The Wonder that is the Tomato

Tomatoes for passata and ketchup

Now that I have found great ways to preserve tomatoes that suit our family preferences (I didn't say faddiness!) I grow as many as possible. All kinds, all colours, all in a small plastic greenhouse and some outside mixed in with the flowers. And some in hanging baskets. And tall tins that had Christmas Amaretti biscuits in them. Of course, you don't have to grow them to preserve - there are plenty of markets and supermarkets and also friends that grow too many on their allotments (but don't tell them I told you)

What I don't do is make chutney with them - and especially green tomato chutney. I find they have too much water to make the kind of rich chutney that we like and this is exactly what I mean about examining your preferences before starting to preserve something. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Most of all, we use passata, lots of passata. To make mine I chop the tomatoes into quarters, lay them in a large roasting tin with red onions, garlic, herbs, sea salt and ground black pepper - you could add a sprinkling of sugar as well if you like. Drizzle with good olive oil and then roast in the oven at around 150 deg C for approx. 30-40 mins. Allow to cool. Tip into a food blender and process until smooth. You might want to do this in 2-3 batches depending on how many tomatoes you have and the capacity of your blender. Mix the batches together and ladle into clip top preserving jars leaving 2.5cms/1 inch of headspace. Clean round the top of the jar before sealing. Waterbath* for 20 minutes to seal the jar.

*  For Waterbathing instructions read my blog : How To Water Bath

"Passata doesn't have anything but tomatoes" I hear you cry - well mine does because then I know I can just add pasta and/or mince or vegetables, grate some parmesan and there's supper. I also make ratatouille, and bottle it, in the same way. Great for a quick lunch just with some cheese or make a meal out of it with pasta or jacket potato.

If you have a dehydrator - and a lot of people now do - another great way to preserve tomatoes or even just the skins, is to dry them thoroughly. Use a spice grinder to powder them and store away from strong light and heat. I add a food grade silica gel sachet to mine to help prevent clumping. This is a great way to store a lot of tomatoes indefinitely in a small space. They are so versatile - you can add a small amount of water to make some tomato paste ( be gone mangled tubes in the fridge door ). Or add even more water, or stock to make passata. Add the powder straight to soups, casseroles, Bloody Mary's, whatever floats your boat. Like all dehydrated food this is especially great for camping, caravanning, sailing, less weight, less waste.

My main recipe this month is my Tomato Ketchup - packed full of flavour and about as unlike the main commercial brand as it is possible to be.



Tomato skins can be dried and powdered to provide a gluten-free thickener which can be used instead of flour to thicken sauces and gravies for casseroles and stews.

I never have to use up green tomatoes in the ubiquitous chutney - just leave them in a single layer in a flat box like a seed tray with one or two ripe tomatoes for encouragement. Leave them on a sunny windowsill and they will also turn red and be perfectly ripe.

If you grow tomatoes sow plenty of pots of basil as well as there is nothing better than the two used together. Try making a basil butter for tomato sandwiches - chopped basil mixed into softened butter with a little sea salt. Roll into a sausage shape and chill until firmed up a bit. Fresh room-temperature sliced tomatoes, crusty white bread and basil butter eaten outside with a pot of tea. Sublime.

I always keep a pack of bought flakey pastry in the freezer - you could use sheets of buttered filo as well - roll out to an oblong to fit a flat baking sheet. Thinly slice ripe tomatoes and drain on kitchen paper. Lay the slices on top of the pastry in a single layer, sprinkle with sea salt and sugar, chopped herbs and bake until the pastry is golden brown. Serve at garden temperature drizzled with olive oil alongside a green salad.

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