Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Surplus Tomatoes

What to do with surplus tomatoes from your garden?
Well, there's tomato preserve, tomato ketchup, tomato jam...

Back when I have never seen nor heard of tomato paste and tomato sauce (and therefore, spaghetti sauce in tins), I would see my mother slice, deseed and boil tomatoes in a huge cauldron. (This she did when at harvest time, the prices of tomato would be too cheap, like, a bushel weighing eight to ten kilos would cost only Php2.00 to Php5.00. She would then decide to just cook them or feed them to hogs as picking and bringing them to market would cost more.) When the pulp is nice and soft, she would pour everything on a bamboo sieve (bistay in Pilipino and bikse in Pampango) to remove the skin. What remained was a watery tomato concentrate, which she would then pour back onto the huge cauldron, add a little rock salt, then bring to a boil again for several hours until a desired consistency is reached. By this time, the tomato concentrate has turned into dark red, almost brownish color and would be very thick in consistency. It looked very much like what we now use as tomato paste, which she poured into sterilized jars. Since we had no refrigerator back then, she would keep it in the wooden cupboard. She called it tomato preserve and we would use it in place of fresh tomatoes long after harvest season in May was gone. One time, she also experimented on "tomato jam" which she did by doing the same procedure for tomato preserve, except that she used sugar instead of salt and added grated young coconut to it. But we, her children did not really like it, preferring star margarine and a sprinkling of sugar on our pandesal or hot monay. The thought of using "sweetened tomatoes" as a spread on bread was something that simply did not appeal to us as we would always regard tomato as a vegetable.

Last spring, David dug more plots for our veggie garden, so I was able to plant four different varieties of tomatoes--Russian red, Moneymaker, Beefstake, and Gardener's delight. Harvest time, we had more tomatoes than we could consume, harvesting an average of one kilogram per day. Seeing so much ripe tomatoes on our kitchen bench, waiting to be processed, I did what my mother did with our surplus tomatoes. This time however, I froze them whole, halved and quartered. I also made that tomato preserve. However, I did not have to use a sieve to separate the skin and the flesh. Plus, I did not add any salt as I would be freezing it anyway.

I learned how to skin tomatoes from a neighbor, so it came in handy when I had to do the tomato preserve and ketchup.

Here's how to skin tomatoes:

Pour enough boiling water on the tomatoes.
Then cover for two to three minutes.
Drain. Wash with running cold water.
The skin would break and should come off easily when peeled.

Searching for more ways to preserve the tomatoes, I found a recipe for ketchup from a book, "The Cook's Garden" by Mary Browne, Helen Leach and Nancy Tichborne (Mary Brown, Helen Leach and Nancy Tichborne, Published 1980) I altered some of the procedures to make it easier.

You might find it useful too, so I am sharing it with you.

6 kg ripe tomatoes
6 medium sized onions
6 cloves garlic
25 g pickling spice
1 tsp celery seeds
basil (a large stalk and leaves)
marjoram (a large stalk and leaves)
2 bay leaves
6 Tb salt
6 cups sugar
30 ml glacial acetic acid

Skin tomatoes. Deseed if you like. Chop roughly and place in a large preserving pan. Add the sliced onions and finely chopped garlic. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until there is sufficient liquid to prevent the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Tie the pickling spice and celery seeds together. Add the muslin bag and herbs. Add the salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved.

Puree in a food processor. Pour the sauce back into the preserving pan. Add the glacial acetic acid and bring back to the boil. Boil until the desired consistency is reached. This may take from 5-30 minutes depending on the variety of tomatoes used, the degree of ripeness and the season.

Heat clean jars in a slow oven. Pour the boiling sauce into the hot jars and seal immediately.

If you're curious how sweetened tomato tastes here's how to do it:

Tomato Jam

1 kg ripe tomatoes
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups coconut milk
(You can try adding shredded young coconut)

Skin and deseed tomatoes. Chop coarsely then place in a preserving pan. Add brown sugar and coconut milk. Bring to the boil until the desired consistency is reached. Pour in sterilized jars.

Prawns and Celery Salad

Is your tummy tired of take-aways and greasy foods? Give it a break! Here's one interesting dish without the grease. Served with steaming white rice, it is nice and light on the belly.

Prawns and Celery Salad with Ginger Dressing

500 grms prawns, raw
2 large celery stalks and leaves
15 ml (tbsp) rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 tsp finely grated ginger

Steam the prawns until they turn pink. Drain and remove shell.

Cut celery stalks into 2 inches long, then cut each length into very thin length-wise strips.

Fill a small bowl with iced water. Add celery strips to water and sit for 5-10 minutes or till they are crisp.

Drain celery and discard water. Dry with paper towels to remove as much water as possible.

In a large enough bowl, combine prawns, celery leaves, vinegar, sugar, salt, and ginger. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Transfer to a medium plater and serve with steaming white rice.