Tomato-ing, again. And math.

September 25, 2015

Lots of tomato goodness, ready for winter.

Lots of tomato goodness, ready for winter.

I just couldn’t say goodbye to tomatoes, yet.

It’s been an up and down year for tomatoes, between the cool, wet spring that made them late, the rice herbicide drift that ended many of their bearing seasons, all the way up to the current late crop that seems to be thriving. And I got to looking at my tomato shelf in the storage room, and realized I really DIDN’T have as much ripe tomato relish as I thought I had, though surely the 20 quarts of tomatoes and the dozen or so pints of tomato-garlic sauce will hold me as far as the other tomato preparations go.

So I went to the produce market and bought a 30-pound box of tomatoes, which cost me $29. I was going to just can half and do relish with the other half, but I had been reading about homemade tomato paste. So I said, “Self? We’re going to try that.” And self agreed we might as well.

So we blanched and peeled and cored and chopped up some 15 or so pounds of tomatoes. Then we seeded them and tossed the flesh into a colander to drain. Into a bowl, because I have really enjoyed having home-canned tomato juice. It makes a fabulous Bloody Mary.We actually squeezed those tomatoes fairly enthusiastically to get out some of the juice, and then chunked them into the FoPro to puree.

Sinks and cutting board in use in "working up tomatoes" session

Sinks and cutting board in use in “working up tomatoes” session

That made a bit more than a gallon of tomato puree. To it I added a cup and a half of roasted red pepper puree. It called for chopped red peppers, but I had a jar of roasted ones, and as the whole thing was going to get cooked for a long time anyway, I saw no difference.  Added a half-cup of lemon juice, a little salt, and set it to simmering in the crockpot.

I left it simmering on High with the lid off until I was ready to go to bed, and, assured that if it didn’t stick on high it ought not to stick on low, I turned it down to low to continue cooking overnight. And when I couldn’t go back to sleep at 5 this morning, I got up and canned it — 16 little 4-ounce jars.

I would estimate it reduced by not quite half. It’s not as thick as what you get in the grocery, nor as smooth; it recommended going through a food mill before the final cooking, but as I’d already pureed it in the FoPro, I didn’t see how the food mill would help. I did find one recipe that called for getting it to that point and then spreading it in a baking pan and dehydrating it to make an Italian conserva. I didn’t think I wanted to bother with that.

Skins and cores yielded 8 half-pints of tomato sauce. Who knew?

Skins and cores yielded 8 half-pints of tomato sauce. Who knew?

The juice out of that went in the fridge, as did the skins and cores, because I’ve also found a recipe for a tomato sauce that uses skins and cores. I added the juice I drained from the tomatoes I peeled, cored and chopped for the relish,  and I’ve canned three quarts and a pint of that. Added the skins and cores to the first batch, and they simmered for sauce. Cooked it down, pureed it with an immersion blender, put it through the food mill, and netted two quarts of sauce. Relish is still simmering, a bit more than a gallon of it, which should yield 8-10 pints.

So. 16 four-ouncers of tomato paste. The ones at the store are 99 cents for the good stuff, and they’re 6 ounces, but I always wind up throwing part of it away. So that’s 16 bucks.  Three and a half  quarts of tomato juice, at $1.49 per. There’s another $5.25. I wound up with two quarts of sauce, or  8 half-pints, at 99 cents each; another $8. Let’s say ten pints of relish, at $1.99, $20, for a total product grocery store price of $49.25. I should probably add in to the tomatoes my $3 worth of banana peppers, $2 worth of roasted red peppers, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice to the tune of two bucks max — say another $7 all told, for a grand total of $36, or $13.25 less than I would have paid for it at Kroger, and mine is a damn sight better.

The box was full of tomatoes. This is all I threw away.

The box was full of tomatoes. This is all I threw away.

The recipe from the sauce-from-skins notes I should be able to reduce total waste from my tomatoes to about 3.5 percent. I weighed it. I had 11 ounces of skins and seeds, which my handy-dandy calculator tells me is 2 .1 percent of 30 pounds. Which means I’ve gotten a BUNCH of use out of this box of tomatoes.

I’m planting my own next year. I promise you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em I am.



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