Preserved Tomatoes – Conserva de Tomates

 
Ready for a winter debut

Well, summer is here and I finally have my first glut of tomatoes.

Forgot to weigh them...

We also picked runner beans last night, although they are coming to an end now.

Run, Fat Bean, Run!

And the first of our bobby or French beans.  I planted two varieties, one green and one yellow, but so far I´m only seeing green ones!

´Allo, I am Claude and zis eez mon ami Bobby...

Because we  don´t use insecticides or nasty sprays, some of our tomatoes look a little quirky, but we don´t mind that.  It makes us love them all the more…

Faces made for the radio

Time to start laying some by in jars for the winter months. Last year I made what seemed like enough for the whole village, but by the end of April we ran out.  I am on a mission this year to make enough to last us until next summer.  It is a little bit of effort, but we have so many tomato plants and have also just done a second planting, that it makes sense to do it and enjoy all our hard work in the colder months.

For a great idea on how to use your tomato sauce, and also the way I make mine, head over to Tales of Ambrosia for a delicious aubergine and tomato sauce dish.

I started by cutting small crosses in my washed tomatoes.

Criss Cross

Then I blanched them for a minute or two in boiling water.

Into the hot tub...

After peeling and coring them I put them into my food mouli (although sometimes when I´m pressed for time I just blitz them with the hand blender). 

Scantily clad tomatoes

The mouli, if that´s the correct word in English, is a hand held vegetable mill and gets rid of any tough bits and seeds.

...and grind...

Every so often you´ll need to empty out the bits you´re left with.  You can either use these in soups or sauces or if you have chickens, like us, they love them as a special treat.

Your chickies will thank you!

You´ll be left with a purée of tomatoes which you can now freeze, use or bottle (can).

Gorgeous tomato pulp

When I am going to bottle or can them, I add half a teaspoon of salt per litre of  tomato and heat gently until just bubbling.

This then goes into sterilized jars which are tightly sealed then left to simmer in a bain marie for about 10 minutes and then left to cool down.

Today, as I had been cutting back my basil which is getting a bit overgrown, I added a spring of basil into each jar too.

Now put the jars away in a cool dark place and on a dull grey day, a few months ahead, you´ll be so glad you invested a little time on a hot summer´s day doing this!

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

Bottled Sunshine

Well, summer is finally here and with it comes gorgeous red and juicy tomatoes.  Soon we´ll have so many it will be time to set some by for the months when tomatoes are sadder and greener.

One of the ways I like to store tomatoes is by sun drying them.  Of course, if you live in a country that has less sun, or it´s winter right now, you can use your oven instead.  I have never dried tomatoes this way but understand that as long as you wedge the oven door open slightly with a skewer or similar, then they´ll dry out nicely rather than steam.

This is the way that I do it, it does take a little time but I like to think that the final taste includes a little warmth of the Andalucían sun.

Wash and dry your ripe but not squashy tomatoes – this time I had plum tomatoes (also known as Roma or Pear tomatoes in Spain).

Big Man chose well...

Cut into halves and then sixths or eights (or smaller depending on the size of your tomatoes). Don´t remove the centre core or seeds.

and cut!

Lay them out on a large tray lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle them fairly heavily with salt.  The salt will help to draw the liquid out of the tomatoes and they won´t taste super salty, I promise.  Use coarse salt (or kosher salt) if you can.

Now leave them in a sunny but sheltered spot.  If there is risk of wind or flies, cover them with a muslin cloth or net and take them in at night if you have humidity.

This batch took just over 48 hours.

After one hour of sunshine

After one hour

Sunbathing without protection...naughty!

After four hours

Day two...

Next day

A Blustery Day Three

Final day (after a windy morning!)

When they´re as dry as you want them (you may decide to leave them a little “juicy” for sun blush tomatoes) you are ready to put them in a sterilised jar (or canning them).

Sterilise your jar in the dishwasher or give them a good wash in very hot water then dry them out in a low oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Now pack your tomatoes into a warm jar.  Can you believe nearly 3kg of tomatoes fit into this jar?

Pack ´em in!

You can layer with basil, thyme or oregano if you want.

The you will fill the jar with olive oil.  I know it seems like an awful lot of oil, but in a few months time when you´ve eaten the last of the tomatoes in that jar you can use the oil for salads, drizzling over pizza, making pasta sauce….

As a final security measure, I put my jar into a deep pot of simmering water so that it´s almost covered and leave it in there for about 10 minutes.  This will ensure a good seal and that your tomatoes run no risk of fermenting.

Now, what will you do with your sun dried tomatoes?  Maybe some canapés, or crostini, or chop them up in a salad or sauce, or maybe serve them with a little flaked fresh parmesan and olives….the choice is yours!