There I was, wandering through the produce section of a little specialty grocery store, when I suddenly hear a shout.
“Honey! Do you want these?”
My husband had found a cart containing bushel baskets of canning tomatoes. He knows I love to make red sauce from scratch and use my own tomatoes in chili and spaghetti, so he started picking through the bushels to check for quality.
Next thing I know, I’m on my deck with a bushel of tomatoes, a propane boiler thingy set up, and huge pots. I don’t even know how it happened, but I’m so grateful it did.
Mr. Alexander occasionally brews his own beer, so he has an entire set up with a propane boiler thingy, a pot I’m pretty sure is big enough I can sit in it, and a “system”.
He suggested I stew the tomatoes outdoors this year so that when I was done, we could simply run the hose on the deck and patio table to wash them off.
Typically, I just make a mess in the kitchen. 🙂
Mr. Alexander set up his propane thingy (this isn’t his, but it’s similar) and pulled out the beer-making pot for an ice bath. I grabbed a large stock pot for the actual stewing.
On another note, we’ve used this pot and burner to make a Low Country Boil with shrimp, potatoes and corn. More on that someday!
Mr. Alexander was a doll and filled the pots for me. They’re rather heavy with the water in, of course, and my arm muscles are… not there. Then we fueled up the propane burner, brought the water to a boil, and in went the tomatoes.
I’ve already blogged on how to stew tomatoes, so I won’t wax nostalgic. Suffice it to say I boil the heck out of them to make sure they are fully cooked.
After that, into the ice bath. Usually the ice bath is when you are just trying to get the tomato skins off rather than cook or stew them. I use the ice bath so the dang tomatoes are cool enough to chop. Those suckers are hot!
The skin does peel off nicely during the boil and ice bath, so if you are just trying to get tomato skins off, about 30 seconds in the boiling water will do. Once the skin starts to split it’s good to go.
When the tomatoes are cooled a bit, I pull them out and chop/puree/disintegrate the meaty areas into small pieces and discard as much of the seeds as possible. However, I save whatever juice leaks out onto the cutting board. I like to add that to the stewed tomatoes. As much as I don’t like the seeds, I do want to maintain as much tomato-y goodness as possible.
And, voila. Skins and seeds go in one bowl, chopped and stewed tomatoes in the other. Let them cool and portion out into freezer bags.
It took me about an hour for this bushel, and it was sweaty, hot work for a summer afternoon, but I know from experience that when I pull those stewed tomatoes out in January and make red sauce from scratch, I will be one happy girl.