Tomato Paste

20120918-213520.jpgI love tomatoes more than the average person, I would say. I could definitely pick one up and take a bite out of it, and be really satisfied. So, it’s kind of strange that, for me, a fresh tomato seems kind of ruined when it is cooked to be made into sauce or ketchup. I do not like ketchup at all. It is so acidic. When I make anything that has tomato sauce I find myself copying from my mother and grandmothers and adding a little something sweet to the sauce to cut the acidity. My favorite addition is brown sugar. One grandmother uses plain table sugar, and the other grape jelly to do the same trick. Maybe it is because I was always spoiled by such sweet sauces that I have never liked spaghetti from anywhere but home.

Every week when Jay and I venture to the local farmers markets and I see piles and piles of tomatoes, I die a little inside. Because, two people couldn’t possibly eat that many tomatoes, but I want them all. The farmers around here grow a rainbow of different varieties, and I want them NOW!

So, I decided the best way to maximize our tomato purchase but minimize the yield, is to make tomato paste. This week we bought about 8 large, deep red tomatoes for $4. Score. For some reason, slowly cooking down the tomatoes into a paste brings out the sweetness in them. Whatever it is, I like it. And, Jay says I am an old Italian grandmother at heart today. Maybe this polish girl is proud of that, okay?

Also, I’m really wishing I could send you the smells this is creating in our house. Garlic an onions cooked for hours will surely ward off all vampires for tonight.

Tomato Paste from Gilt Taste

6 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
3 pounds super ripe, juicy tomatoes
¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches salt

Cut, chop, purée!

Heat oil in large heavy bottomed pan over medium-low heat.

Roughly chop garlic and onion and blend in a food processor/magic bullet (onion smoothie anyone?) and pour into the pan. Cook and stir frequently, about 15 minutes or so. Add a pinch of salt.

Roughly chop tomatoes, and puree them to liquid in the food processor.

Strain

Strain tomatoes (optional)
If you’re unhappy with tomato skins and seeds, pass the pureed tomato through a fine-mesh strainer.

Cook tomatoes

Pour the tomato into the pot, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil. Add a couple light pinches of salt. Reduce heat to a simmer, give it a stir, and wait. You’ll cook it for a long time, but it’s hard to say how long since tomatoes differ in water content. Bank on 90 minutes or more.

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Wait
Wait.

Wait some more
Wait. And stir, too, more frequently as the tomato loses its juice and thickens. Keep cooking and stirring. It’ll get thick and annoyingly splattery for a while, as it gets to a pizza-sauce thickness. You can partially cover the pot when that happens, then uncover it again when enough water’s boiled off so that it no longer splatters.

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You’re almost there
When it starts to look pasty, you’ll notice that it’ll get stickier. Keep stirring, clearing the pot, mixing back in the thin, darkening layer at the bottom, and spreading the paste out. At some point, it may look like the oil wants to weep out; this is good. When the paste suddenly sticks together like a dough and slides around the pot, you’re done.

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Store

Turn paste into a dish or bowl and let cool. Pack into containers, press a layer of plastic wrap directly on to the surface, and store in the fridge for weeks, or in the freezer for months. Stir into anything.

Enjoy!

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