8.18.2008

Crushed tomatoes

Saturday morning, sweat beaded down my temples as I moved from garden to sink, sink to stove, and stove to compost. The tomatoes sat naked on the kitchen counter, stripped of their taut, rosy skins and perfectly unblemished in their translucence. It was canning day, and the kitchen was hot.

The tomatoes I'd been collecting all week. Some had ripened on the vines of our yellowing garden plants, others on the tables of the farmers market, and the rest on the windowsill of a friend. They had been prepared, each carefully washed and dried and set out alongside the cutting board by the stove to await a momentary plunge into the pot of rolling water.

Now skinned, they faced another pot. A sixth of the diaphanous globes dropped into a heavy bottomed Dutch oven, crushed by the force of a grinding arm and the weight of a broad black masher. They exuded juice and pulp, seeds floating atop a lake of viscous red. Their companions joined them one by one, falling in quarters into the pot and slowly softening to its contours. A thick tomato steam began to rise, and the time came to say goodbye.

The crushed fruits poured easily into glass jars. Made tart by a spoonful of lemon juice and flavorful with a pinch of salt, the tomatoes returned to the boiling water for a final bath before settling in to await the pot again. Next time, perhaps, as part of a batch of Portuguese kale, or winter minestrone.

CRUSHED CANNED TOMATOES

Yields approximately one quart per 2 pounds of tomatoes

Skin, core, and quarter tomatoes (any quantity). Add 1/6 of pieces to a large, heavy bottomed pot and crush well to release juices. Heat quickly, gradually adding the rest of the tomatoes. For each quart, add a tablespoon of sugar. Boil gently 5 minutes.

Pack immediately into sterile quart jars, adding 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (to assure sufficient acidity) and 1 teaspoon salt to each jar before adding hot fruit. (For pints, halve these amounts). Wipe jar rims clean with a hot cloth and screw sterile caps on tightly. Process in a boiling water bath, 45 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints.

Leave upside down overnight to cool; check seal and store in a cool, dark place.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.