Can’t eat it now? Preserve it!
Over the last few months my tomato plants have been producing more fruit than I’ve been able to eat (and believe me, I’ve eaten a lot of tomatoes). I’ve given a fair amount away, but I’ve also been dicing and freezing what remained of each week’s harvest to eat once the season is over.
I’m moving house this weekend, which means unplugging the freezer, so I figured I’d better take action and do something to preserve my frozen harvest. Frozen tomatoes aren’t good for much: they get watery and soggy and so are no good for chutneys or relishes. Besides, I’m low on free time at present and really needed a simple, no fuss solution. What could be easier than tomato puree?
- Transfer frozen tomatoes to a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook on low heat until mixture reduces significantly and skins start to break apart.
- In a small pan, heat a few tablespoons of mild vegetable oil and fry 3 or 4 diced good-sized cloves of garlic and some finely-chopped red chillies (to taste).
- Add lashings of cracked black pepper and generous pinch of salt to the garlic mix.
- When garlic is lightly browned add a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar and stir to de-glaze pan.
- Pour garlic and vinegar mixture into cooked tomatoes and blend to a smooth paste, adding a little extra oil if necessary.
- Transfer finished puree into sterilised jars and stow away to enjoy another day!
I chose to make a puree that could be used for both Mediterranean and East Asian cooking, hence the use of a lightly flavoured oil, garlic and chilli. If you’re in an Italian type of mood I’d suggest using a good olive oil and adding some bay leaves and rosemary to your mix. It’s always fun to play with flavours and see what works for your tastes.
The finished product didn’t look all that much like tomato puree since the bulk of my harvest this year was yelllow-skinned ‘snow white’ cherry tomatoes, so I thought I’d better label the jars to be on the safe side! Because I’m paranoid, I tend to keep my preserves in the fridge unless they’ve been loaded up with sugar and pectin (jams) or vinegar (pickles and chutneys). This lot only have a little oil and vinegar, plus the chilli and garlic to protect them, so they’ll stay refrigerated until I get around to eating them.
At the height of the tomato glut I had enough fresh fruit to make up a few jars of spicy relish, and once the moving is done I’m going to come back to pick the green fruit remaining on the plants to make a green tomato chutney. That should see me right for tomato goodness through the winter months!
Jams, pickling, drying, bottling: what’s your favourite way of preserving excess produce?