YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY TOMATOES

The following was written a few years ago, before we moved to the high desert:

“We have a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold when there are a dozen or more lined up on the glass panes of the louver windows in the kitchen. This particular window faces west where the bright afternoon sun shines through. I have canned about 8 quarts of tomatoes, so far, and froze a huge pot of tomato-zucchini spaghetti sauce made completely out of red and yellow cherry tomatoes. We haven’t been able to keep up with the bounty of cherry tomatoes…”

The tomato is the superstar of the vegetable world (even if it is, technically, a fruit), the most popular and widely grown plant in our home gardens—and with good reason, when you discover how versatile it is. Here in the USA, more than 100 varieties of tomatoes are grown to suit your every need—whether you want to can tomatoes, use them in sauces and pastes and purees – or eat them raw.
There is nothing on earth like walking out to your garden, picking a ripe tomato, brushing it off with your shirtsleeve – and biting into it! The second best way to enjoy a tomato might be to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. One of my favorite recipes is a marinated tomato recipe given to me by an Ohioan childhood friend many years ago when we were visiting relatives in Cincinnati.

Tomatoes are believed to have first been cultivated by the Indians of South America. Most food historians believe that tomatoes were probably first grown in Mexico and Peru (the name is derived from the Aztec xitomate or xtomatle depending on whose translation of Aztec you accept) though the picture is muddied by a 200 A.D. description by the Greek physician, Galen, of an Egyptian fruit which sounds very much like a tomato. However, most food historians concede the tomato’s South American origin.

Tomatoes are believed to have been brought to Europe by way of Mexico, probably by the conquistadors, where the fruit eventually found its way to Italy. The Italians called their early yellow variety of tomato “pomi d’oro”, or “apple of gold”. However, it was regarded by the rest of Europe as an ornamental plant and, perhaps in a distortion of its Italian name, was called “pomme d’amour”, or “love apple”.

Tomatoes were introduced into England in 1596 but were considered to be just ornamental plants. The vines were trained to grow on trellises where their bright colored fruit could be admired, but nobody ate the fruit.

Not until the 18th century did the tomato begin to achieve a place in European cuisine, although Elizabethans thought tomatoes were poisonous. The idea that tomatoes were dangerous is also most likely based on their being listed among the narcotic herbs in the deadly nightshade family by Pierandrea Mattioli, the Italian herbalist, in his herbal book first published in 1544. Mattioli called the tomato the golden apple and associated it with belladonna, henbane and mandrake.

Early colonists are thought to have brought tomato seeds to Virginia; however, no record of its culture exists before 1781 when Thomas Jefferson mentioned planting a crop. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that the tomato seems to have made it way to market to become a fairly common ingredient in the Creole cooking of Louisiana. However, until after the Civil war most Americans still believed tomatoes were poisonous. Actually, the leaves and stems are toxic so this is probably where this belief originated. (Curiously, the potato was also once thought to be poisonous. Like the tomato, potatoes were first grown in Europe as ornamental plants – some of the Presbyterian clergy in Scotland maintained that potatoes, since they were not mentioned in the bible, were not safe to eat).

According to the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, published in 1949 by Wm. H. Wise & Co (and one of my favorite reference books), the exact origin of the tomato is still in doubt. Various legends say that it comes from Africa, from India, or from China. Some historians say that the tomato was first found in Peru where the Spaniards, searching for Inca treasures, saw it growing in gardens. Somewhere, some time ago, I remember reading about tomato seeds being found in caves in remote parts of South America.

If you’ve ever had a compost, you would know that tomato seeds are the hardiest of seeds. Our compost in Arleta was over fifteen years old when we moved to the high desert. We’d dig from the bottom to fertilize our flowers and plants and were constantly surprised by volunteer tomato plants that sprouted up – in the middle of the marigolds, or where ever compost had been spread.

Got a glut of tomatoes in your garden? To paraphrase Wallace Windsor, the former Duchess of Windsor, you can’t be too rich or too thin…or have too many tomatoes! Here are some recipes to whet your appetite—or fill the pantry shelves.

CANNING TOMATOES

15 LBS tomatoes
boiling water
14 TBSP lemon juice, divided or 3 ½ tsp citric acid, divided
7 tsp canning salt, divided
7 1-quart canning jars and lids, sterilized

Dip tomatoes into boiling water until skins split; about 30 to 60 seconds. Plunge under cold water and peel. Core; cut into half, if desired. Set aside. Add 2 TBSP lemon juice or ½ tsp citric acid to each jar; add tomatoes. Cover with hot water leaving ½” headspace. Add 1 tsp canning salt to each jar. Remove air bubbles; secure lids. Process in a boiling water bath 45 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool. Check for seals. Makes 7 jars.

DRYING TOMATOES

Wash, quarter and blanch for about 5 minutes. Run through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Strain out the juice through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Use a little hand pressure to extract more water, then spread the remaining pulp on glass, cookie sheets or pieces of plastic. Turn the drying pulp frequently until it becomes dry flakes.
I made my dried tomato slices by simply slicing them very thin with a very sharp knife, and spreading them in a single layer on the racks of a dehydrator. I only washed and stemmed the tomatoes; I did not peel or seed them. When they were completely dry, I packed them into quart jars or I ground them to a powder using a coffee grinder)

DRIED TOMATO PASTE

Drying tomato paste in the sun is a simple and satisfying way of turning a bountiful harvest into a concentrated flavorful paste. Any tomato sauce recipe can be used but here’s a suggestion:

For every 2 LBS of ripe cut-up tomatoes, add:
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Several sprigs chopped parsley
1 sprig oregano, chopped
1 sprig thyme, chopped
1/4 bay leaf
5 crushed peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Italian plum tomatoes are best but other types can be substituted. Simmer everything together (don’t add water–just mash the tomatoes a little so they make their own juice) for an hour or so, stirring it every time you pass the stove. Now 2 or 3 cups at a time, puree the sauce in the blender, and then put it through a sieve if you wish. Put the pot of strained pulp back on the stove but turn the heat to low so that it doesn’t scorch. Simmer very slowly uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pulp is reduced by one-half and quite thick. This will take several hours (**my note-I would do this in a crock pot, on low, and leaving the lid off to make sure it doesn’t scorch)

Next, spread the pulp 1/2″ thick on plates or stainless steel cookie sheets and put out in the sun. As it starts to dry, cut through the paste in a criss-cross pattern to allow air to penetrate as much as possible. Protect it from insects with a storm or screen window, a piece of cheesecloth or netting. A day or two in the hot sun will dry the pulp to the stage where you can scrape it off the plates and form it into nonsticky balls. After the paste is rolled into balls, let them dry another day or two at room temperature, and then store them in a tightly lidded jar. To use, dilute with a little boiling water or stock, or add a couple to a batch of minestrone or spaghetti sauce.

HOME CANNED TOMATO JUICE

20 LARGE RIPE TOMATOES
1 MEDIUM GREEN OR SWEET RED PEPPER, MINCED
2 LARGE ONIONS, MINCED
1 CLOVE GARLIC, CRUSHED (OPTIONAL)
2 STALKS CELERY, DICED
1/3 CUP SUGAR
¼ CUP LEMON JUICE
1 TBSP SALT

Combine tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic, celery, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a large heavy pot. Simmer covered, over medium heat, 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes cook down to juice. Put tomatoes through food mill or fine sieve, forcing out as much juice and solids as possible.

Pour prepared juice into clean, scalded 1-quart jars. Process in boiling water bath 45 minutes. Makes 4 quarts.

TOMATO BUTTER

2 LBS red tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 LBS green tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 lemons, halves and thinly sliced (including peel) seeds removed
3 cups sugar
½ tsp ground cloves
2 TBSP minced fresh ginger root or crystallized ginger
2 TBSP chopped candied orange peel

In a large kettle, combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and cook over moderate heat until thick, about 45 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 pints.

TOMATO BUTTER (another recipe)

4 LBS (about 12 ripe) tomatoes
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Dash salt

Scald, peel, and quarter tomatoes. Cook, covered, until mushy, stirring occasionally. Measure. There should be 1 1/2 quarts. Put back in kettle and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, 45 minutes or until thick. Fill 4 hot sterilized 1/2-pint jars. Seal.

SUN DRIED TOMATO BUTTER

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped marinated sun dried tomatoes or softened (in water and drained) chopped sun dried tomatoes.
1 1/2 tsp fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
IN a food processor, combine butter, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and process until well mixed. Fold in toasted pine nuts and salt and pepper. Refrigerate or freeze until serving. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. Note: chopped fresh basil can be added to the recipe, if desired.

TOMATO SAUCE

1 oz butter
2 lbs tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
¼ – ½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low head. Add tomatoes and stir to mix with the butter. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the sugar. Partly cover the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until tomatoes have softened and the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cool and then refrigerate or freeze.

ALL-PASTA SAUCE

8 QUARTS tomatoes, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1½ lbs onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup oil
¼ Cup canning salt
½ TBSP dried oregano
1½ TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP dried parsley
¾ cup sugar
24-oz can tomato paste
2 bay leaves
6 1-qt canning jars and lids, sterilized

Grind tomatoes, green peppers and onions in batches in blender; add to large stockpot. Bring to a boil and boil gently one hour. Stir in remaining ingredients. Boil for another hour. Remove bay leaves. Spoon into hot sterilized jars, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe rims, secure lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool. Check seals. Makes 6 jars.

TOMATO MARMALADE

5 LBS tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 large oranges, peeled and peel cut in thin julienne
2 lemons, peeled and peel cut in thin julienne
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole cloves
8 cups sugar

Place tomatoes in a colander to drain excess juice. Discard pith and seeds from oranges and lemons, and chop the fruit. Tie cinnamon sticks and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth. Put the drained tomatoes, oranges and lemons, their rind, the spice bag and sugar, in a large saucepan or kettle, and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. Discard spice bag, ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 3 pints.

PEACHY TOMATO CHUTNEY

Unbelievably delicious-juicy peach pieces, currants, red and green peppers and onion in a rich spicy red-brown sauce-“The Tomato Book”

5 cups peeled and quartered ripe tomatoes
5 cups firm peeled peaches, cut into ½” dice
1 cup currants
2 large seeded green bell peppers cut into ½” dice
2 large seeded sweet red peppers, cut into ½” dice
2 large onions, peeled and cut into ½” dice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup white vinegar
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp EACH dry mustard, curry powder, and ground ginger
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large stainless steel pan. Cook at very low boil, stirring occasionally, until syrup is fairly thick and just covers the fruits (about 1¼ hours or longer). Pack the chutney into sterile jars, filling to the top. Seal, refrigerate for short term storage or for extended storage, process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

TOMATO RAISIN CHUTNEY

5 LBS tomatoes, peeled and diced, or 5 cans (16 ounces) tomatoes, cut up
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup raisins
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 TBSP ginger
2 TBSP salt
1 TBSP crushed red pepper

In large, heavy saucepan (or kettle) combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered, stirring often, until very thick, about 2 hours (about 3 hours for canned tomatoes). Ladle into hot, sterile 1/2 or 1-pint jars. Seal tightly. Cool. Store in refrigerator or freezer. Makes 2 pints.

ANOTHER TOMATO CHUTNEY

2 LBS ripe firm tomatoes
2 LBS tart green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 onions, sliced
2 cups cider vinegar
2 tsp powdered ginger
2 dried chili peppers, crumbled
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup honey

Peel and slice tomatoes into a bowl. Add apples, onions, vinegar, ginger, chili peppers and mustard seed. If you have a blender, you can grind up the tomato and apple skins and add them too. Stir, cover, and put in a cool place for overnight.

In the morning, bring this mixture in an enamel or stainless steel pot; add raisins and honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the mix is thick and rich colored. Put in clean pint jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Adjust seals and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Do not eat until it has aged at least 10 days.

TOMATO-APPLE CHUTNEY

3 QUARTS chopped tomatoes (18-20 medium sized)
3 quarts chopped apples (12 to 15 medium sized)
1 cup chopped green (bell) pepper
3 cups chopped onion
2 cups seedless raisins
4 tsp salt
4 cups vinegar
1/3 Cup whole mixed pickling spices

Combine tomatoes, apples, green pepper, onion, raisins, salt and vinegar. Put spices in a spice bag (I use a little metal tea caddy) and add to tomato mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 hr, stirring frequently. Remove spices. Pack boiling hot chutney into clean hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Adjust seals and process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 7 pints.

TOMATO PEAR CHUTNEY

2 ½ CUPS TOMATOES, quartered—fresh or canned
2 ½ cups pears, diced, fresh or canned
½ cup seedless white raisins
½ cup green pepper, chopped (1 medium)
½ cup onions, chopped (1 or 2 medium)
½ cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp powdered dry mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup canned pimientos

When fresh tomatoes or pears are used, remove skins; when canned pears are used, include syrup. Combine all ingredients except pimientos. Bring to a boil. Cook slowly until thickened (about 45 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add pimientos, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes longer. For refrigeration storage, pack the boiling hot chutney into clean hot jars, filling to the top. Seal tightly. For canning: pack the boiling hot chutney into clean hot jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Adjust seals and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove jars, complete seals if necessary. Set jars upright on rack to cool. Makes 3 to 4 half-pints

*if you want a slightly sweeter chutney, you may add honey to taste just before canning. Stir in honey until desired sweetness is reached, just before pouring into jars. The cayenne pepper may be reduced or eliminated if a less spicy chutney is desired. The best test, again, is a taste test.

SWEET & SPICY TOMATO RELISH

7 LBS ripe tomatoes
3 cups apple cider vinegar
8 cups sugar
1 TBSP. salt
1/4 cup whole cloves

Peel and chop tomatoes. Cover with vinegar and allow to soak overnight. Drain. Place tomatoes, sugar and salt in a kettle. Tie cloves tightly in a piece of cheesecloth*. Cook to the consistency of preserves. Let stand overnight. Next day, heating to boiling, remove cloves. Pour mixture into hot sterilized jars; adjust lids and seal. Makes 5 pints.

*Instead of cheesecloth, I have a little metal tea caddy that I use instead, when I have whole spices that are going to be removed from the mix.

**This recipe doesn’t say anything about a boiling water bath–with a tomato recipe, I would give it a boiling water bath for at least 15 minutes to get a good seal.

TOMATO-GINGER RELISH

1/4 CUP olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 tsp sugar
1 TBSP chopped garlic
1 TBSP chopped ginger
4 cups chopped tomatoes, seeds removed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
sugar

Heat olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sugar, and sauté, stirring, until golden, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper to taste, and cook stirring until liquid has been reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes or longer. If relish tastes acidic, add dash of sugar (Relish can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat before using).

CHERRY TOMATO RELISH

Halved cherry tomatoes and diced green chilies make a chunky relish!

1/4 CUP balsamic vinegar
4 tsps chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup drained canned diced mild green chilies
4 green onions, finely chopped
4 cups halved cherry tomatoes

Whisk vinegar and oregano in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Mix in green chilies and green onions. (Can be made 6 hours ahead). Cover, chill). Add tomatoes; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

SALSA (CANNED)

15 LBS Roma tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped
2 ¼ lbs Jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 lbs onions, chopped
2 cups apple cider
3 TBSP plus 1 tsp canning salt
25 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
½ cup sweet paprika
15 1-pint canning jars and lids, sterilized

Combine all ingredients in a 5-gallon stockpot; stir well. Heat to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Spoon into jars, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe rims. Secure lids. Process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool for 24 hours. Check for seals. Makes 15 jars.

MEXICAN SALSA (CANNED)

5 POUNDS ripe tomatoes
3 cups chopped onions
1 ¼ cups chopped, seeded chili peppers
1 cup snipped fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup apple cider or apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 TBSP canning salt
5 pint jars with lids and rings, sterilized

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Plunge into ice water and slip off skins. Core and chop tomatoes.

In a large 6-quart saucepan, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or to desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Immediately fill hot jars with mixture, leaving ½” headspace. Carefully run a non-metallic utensil down the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Wipe jar tops and threads. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. This makes 5 pints of a medium hot salsa.

ABSOLUTE SALSA (FRESH)

4 green onions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 ripe plum tomatoes OR 2 regular tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup peeled and diced red onion
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup chopped ripe olives
Salt & pepper to taste
6 dashes Tabasco (hot sauce) or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped, with seeds
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

IN A BOWL, combine all ingredients, except basil. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, add basil. Serve at room temp. Good with chips, grilled fish or chicken, or as an omelet filling or on deli meat sandwiches.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.

EL TORITO SALSA (FRESH)

2 CUPS DICED TOMATOES
½ CUP DICED ONION
1-2 TBSP FINELY DICED JALAPENO PEPPERS
1 TBSP OIL
1 TSP VINEGAR
1 TSP LIME JUICE
½ TSP MEXICAN DRIED LEAF OREGANO
¼ TSP SALT
¼ CUP FINELY CHOPPED CILANTRO

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Check seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve with tortilla chips. Ole!

TOMATO-ORANGE SALSA

3 ripe tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, chopped
½ to 1 fresh hot green chili, seeded and minced—or ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
1 orange, sectioned and seeded, each section cut in half
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Covered and refrigerated, salsa will keep 2-3 days.
Makes 2 ½ cups

SALA DE CHILE ARBOL

This salsa is considered the Tabasco sauce of Mexico. To make it look authentic, store the salsa in a very clean Corona beer bottle and seal with a cork.

15 dried chiles de arbol (long skinny red chiles sold in cellophane bags)
1 TBSP canola oil
4 small vine ripened tomatoes
¼ cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove
1 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP water
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

Wipe chiles with slightly damp paper towel to remove any dust. Snap off the stems. Heat a cast iron skillet. When hot, add canola oil & swirl. Add the chiles and toast in the oil until they turn brown (not black!). Press flat so they brown evenly. Use tongs and a spoon to turn the chiles so they toast on the other side. This will take about 3 minutes. Place on paper towel and discard the oil

Char tomatoes under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Do not peel. Place the chiles, charred tomatoes, onion, salt, garlic, water & vinegar in a blender (a food processor does not work as well) and whirr until you have a fairly smooth salsa. Pour into a clean beer bottle or an olive oil bottle and let cool to room temperature, then seal with a cork. Use immediately or store in the frig for up to 2 weeks. Recipe can be doubled.

SPICED TOMATO PRESERVES

3 Cups canned, whole tomatoes
2 lemons
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 box Sure-Jell (or whatever powdered pectin you have in your area)

Add Sure-Jell to the tomatoes which have been crushed. Add grated rind of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup lemon juice and the spices. Place over high heat and stir until mix comes to a hard boil. Add sugar, bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim, and ladle into glasses. Makes 8 glasses

QUICK TOMATO STRAWBERRY SPREAD

2 cups chopped and peeled ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3-oz package strawberry gelatin (Jello)

Bring tomatoes and sugar to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin until dissolved. Cool 10 minutes and then pour into jars. Let stand 24 hours then refrigerate or freeze.

TOMATO PRUNE JAM

12 OZ PITTED PRUNES
2 LBS RIPE TOMOATOES (4-5 MEDIUM)
BOUQUET GARNI: 1 CINNAMON STICK, 3 CLOVES, 3 ALLSPICE BERRIES, 2 LEMON PEEL STRIPS
2 TBSP LEMON JUICE
½ C. GRANULATED SUGAR
½ C. BROWN SUGAR
1 TBSP (ORE MORE TO TASTE) RED WINE VINEGAR

CUT PRUNES INTO ½” PIECES. DIP TOMATOES IN SIMMERING WATER FOR 30 SECONDS; COOL IN ICE WATER BATH. WHEN COOL ENOUGH TO HANDLE, SLIP OFF THE SKINS. FORCE OUT SEEDS INTO A FINE STRAINER AND RESERVE JUICES. COARSELY CHOP TOMATOES.
COMBINE PRUNE, TOMATOES, STRAINED JUICES, AND BOUQUET GARNI IN A DEEP NON-REACTIVE LARGE POT. COVER AND BRING TO A SIMMER. UNCOVER AND SIMMER 15 MINUTES STIRRING OFTEN. MIX WILL THICKEN AND BE FREE OF STANDING LIQUID.
STIR IN LEMON JUICE, THEN SUGARS ONE AT A TIME. CONTINUE COOKING FOR ANOTHER 10 MIN UNTIL JAM IS THICKS AGAIN AND THERMOMETER READS 208-210 DEGREES f.

REMOVE FROM HEAT, REMOVE BOUQUET, STIR IN VINEGAR. QUICKLY COOL A TABLESPOON OF JAM IN THE FREEZER AND TASTE FOR THE SLIGHTLY TART FINISH OF VINEGAR TO BALANCE THE SWEET FRUITS. ADD MORE VINEGAR IF DESIRED. PACK INTO JAM JARS. PROCESS IN BOILING WATER BATH 10 MINUTES.

TOMATO BASIL JAM

3 LBS TOMATOES
2 LEMONS
24 FRESH BASIL LEAVES, DIVIDED
1 CUP SUGAR

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, cool in ice water bath, remove skins. Coarsely chop tomatoes. Pieces and juice should measure a generous 4 cups. Place tomatoes in 4 qt non-reactive pan; cover and bring to boil, uncover and simmer 30 minutes or until jam is reduce to 2 ½ to 3 cups and free of excess moisture. While tomatoes simmer, remove yellow zest from the 2 lemons. Squeeze the juice from both lemons. Puree 12 basil leaves with half of the lemon juice. Off heat, stir in the zest and lemon juice without the basil into the tomato mix; return mix to a simmer and begin adding the sugar half cup at a time and allow the mix to regain the boil before adding more. Cook and stir frequently 10 minutes until jam thickens again. Thermometer should be at 210 degrees F. Remove from heat, add remaining lemon-basil mix. Cool a tablespoon of the jam in the freezer to check the taste. Add more lemon juice one tablespoon at a time, if needed. Cut remaining basil leaves into thin strips; fold into the jam. Fill hot jam jars…seal, process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

TOMATO ORANGE JAM

3 LBS RIPE TOMATOES
2 NAVEL ORANGES
BOUQUET GARNI: 3 CLOVES, 3 ALLSPICES BALLS, 1 SLICE FRESH GINGER

1 CUP SUGAR
2 TBSP UNSWEETENED ORANGE JUICE CONCENTRATE (OPTIONAL)
TOMATO PASTE (ALSO OPTIONAL)

Remove skins from tomatoes (as above) then chop and quarter. Force out seeds and liquid through a sieve and then chop the pulp. You should have about 4 cups of juice and tomatoes.

Remove zest from both oranges – remove white peel, then halve the orange, remove seeds and thinly slice.

Combine tomatoes with juices, orange zest, orange slices, bouquet garni in a pot – cover, bring to a boil, uncover, simmer 25 min or until mix has reduced to 3 cups. Stir in sugar half cup at a time and allow the jam to return to the simmer between additions. Cook at a simmer another 10 minutes until reduced again to 3cups. Remove from heat, remove bouquet garni…cool a tablespoon of jam for testing then add orange juice concentrate or tomato paste as needed for balance.

Fill hot jars, seal, process 10 minutes.

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

6 medium size tomatoes
4 unpeeled cloves or garlic
1 peeled onion, cut in half

Place tomatoes, garlic and onion on a cookie sheet with sides (or jelly roll pan) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cooled, peel tomatoes and garlic and puree in blender with onions. Simmer in saucepan on stovetop to desired consistency. Cool completely and freeze in plastic storage bags. Sauce may also be canned.

LINGUINE WITH CHERRY TOMATO VINAIGRETTE

(From “Chez Paisse Pasta Pizza & Calzone” by Alice Waters, 1995)

5 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Linguine for 4

1. Cut the tomatoes in half and marinate them in olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.
2. Toast the fresh bread crumbs in the oven until dry and lightly brown. Take from oven and toss with some olive oil while still warm. Cut the basil leaves into tiny ribbons.
3. Cook the pasta; while it is boiling , put the tomatoes in a pan and warm them. Add the pasta to the pan, toss together with the tomatoes, garnish with the bread crumbs and basil chiffonade and serve. Serves 4.

MOM’S FAVORITE SPAGHETTI & SAUCE

12 Roma tomatoes (about 1-3/4 lbs)
Salt, pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
½ cup olive oil
4 quarts water
1 TBSP salt
1 lb dried spaghetti
2 TBSP butter
1 bunch fresh basil (1/2 cup)

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place cut side up in 13×9” baking dish. Salt & pepper lightly. Peel and finely chop garlic. Wash parsley and pat dry. Remove and discard stems. Finely chop leaves and set aside ½ cup. Put any remaining parsley in a covered container and place in frig for later use.

Mix together garlic, half the parsley (1/4 cup) and 2 TBSP oil in a small bowl. Using a spoon or your fingers, pat garlic mix on tomatoes and drizzle on 2 more TBSP oil. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered, 45 minutes. Tomatoes should be mushy; if not, bake 10 minutes longer and test again. About 20 minutes before tomatoes are done, put water in 6 quart pot. Stir in salt and turn heat to high. When water reaches full boil, add spaghetti and stir. After about 12 minutes, start testing pieces of spaghetti every minute or so until the spaghetti feels tender but still firm. Pour water and spaghetti into colander in sink; let drain. Melt butter in small pot over low heat. Chop basil leaves into small pieces. In large serving bowl, mix together remaining parsley and olive oil, melted butter and basil. Dump in drained spaghetti and baked tomatoes. Toss together well and serve immediately.

SPICED FRESH TOMATO PUDDING

4 TBSP BUTTER, divided
6 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 4 lbs)
1 ¼ cups sugar divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups peasant or Italian bread (with crusts) cut in 1” cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven 350. Lightly grease an 8” square pan with 1 TBSP of the butter. In large saucepan, combine tomatoes, 1 cup of the sugar, spices, salt and remaining 3 TBSP of butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add bread cubes; stir until bread is well coated.
In a small bowl, stir ½ cup of the hot bread mix into egg. Gradually stir egg coated bread into remaining bread mix. Spoon mix into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup sugar. Bake about 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Can be served with sweetened whipped cream, if desired. Makes 6 servings of 1 cup each.

PAN GRILLED TOMATO SALSA

3 large meaty tomatoes, cored and cut into thick slices
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBSP Sherry vinegar or Balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron or non-stick, over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase the heat to high and cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side, very lightly, about 1 minute. If necessary work in batches to avoid overcrowding the tomatoes.

Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a large shallow dish and as the tomatoes are done, turn them into the mixture. Season and serve as a side dish or a sauce for grilled or roasted fish or chicken. Salsa can also be refrigerated for a day or two; bring to room temperature before serving.
**

UNCOOKED CUMIN-TOMATO RELISH

2 tsp cumin seeds or 1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ lbs plum or other tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
½ red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and minced, if desired
1 TBSP minced onion
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
2 TBSP chopped cilantro

If you’re using cumin seeds, place them in a small dry skillet and toast over medium head shaking pan occasionally, just a minute or two until they are fragrant. Finely grind all but ½ tsp.

Combine the ground cumin, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, salt, cayenne and lime juice; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Just before serving, toss with cilantro and reserved cumin seeds. Makes about 2 cups.

To misquote Ed McMann, Now you’ve learned EVERRRRYthing there is to know about canning tomatoes…but really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Watch for another article on my blog about using tomatoes in various other recipes. I think I could write a cookbook just about tomatoes; whenever I see a recipe using tomatoes, I have to clip it out. I just love tomatoes. I hope you do too!

Happy Cooking!
Sandy

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5 responses to “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY TOMATOES

  1. Nancy Williams

    Another amazingly comprehensive, stimulating post. Just wants to make me find a job as cook for some sort of group and launch right through all of these recipes.
    I always use my iron skillet to dry toast and find that this step has a huge flavor impact. Do you use an iron skillet, or just any skillet?

    • Thanks Nancy – and in answer to one of your questions about an iron skillet – I have been cooking with cast iron skillets for over 50 years. I have different sizes plus a Dutch oven.

    • HI Nancy, did I ever respond to this and tell you that I have a lot of cast iron skillets? I use my biggest one a lot. Also have a cast iron dutch oven but the lid was glass and not cast iron – and finally got broken. I just put an ordinary lid on it. I love cast iron skillets.

  2. Gerri Anderson

    One of my favorite lunches and the absolute most easy one to create is hot-out-of-the-oven Bran Muffins cut in half, slathered in butter and on each half put a slice of sweet white onion and then a slice of garden fresh tomato. (Select both an onion and tomato that fits on the Bran Muffin.) Salt & Pepper & U R in for a treat!!

    • Oooh this sounds really good Gerri! I make a big batch of “six week” bran muffins that keeps in the frig for up to 6 weeks (if you dont bake them all before that) – are you using a homemade bran muffin? I would have never thought of putting tomato and onion on a bran muffin. It does sound good though (lol. I havent had breakfast yet though). – Sandy

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