mash into a fine mesh strainer and press against the mesh using a wooden spoon to extract the puree into a bowl.
- Check consistency and if you desire a less watery puree (I do), pour the puree back into the rinsed large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil and stir occasionally until thickened to desired consistency.
- Wash in a dishwasher and keep warm until ready to use.
- Remove the puree from the heat let cool until steam no longer escapes when stirred. About 10-15 minutes depending on the quantity of tomatoes.
- Ladle tomato puree into the warm jars leaving about 2 inches from the top of the jar.
- Once all jars are filled, place lids on, then secure with rings. Place jars in the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, place your jars into the freezer until ready to use.
- You don't need much advance notice to defrost your puree. If you think of it, take out in the morning and let defrost all day in the fridge. For last-minute use, remove lid and place jar in hot, NOT BOILING, water and let sit for a few minutes, or rinse under hot water from the faucet. Check and see if defrosted around the edges, then pour puree into a pan and heat over medium heat, mashing with a wooden spoon until the puree is completely defrosted.
Links to equipment is provided as a resource in hopes it is helpful. It is exactly the same equipment I own, except for the stockpot (but I have something very similar). It is important to note that I do receive a very small compensation for purchases, which might buy me a cup of coffee. I just hope the picture and reviews are helpful.