Tuesday, October 23, 2012

End-Of-Season Misfit Cherry Tomato Paste

End-Of-Season Misfit Cherry Tomato Paste
Well, it's over. For us anyway. Tomato season is officially done. We plucked the last hangers-on off, and there won't be any more until next summer. Do you still have tomatoes where you live? Some years have found us picking them into November, but that was an exceptional year in a backyard that got oodles of sunlight. This was not such a year, and this is not such a yard. Alas.

Waste not... want not
As you may have noticed by now, I hate to waste any bounty and am always looking for ways to make the most of what we have. These last-of-the-season cherry tomatoes were in all different states of being. Some were perfection, some on the green side, and a few so ripe they practically imploded on contact. There were also those that looked ripe but had taken so long to get color that they just didn't taste as good as they should have.

You can leave the skins on
I figured the best thing for this to-motley crew was to make a tomato paste. But with all the stuff I've got going on right now, I just didn't want to drag out the food mill. Did I really need to get rid of the skins? (That's another theme around here: I don't peel or skin fruits and vegetables unless I absolutely have to.)

It's not laziness, it's efficiency!
I'm all about saving unnecessary steps, time, and energy, with one condition... the end result can not be lacking in any way. In fact, the end result should be at least as good as the version that it's riffing. OK, so maybe it doesn't always happen that way, but that's what I shoot for. This golden tomato paste (from Sun Gold tomatoes) is the very essence of ripe homegrown tomatoes. It's like all of summer condensed down into a little jar (and it's going to taste grand this winter in stews and pasta sauces)!

The Lazy Girl's End-Of-Season Misfit Cherry Tomato Paste
There is a tinge of bitterness from the skins, but it can be tempered with a bit of sea salt and/or sugar. I'm betting though that when used in a hearty stew or ragout... it will won't be an issue.


Cherry Tomatoes: enough to cover the bottom of a baking sheet in a single layer
Olive Oil
Salt & Black Pepper
Fresh Herbs: basil, oregano, or thyme, roughly chopped (Don't bother chopping the thyme, just strip the leaves from the stem.)
Sugar (Optional, and possibly not needed depending on the tomatoes of course)

  1. Wash, stem, and dry the tomatoes. Fill the pans with a single layer of them. Turn the oven to 300°F.
  2. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes. Grab the baking sheet in two hands and shimmy the tomatoes back and forth in the oil. Then sprinkle some sea salt over the tomatoes, followed by the black pepper.
  3. Roast for two hours, rotating the tray(s) half-way through. If the tomatoes start to get too dark, push them around on the tray and turn your oven down a bit. If after two hours, they don't seem done (kissed with golden brown, squishy and collapsed), leave them in until they do.
  4. Take trays out of oven and let cool briefly, then transfer roasted tomatoes to the bowl of a food processor. You may have to process them in batches, but it will go fast. Pulse until skins are cut up quite small.
  5. Look at the texture: does it look dry-ish and too pasty? If so add a little more oil and pulse it in until it's more of a glossy-creamy consistency. Now taste it. Does it need more salt? More pepper? What about a touch of sugar? Always add in small increments. Keep tasting until you're happy with it.
  6. Toss any herbs you want to use (if any) into the food processor with the tomato paste and pulse briefly to distribute them throughout.
  7. You're done! Let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer containers, label, and freeze.
Notes: This yields anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of finished tomato paste. Freeze it in quantities that you are likely to use when cooking: half-pint canning jars, smaller plastic freezer-safe containers, even ice cube trays. 

More Notes: The first batch I made got some thyme added in at the end, and I used my stick blender. It took longer to get the skins broken up enough that way, but it's a good option if you don't have a food processor. The next two trays went into the food processor and had fresh chopped basil and oregano added.

Shine on, harvest moon!
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