Saturday, November 12, 2011

Total Concentration

We were blessed this summer/fall with an abundant crop of tomatoes. I am talking about major abbondanza. Some of the shrubs didn't do very well or produce much, but the ones that did... did so with sheer abandon. Not only did we have enough to stuff ourselves silly with, but we had enough to bless friends and neighbors with too. Such a great feeling. But all good things come to an end as they say, sunshine and tomatoes included. So I reduced, concentrated, and intensified the last 5 lbs of sun and warmth... and stuck them in a little jar for when the cold, wet, gray of the coming winter starts to get me down. Just like rainy days and Mondays. 

Eating Paste
It may seem an odd choice, to make what is essentially a small amount of tomato paste out of the last of our homegrown tomatoes, but to call this stuff "paste" is to call filet mignon "a steak", or aged balsamic "vinegar"... doesn't quite do it justice. No tomato paste I've ever had has the depth and intensity of flavor that this stuff has. So is it tomato paste? Yeah... but it's really really really good tomato paste. And won't it be wonderful to use in the middle of winter when flavorful ripe tomatoes are the stuff of summer dreams and memories.

Tomato and Thyme Conserva (just don't call it paste)
Adapted from both this post at The Dinner Files and this article from the L.A. Times.
  1. Rinse and dry 5 lbs of ripe tomatoes. Cut them in quarters and put them in a large pot.
  2. Add a quarter cup of olive oil, two big pinches of sea salt and 3-4 Tblsp of fresh thyme.
  3. Cook on medium for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the tomatoes have broken down (gotten all smooshy).
  4. Take the pan off the heat and let them cool for a few minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 300°F and coat a rimmed baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Process the tomatoes through a food mill using the finest screen (alternately, press through a seive with a spoon). You want to end up with a purée free from seeds and skins.
  6. Place the oiled pan in the oven and CAREFULLY pour the purée into the pan. This stuff is a Hot Mess waiting to happen. A half-sheet pan will be full to the brim. 
  7. Cook for 3 hours, stirring with a spatula every 45 minutes (especially around the edges).
  8. Turn oven down to 250°F and continue to cook and stir/scrape until the purée is greatly reduced, dark red, and shiny looking. Maybe another hour or two.
  9. Take the pan out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes. 
  10. You'll have about a cup and a half of conserva. Pack it into a pint jar (or two half-pint jars) and let cool completely with the lid off. 
  11. Pour a good layer of olive oil on top, add the lid but don't tighten down. Place jar in freezer. Once frozen through, tighten the lid down.
5 lbs. of summer reduced down to 1 lb. of Tomato (& Thyme) Conserva. How gorgeous. Swirl some into polenta or risotto, or stir it into a rich stew or some hot buttery pasta on a dreary day in the middle of winter... it will taste like a promise of things to come.

Now... what to do with all the green tomatoes? Any ideas? I've never had so many green ones before, and other than Fried Green Tomatoes, I haven't a clue how to use them up...
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  1. This sounds amazing!!! I just ate but my mouth still started watering at this recipe. Thanks for sharing

  2. @Lise M: Clearly you love tomatoes as much as I do!


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