Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tomato Paste - save the season!

I don't have a one track cooking heritage. I don't have a cultural tradition that I savour and salvage and store away.
For anyone who's followed my bits here and there, I am slowly discovering my Dutch heritage- but it's a slow process owing to Holland's lack of 'wow' factor on the world culinary stage and a family that has not had the hugest focus on their Dutch roots.
On my mothers side (Aussie, Scottish, possibly Jewish) we have little traditions of our own- but they are more family tradition grown from a love of exploratory and intrepid cooking than closely guarded, heritage specific cooking traditons passed on.
But I am NOT complaining- more marveling at the places where we find connection and tipping my hat to the friends who willingly hand on their own food culture traditions at my (I'm sure often prying) insistence.
In the meantime I start up little practices of my own- wonderous culinary gems gathered willy nilly from the things I love and have a great desire to know more about.
Today I am glowing with the red jewels of the tomato season. Kilos of them heap on my kitchen bench. And in an effort to make the most of this and stock my own little larder- I am making tomato paste.
Why bother I hear you ask, when buying the stuff is so convenient and cheap? It's simple really. I like to know where my food comes from and what's in it above and beyond colouring and preservative #60214378 etc. To this end hear the pot sizzle and steam away on the stove and watch the wet goodness reduce to a brick red thickness.

Homemade Tomato Paste:

  • 2.5kg super ripe tomatoes 
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil - extra virgin is always best
    Wash and chop the tomatoes into rough chunks. Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes covered for 10mins and then give a good stir. The y should be breaking up and have released a lot of liquid. Make sure the liquid is boiling and leave it to cook uncovered for a further 20mins. Allow to cool slightly and then using a stick blender, puree the tomato mixture until nice and smooth. I cover the top of the pot with a cloth so that hot liquid doesn't splash up and burn me. Some people like to run the mixture through a sieve here to remove seeds and skins, but I like to leave these in for a chunkier paste. 
    Thoroughly heat the oven to 150degC. Lightly oil a large flat baking tray that will hold the tomato mixture and then pour it all into the tray.
    Put the tray in the oven and cook it for roughly 3 hours, turning it over with a spatula every 30mins or so to make sure the moisture is removed evenly and you don't end up with over dried scabby bits- eewe. You'll see it slowly begin to thicken until it is a paste, just monitor it towards the end until it reaches the paste consistency you like.
    Then spoon it into sterilised jars (check the Jam post for simple tips on sterilising jars) and top with a little oil to seal. Store in a cool, dry place -or the back of the fridge if you have room- until needed for pizzas, pasta sauces and soup flavour boosters once these balmy days are gone!
    There you go- homemade tomato paste with no nasties- at a total of about $2 for 4 jars!!
    It's more about flavour than cost, but if you do it at the right time of year, it's a damn sight cheaper and better than the last mad rush at the supermarket.

    Note: Please excuse the undecorated bottle caps- I've run out of fabric, but not cooking initiative, and so I plough on regardless of the lack of frills!


    Draw For Joy said...

    Seems hard to do, but worth all the effort. I love tomato paste, and the homemade one is the best.

    Intrepid in the Kitchen- JdG: said...

    Totally worth it! Yum!