So, if you are Italian (or have a neighbour who is), you know that this month is lovingly known as “doing tomatoes” month.
It’s actually more like a window of about 3 weeks – the week before Labour Day weekend and the 2 weeks following it.
It’s a labour intensive act of love for any Italian family who has maintained the tradition of doing tomatoes (if you want to get an inside peek, check out this post about “getting” the tomatoes and this continuation of that post where we actually “do” the tomatoes!)
But, this year, I noticed something.
We are eating less pasta – as I think many people are. Back in Italy, my parents were farmers who didn’t have a lot of money so many nights, their dinner consisted of carb heavy meals because it was cheaper. But they also didn’t eat a lot of other things that make us (AKA North Americans) fat…like sugar, processed foods or meat-heavy meals.
Today, in North America (or at least in Canada), we are eating healthier and are becoming more conscious of what goes in our mouths.
That means a more balanced diet – which also means, less pasta (at least, not having pasta every single night!).
So, in turn, we – or at least I – don’t need as much tomato passata (pureed tomato) that we once made every fall.
What I DO find myself using in the middle of winter is imported canned whole tomatoes (San Marzano) ….and, if I absolutely need to buy a whole tomato in the middle of winter, I always roast them to bring out the sweetness that is so badly missing in an “out-of-season” tomato. Sometimes, I make a few extra and keep them under oil in mason jars in the fridge (like this below):
So, I thought, why not get the bushels of tomatoes like we always do and roast them instead of puree them?
This was going to be our year to experiment…
I told my parents, and of course they were willing to roll up their sleeves and help (did I tell you how lucky I am??).
So, my dad and I went off to the farm and picked up a bushel of tomatoes (we thought, for our experimental year, we would start with one) as well as a few other goodies – like beans that my dad loves to shuck and freeze for winter soups:
…as well as a bushel of peppers to do too (if you want instructions on roasting peppers for the freezer, take a peek at this post on a step by step guide to roasting peppers:
We washed the tomatoes and laid them out…
Then we stoked his outside oven (this is his oven…it’s not a built in one…it’s actually more versatile because you can move it around!!)…a model like this can be purchased in so many places now…even Canadian Tire:
Then, my mom got the stuff we needed ready for us…like clean bowls:
…and bucket with warm water and wet rags to clean your hands (’cause cleanliness is next to Godliness, right?):
After straight roasting in the outdoor oven, this is what they looked like:
So beautiful, right? But, I realized that, if I was going to tell you guys how to make them at home, I was going to have to tell you how to do it in your oven…
So, the recipe at the end of the post gives you amounts and times for doing it in your own home oven. When you’re done, you will have bags and bags of beautifully caramelized tomatoes to use in so many ways…
Use them chopped up in a pasta, in sandwiches, in frittata, in risotto, or on a crostini!!
And, if you get tired half way through, just throw them in freezer bags raw and use them as you need them! Remember, preserving is to maximize the space you have…jars of passata can line a cellar wall but, if you have the freezer space, this method is genius!!
Happy tomato preserving…I hope you do enough to have the smell of “Eau de Tomato” parfume on your skin for days.
When it’s all done, and you sit back and look at the reward of your labour, you will be sooo happy!
What are you going to do with your tomato harvest??
- 24 plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- ½ c olive oil
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Lay the tomatoes on a cookie sheet so that they aren't overlapping (you'll need more than one!).
- Pour the oil over top of the tomatoes and toss them to make sure they are well coated.
- Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper
- Put in the oven for about 45 minutes (you will notice that the liquid will start to evaporate and they will begin to shrivel).
- After 45 minutes, increase the temp to 450 degrees and keep them in the oven for about 20 more minutes or until you see the caramelization start to from (they will begin to turn brown.
- Once they are done (remember, you still want them moist), place them in a single layer in a Ziploc freezer bag
- Place a straw in the edge of the bag; seal the edge up to the straw and suck out the air until it is vacuum packed; pull out the straw and seal.
- Freeze until you are ready to use!