It seems that the harder one works to be self sufficient, the harder one works. Seriously. Man, I just processed four boxes full of tomatoes. It took me two days, my kitchen’s been through WW3, and I’ve washed more stock pots in the last two days than… nevermind…I wash a lot of stock pots. All the time, washing stock pots.
The tomatoes were a gift from someone with a generous heart. An older man in his 70s, who’s been plagued by his own health problems of late, wasn’t deterred from running to a farmer friend of his and obtaining 4 large boxes of tomatoes, one large box of peppers and a basket-full of onions, and driving them up our dusty hill in the backseat of his old sedan. He’d heard our tomatoes had become diseased and very few were harvest-able. “Figure this ought to be enough for about 60 quarts of sauce.” was his humble proclamation. Bless him.
I thanked him profusely, this kind man who went out of his way to provide for someone, and after he left, I rolled up my sleeves and announced to my children that, ahem, “Sauce- making will be taking the place of our regular school lessons for a couple days. And everyone will be helping.”
I had never processed this many tomatoes at one time and I was a little nervous, but it couldn’t wait- they sat there in those boxes practically over-ripening before my eyes. With excitement for Monday building, I stayed up in bed that night, way too late, with Kindle in hand, scouring the internet for “large recipe, fresh tomato sauce.” I found one that I only had to quadruple, and followed it to a “t” the next day. And this is what I learned:
Scouring and peeling that many tomatoes is for the birds.
That’s how we did it the first day, and we got through half of them, but what. a. mess.
Charlotte was man-ing the washing and scoring station. She would pluck a tomato from it’s box, wash it in a pot of cool water, and score the bottoms. She was a great little washer/scorer. She would then bring them to the counter next to the stove to be place in the boiling water for approximately one minute, or until their skins started to crack. They then were transferred to an ice bath in the scrubbed-clean kitchen sink. The boiling and transfer of steaming hot tomatoes was my job. Ava, standing next to the sink with a compost bucket on one side and a large stainless steel bowl on her other, would then remove the tomatoes, peel them, squeeze out some seeds and any excess water and place them into the bowl. The peels and seeds went into the bucket. The tomatoes were then transferred to a cutting board to be roughly chopped before being added to the stockpot already 1/3 full of sautéed peppers, onions, and garlic. All this, times 50 hundred sloppy tomatoes.
It wasn’t long before we realized what a mess this created. The tomatoes were inevitably waterlogged from the scourging and there was tomato juice and water and seeds everywhere.
We did finish up that day- including several good moppings of ourselves and the kitchen- and ended up with several quarts of tomato soup and spaghetti sauce (which was simmered for several hours on the stovetop and then transferred to a roasting pan to finish thickening in the oven).
I considered the day a success, but I kind of dreaded the task, and the mess, the next day.
However, I woke with an epiphany. Why did the skins and seeds necessarily need removed? The truth is, you lose a lot of flavor when you take away the skin and seeds. Of course, no one wants to chew on slices of tomato skin either…
Enter the food processor.
I’m sure I’m not the first to have thought of this, but I was thrilled to figure out that I cut my sauce making time and mess literally in half by chopping the washed, raw tomatoes into large chunks and placing them (minus the core) into the food processor to pulverize them- skin, seeds, and all. Everything pureed down beautifully and there was no trace of skin. The contents were then dumped right into the pot, and continued as usual.
There was literally no difference in consistency between the first batch and the second. And we saved hours!
I also used this method to make diced tomatoes, using the pulse button on the processor.
I guess they call that trial and error. But you can rest assured that in the future, this will be my go-to way to process tomatoes.
Phewy, on that boiling and ice water bath and messy peeling nonsense.
I still have peppers and onions left, the peppers fading fast. So tomorrow I suppose I’ll be dicing and freezing a fair share of peppers and onions. And why not use that good ‘ol food processor again. I think, in fact, I will.
So, if you’ve quickly scanned this post to the bottom and missed How to Make Fresh Tomato Sauce the Easy Way, here it is again: Don’t boil and peel your tomatoes- put them in the food processor skins and seeds and all.
What’s your favorite kitchen hack?