Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's Tomato Time!

The tomatoes are coming in pretty good this week, and even better than last week! I have two tubs of tomatoes from a few days ago in our kitchen waiting to be processed into canned goods. When contemplating cooking them and then having to run them through my hand food mill to remove the skins and seeds, the thought of it was just too much to bear! I searched until I found the right tool for the job. I bought a Back To Basics Food Strainer!

This was a little pricey at almost $60 I thought, but I very much needed it in order to process the tomatoes. When I took it out of the box I was immediately impressed with the construction of it. It has a strong metal body and a handle that is made from flat metal stock, which allows for easy turning that provides a lot of torque to the screw auger.

The strainer has a large hopper to receive the food product. I learned to not make it too full because I had to use the push stick to make the tomato chunks go into the auger. With it this full, a couple of chunks tried to escape the hopper.

This is the first puree that came out of the strainer. There is not a single bit of seed in the receiving bowl! What looks like seeds is the reflection of the incandescent lights over the table. Look in the waste receiving bowl under the clear cone. That material is so dry that there is no juice in the bowl! This device is very thorough!

In only two hours time, I turned 45 pounds of tomatoes into 14 quarts of absolutely seedless tomato puree!

Fortunately for me, I have a large commercial-duty stainless steel stock pot that has the number of quarts marked on the inside of the pot. You can see the number "18" in the very top center of the picture, and the number "14" is partially submerged in the puree. Although this pot had those graduations marked, I needed something that suited my needs perfectly. We all know that a full canner load is 7 quarts. The lowest number of quarts marked in this pot was "10". So I remedied that. Before I started my cooking, I took the pot and poured 7 full-to-the-top quarts of water into it and let it settle while on a flat surface. When that was accomplished, I reached into the pot with a black crayon and slowly dipped it into the waterline at the side of the pot and slowly drew a short heavy line, about an inch long on the wall of the pot. This marked where 7 full quarts would be in this pot. Next, I poured the water out and dried the inside of the pot. Then I took my electric carbide-tipped engraver and duplicated the font and style of numbering and marked a "7" including the lines to the left and the right of the number on the inside of the pot. Now there is no more guesswork or wondering if there is enough product for a full canner load of 7 quarts! I was always perturbed when I was left with a 3/4 full quart jar after all that work. Not any more.

I had to cook this puree on a low heat over the course of two days to reduce it down from 14 to 7 quarts! (I let it cool in between and put it in the fridge overnight.) I should have remembered what I learned last year when working with tomatoes. After you cut out the stem part, turn it upside down and gently squeeze it and most of the clear liquid will come out, thereby requiring far less cooking time to reduce it down to 7 quarts. I'll remember that for the next batch.

I must say that this food strainer is one of the most incredible inventions for the kitchen I have ever seen as far as saving time goes. It's worth twice the price.

I picked 21 yellow pear tomatoes that weighed 8 ounces. There were 9 tomatoberries that weighed 2 1/2 ounces. Then there were the butter beans that weighed 3 pounds 5 ounces, with a shelled weight of 14 ounces.

I picked tomatoes yesterday and did pretty well.  I'm not sure what's up with the tomato vines this year, but when you're reaching in to get one and you bump another, it doesn't take too much to knock it off the vine. Now when that happens, I'm sure to pick that one up and put it in the tub as well. Also, if they get too ripe before they're picked they'll spoil within a couple of days in the house. Fortunately for me, tomatoes continue to ripen after they've been picked. So this is how they look when I go picking. With a haul as large as this one, there's sure to be canned tomato juice in my future.

Celebrity Tomatoes - 70 each @ 36 1/2 pounds

Park's Whopper Tomatoes - 85 each @ 44 1/2 pounds

Roma Tomatoes - 337 each @ 49 pounds.

If you can see it in the previous picture, a lot of the Roma's seem to be getting half-red while the other half is still light green. If it's half red, I'm picking it rather than take a chance on it going bad before I get to it again. The Roma's in this picture used to look like the ones in the previous picture. In just a few days, they turned to this pretty tomato red. Many of these will go into a taco salad, while the rest will be made into juice.

We haven't given up on the Swiss chard seeds, but they sure take a long time. At this rate, they'll still be occupying this garden space at the end of August! That's okay. Just look at the density of the seeds on those branches!

Happy Fourth of July to everyone! don't forget that this country was founded by individual citizens, not corporations. Stay informed and protect your rights!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK


  1. Have to agree with you on the strainer. I have a different brand and I got it at the flea market for $10 but the thing works great. It also does cranberries for cranberry sauce making really well.
    You have just a ton of tomatoes! If I got half that many I would be happy :)

    1. Using the strainer was a great success!
      We have had several days of over 100 degrees in the last few weeks, and the plants are showing it now. I'm expecting production to drop off fast.

  2. This is a great post and how many tomato plants do you have? Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables from the garden.


    1. Thanks! I have 14 celebrities, 9 park's whoppers, 27 romas, six yellow pears and one tomatoberry. They sure have been doing well this year. I also fertilize them every three weeks with Tomatotone, an organic fertilizer, and I am blessed with a well.

  3. Just "wow" on the tomato harvest! Thanks for the info on the food strainer. I think we may look into getting one. We don't mind having seeds in our tomato sauce (which we do by throwing cored tomatoes into the blender) but it seems like the food strainer might even cut out the step of coring the tomatoes (???). But coring lots of tomatoes gets very time consuming at the height of tomato season!

    1. I didn't mind having seeds in my sauce either, considering the work it would take to remove them. But this device gives spectacular results! Not a single seed in an of the sauces I've made this year! Coring is easy with a sharp paring knife. I use a combination twisting motion of the tomato in my left hand while slicing in a tight arc with my right hand and it's all done in one combined movement. The important thing is that a paring knife is used so a long knife blade doesn't slice your thumb as well as the tomato. I bought a coring tool that looks more like a toy now, and I wouldn't never use it again for a tomato. I think the paring knife is the way to go, but it must be sharp. I cored and pureed 45 pounds of tomatoes in less than two hours. I think that's pretty good.

  4. Nice harvests. I'll miss having my big tomato harvests and making sauce. Ah well. I can see others do it I guess.

    1. Thanks! I'm so sorry that you can't enjoy tomatoes anymore. However, you are very versatile and will have something delightful in their place.