Well it has certainly been a busy week! I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I last posted. Last Friday we took a trip to the zoo! It was our toddler’s first time and she had lots of fun. She really liked the seals and the monkeys, and loved her first ride on a carousel. Little Dude had fun too – he especially liked the butterfly house with all the bright flowers and the butterflies swooping around him.
Back home we canned a few more beans (just 5 pints) and lots of corn (21 quarts and 5 pints). I made zucchini bread (my vengeful zucchini took less than a month from germination to harvest).
The variety is “Tondo di Piacenza.” It’s round! I’ll get you a photo of the plant next time… next time will be soon, there’s another little zucchini on already.
What else happened… Oh! My brussels sprout plants are absolutely loaded and they started tipping. I went to put in some metal stakes to tie them up and support them. In doing so, something slipped and I smashed my finger between the maul handle and the end of the metal rod. Luckily, I was wearing my thick gardening gloves and I missed the knuckles. It bled a bit and it’s a little bruised and swollen, but I’ll make it through. (no photo) I did end up going back out later that day and got my stakes in and plants tied up. I even harvested some sprouts for dinner that night (and they were delicious – even the toddler ate them!)
I also got to make one thing that I’ve always wanted to try – tomato paste! I always plant paste tomatoes, but have never actually made paste out of them. Our tomatoes are less than spectacular this year, so our yield is way down. I picked just shy of an ice cream bucket full of ripe tomatoes for my paste. If you’re going to do this yourself, make sure you plant or buy paste tomatoes (I always plant Romas, I’m not sure if there are other paste varieties out there). Regular tomatoes have a lot more water, so it will take much more time to get much less paste.
Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve come across lots of ways to make tomato paste. There are ways to make it in the oven or in the dehydrator, but I decided to go with my standby for when I need to reduce any liquid – a heavy pot. When we’re making huge batches of stewed tomatoes or spaghetti sauce this blue cast enamel dutch oven of mine does an amazing job at reducing the sauce quickly without burning it.
I didn’t use a recipe (and I’m not canning it), but the premise is simple – juice the tomatoes then simmer it down until there’s almost no liquid left. Here’s how I did it:
Wash the tomatoes and take off the stems and cut out any blemishes.
Put the whole tomatoes in a heavy pot with about half a cup of water and cook the tomatoes over medium-high heat with the lid on until they’re soft. It took about 15 minutes.
Run the soft tomatoes through a food mill to juice them.
We always run the skins through a second time – there’s still some good stuff left in there!
To help prevent sticking, take a drizzle of oil, about 1-2 teaspoons, and rub it all over the inside of your pot. I used olive oil, but any neutral flavored oil would do as well. Then pour your juice back in the pot.
Bring it to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low or low (depending on your stove). Let it simmer, stirring occasionally (every 5 minutes or so). Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides well each time.
As more water evaporates, the bubbles will start to look a little different.
The time will vary depending on your pot, the heat, and how much tomato you started with, but after 45 minutes mine was thick enough such that it held the trail of the spatula as I stirred it. I didn’t leave it unattended after this point, and I stirred it frequently. Not constantly, but every minute or so I gave it a good stir.
Not quite there, but getting close… here it’s just a little thicker than the consistency of pizza sauce.
And here we are, all the way down to paste!
The time it took to go from juice to paste was almost exactly an hour for me. I started with about one inch of tomato juice in my pot.
Now, on to storage. You could freeze the paste in ice cube trays, but I just envision them all getting stuck together in a freezer bag. Leaving them in the ice cube trays isn’t really an option here (someone probably wouldn’t pay attention and make snow cones out of them). I keep a stash of these portion cups for occasions like this!
One of our local food distributors has a warehouse store nearby, so I get mine there, but you can probably order them online (or if you want a gazillion of them, Sam’s Club carries them). These are the 1 oz ones, but I have a stash of 2 oz ones with lids too. They really come in handy, and often times can be rinsed out and reused.
Just spoon in your paste! Each 1 ounce cup will hold about two tablespoons.
I froze them before I put the lids on because I didn’t want to trap any condensation from the steam.
Once they’re frozen, just pop on the lids…
…and toss them in a freezer bag for storage!
I should also note that cleaning that pot was really easy! I just filled it about halfway with water and brought it to a boil with the lid on and all the stuck-on tomato came right off.
All it all it was a very easy process and I’ll definitely be making more in the future. I can’t wait to add this to my homemade chili this winter!