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Inside Pastificio's Kitchen

if you have a garden...

...and are anything like my sister and brother-in-law, this time of the year you are bombarded with fresh homegrown tomatoes.

AJ (Brother-in-Law) and His Homegrown Tomatoes

They just keep on growing and growing and growing. And consumption doesn't keep up with the growth. I mean let's face it - its not humanly possible to eat that many tomatoes!

You have already made and stocked up on tomato sauce and soup. You have already given some to your neighbors and friends. You have eaten as many tomato salads as you can. You have done everything you possibly can think of and you keep finding yourself saying - "WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO WITH ALL THESE DAMN TOMATOES!" I have something that will help calm you down from your potentially traumatizing tomato breakdown!

If tomatoes are just delicious, homegrown tomatoes are just out-of-this-world delicious. And indeed they are! Seriously, if you don't like store-bought tomatoes, try a homegrown one before you say "no" to the whole boat! My whole point is that, naturally, with something this delicious, you want to avoid wasting at all costs. Therefore, I have some pointers as to how to save some of those tomatoes! And not to mention, they are great money savers during the winter months!

1) Homemade Tomato Paste:

You can use any kind of tomato to make tomato paste. The kind used, however, will make a difference in the final yield. For example, meaty tomatoes, like Roma or San Marzano, yield much more paste - from the same quantity - than, let's say, heirlooms. Thus, keep this in mind before proceeding with the recipe.

The jars will keep up to 1 year stored in a cool, dark place. Make sure after opening to refrigerate. Once opened, it can be stored up to 1 week. If you don't feel up to canning and want an easier storing option, portion the finished paste into ice-cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, store cubes in a plastic bag and label with the date. They can be frozen for up to nine months. Another option is to store the paste in clean jars of which are then topped with olive oil. Make sure all the contents is covered with oil. Then simply refrigerate or freeze. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 weeks, but must be well-covered with olive oil and a very clean spoon must be used to remove the paste during each use. If frozen, the paste will keep up to 9 months.

Tomato Paste

2) Canned Whole Tomatoes:

A lot of people freak when they think of canning. They believe it is some complicated process that can lead to potentially dangerous food hazards. While, the food hazards may be possible, you must remember it is just as likely with many other food preparations. So don't let this be a determining factor. Canning, when following the right procedure, is actually quite simple and can come in handy! Especially when preparing for the winter months!

Today, it is very easy to search the web when uncertain about what to do. One thing you must be sure to do is the sterilization of the canning jars. To sterilize the jars, just simply run through a cycle in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, sterilize the empty jars in boiling water for 10-15 mins.

Another thing to consider is to simmer all the lids and rings in simmering water right before use. This softens the sealant and allows for better overall sealence.

If you don’t want to can whole tomatoes, considered canning crushed tomatoes. Follow the same process of blanching and peeling. Once peeled, place tomatoes in a large pot and crush with a potato masher. Crushing helps create more juice. Then heat pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar (or 1 tablespoon to each pint.) Then fill each jar with tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a knife to take out any bubbles and clean the rims. Put lids and rings on finger tight and boil for 40-45 minutes depending on the size of jar.

Eitherway you do it, having these canned tomatoes available is great! You can use them in so many cooking preparations!

*Side note: when canning, if not using citric acid, it is best to use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice is pasteurized and has a more consistent acidity. Just overall, it's better and safer!

3) Tomato Powder:

Huh? Tomato powder? Yup! That's Right! It's amazing stuff! Add it to soups, stews, spreads, meat dishes, etc. It's a super versatile ingredient and is fun to experiment with in different recipes.

Tomato Powder

4) Jarred Roasted Tomatoes:

These tomatoes are so yummy. They are perfect in salads, alongside antipasti platters, in cold pastas, or topped on some bread for a snack! So robust in flavor! It's amazing how roasting can completely change the flavor of something.

5) Homemade Ketchup:

Well, here I don't really have anything to say. Ketchup is ketchup is ketchup. But, homemade ketchup is REALLY KETCHUP deliciousness. Try it and see what you think. Plus, it's fun to make different kinds of ketchup using different spices! This recipe is very similar to what you probably consider traditional ketchup.

6) Tomato Jam:

This is absolutely incredible on burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches! I mean it's delicious on a lot of things, but it's definitely a crowd pleaser when it comes to those two "feels-like-home" dishes. Also, make sure to add it to your baked brie recipe. Ohhh I'm dying of hunger just thinking of it's yumminess! This super simple recipe sure does make a meal magical!

6) "Sun-dried" Tomatoes:

"Sun-dried" Tomatoes

Last but not least we have the "sun-dried" tomatoes! Now, by "sun-dried" I obviously mean oven-dried. There is no way in h-e-double hockey sticks am I waiting for those tomatoes to dry in the sun. Not to mention, in Chicago weather! Though super cool, that is just toooo long, and I don't think they would last drying with all those squirrels hanging around my backyard. Anyways, this recipe is great if your looking for something similar to those, sometimes expensive, store-bought sun-dried tomatoes.

Hope you all enjoy these recipes! And remember, homegrown foods = home-cooked meals = food for the soul!!

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Pati, This is so great, can't wait to see more. XO Carol

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