Also, this is a cheeky entry into @zord189’s weekly competition for the PowerHouseCreatives of which I am a member. This week’s theme:
I spy with my little eye, something….red….
1. Take a photo of something red.
2. Write about that object/person/etc
3. Entry must not be less than 350 words cause who knows, you might get curie or ocd 🙂
4. Add a nice title to your entry.
As usual, I’ve done my own interpretation and not just shared one photograph of something red, but written about one of my favourite red fruits or vegetables: tomatoes.
When I met The Husband, twenty years ago, he fended for himself and it wasn’t long before he informed me that a kitchen should never be without onions and tomatoes: no tasty main meal (other than breakfast), could exclude onions. Add tomatoes, he maintained, and you have the basis of a good meal. I didn’t disagree, but over the years, I’ve learned that there are some dishes that don’t need onion. However, it’s the tomatoes that have my attention, today. We both love them and have our own associations with their cultivation. The Husband, when he was beef ranching in Zimbabwe, and had the dubious pleasure, on occasions, of overseeing the harvest of the fruit for the local cannery. He also talks of the dire gastric consequences, for workers, of eating not just sun-ripe but sun-hot tomatoes. Talk about learning the hard way….
Tomatoes and brinjals are all members of the deadly nightshade (Solanum) family, as are potatoes and Pepino. You’ll see the similarity looking at their flowers, not the leaves, which are poisonous.
I remember my parents (my father, actually), growing tomatoes every year until they moved into a retirement home.
Dad grew Moneymaker tomatoes from seed. Rarely anything else. This variety is a medium-sized, high-yielding tomato with excellent flavour. They were sown in June and would germinate in very cold weather – the little seedlings felt the cold. They’d often be blue. Really.
Before they retired and living in a small town, they would go home for lunch. The pinching back and inspection of the annual tomato crop was a lunchtime ritual. Nipping out the side shoots and staking the lanky vines ensured tall, robust plants, that would eventually be weighed down with delicious red, sweet fruit. I remember tomato-filled trays on every surface in the kitchen and sometimes the diningroom; tomatoes were never stored in the fridge.
Tomatoes are never stored in the fridge:
It ruins the flavour. Tomatoes served from the fridge infuriated The Dad. Now it infuriates me…
For some reason, Mum didn’t often preserve tomatoes. Only twice do I remember my mother “doing” anything with them: once when a hail storm damaged the not-yet-ripe crop, she made green tomato chutney and on another, she made ketchup.
Now me, on the other hand, I’ll bottle anything. Almost. The other day, one of our friends laughingly warned The Husband that he might end up in a jar! Besides that, and enjoying tomato, both tinned (bottled) tomatoes and a basic tomato sauce are useful and versatile. So, the other day, I decided that I’d make passata. I’ve now made it three times and although it takes an enormous quantity of tomatoes and a
whole day considerable amount of time to make a relatively small quantity, it is more than worth every moment.
So, at the end of summer, I’m always on the look-out for “oorskot” – surplus tomatoes that one can often get for a song. More so this year, as our crop, thanks to the drought, was dismal, and they came from a vendor at our village market who is one of a number of men who are permitted to glean on local farms. I like the principle: gleaning helps the farmers and locals who don’t have other means, can earn a living. This individual is an ex-con. Now somewhat reformed – depending on who tells you, what.
The basic ingredients, other than tomatoes include garlic, onions, carrots and celery as well as, of course, olive oil.
In terms of quantities, I doubled up, but below is the ingredient list and quantities from Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course:*
For the first step and the soffrito*
200ml olive oil
200g carrots, diced
200g celery, diced
225g white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
10g salt (which I omitted)
5g freshly ground black pepper
2,5kg cherry tomatoes (I used “ordinary” tomatoes)
Sauté the first four ingredients in the olive oil until the onion is glossy and transparent to make the soffrito. Add the tomatoes.
My stock pot just coped with the double quantity. Cook over a medium heat, stirring and squashing the tomatoes to break them up. Bring to the boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 50 minutes.
Caldesi says that the mixture should then be passed through a sieve or passetutto to remove the skins. I tried that once and it’s seriously time-consuming and tiring. So, this time round, I followed her alternative suggestion and stuck in the stick blender and puréed the mixture.
For the second step
3 tablespoons olive oil
100g white onion, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove
salt (which I omitted) and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs of basil
2 tablespoons sugar, as necessary (I find that if I don’t add salt, sugar is often not necessary; also if the tomatoes are sun-ripened, even off the vine, they are generally sweeter than those that ripen artificially)
Heat the oil in another, large, clean pot (I used the base of my pasta pot) and add the onion. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft (7 – 10 minutes). Add the basil and garlic.
Add the puréed mixture and cook until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Depending on the water content of the tomatoes, this could happen relatively quickly or could take a while – anything from 10 minutes (I should be so lucky) to an hour.
Pour into sterilised jars; if you wish, sterilise again in a water bath, but if you’ve done a hot fill, it’s not necessary.
The quantities in the recipe should yield about 1,4 kg. This batch yielded nearly 20 (recycled) jars of different sizes.
About the salt:
I find that tomatoes often don’t need salt so I would rather add salt when I cook whatever meal I’m going to cook, than add it to the preserve. In any event, it doesn’t add to the preservative qualities which tomatoes have in spades being full of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is a natural preservative.
I’m thrilled with this batch: it’s already been used for an impromptu farewell supper and is selling well at the market – much to The Husband’s disappointment –
What about us?
I don’t think he has cause to worry: it’s not exclusive to the market, and as long as there is stock, it’ll be there for our picking.
* Soffrito is the base for many an Italian dish, from ragout to Bolognese.
**Caldesi, Katie 2012: Italian Cookery Course, Kyle Books, Great Britain
Updated after first being posted on Fiona’s Favourites in 2016; save and/or print the recipe, download it here.
- I have recently rescuscitated my blogging life outside Steemit, where I have been blogging for nearly two years (more of that in due course). Part of the revitalisation process was revisiting what it was and would cost me to have a self-hosted site. The WordPress blog (the .com) with the most basic of packages was costing me USD R99 a year. I could have bought the .com but when I did the research, I discovered I could buy a .net for a lot less (about USD 12, and I could buy it through a local re-seller which futher reduced the costs associated with currency exchanges, etc.). It got better, I could, through a fellow Steemian, @gmuxx have my website hosted in the UK – and pay in Steem Based Dollars, a crypto currency. The service included importing everything from the two different presences I’d developed, as well as access to the WordPress platform so that by using the @steempress plugin, I can publish direct to Steemit. Going this route was a no-brainer. And thanks to Gaz, it’s been seamless.
- The second element of the revitalisation process includes a necessary revisiting of old cooking posts and updating them with what I’ve learned and, I hope, improved.
- Because I found that it was a schlepp to search my blog for recipes, I’ve decided that, henceforth, posts will include a link printable versions of the recipes sans the stories that can be downloaded and saved – assuming you’re that interested!
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
If you’re a compulsive Instagrammer like me, Share2Steem and earn
Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here