My Recipe Box

Tomato Purée

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Yields five to six pints.

  • by Eugenia Bone from Fine Cooking
    Issue 106

Depending on the water content of your tomatoes, this purée may be thinner than store-bought canned versions. You can use your homemade purée in any recipe calling for canned, but you may need to increase cooking time to evaporate the excess water.

Watch the video series Homegrown/Homemade: Tomatoes to see a demonstration of this purée recipe and to learn more canning basics.

more about:
  • 6 to 8 lb. ripe tomatoes, preferably a plum or paste tomato variety like San Marzano or Roma Citric acid (if canning)

Wash the tomatoes and trim the stems. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, transfer to a 6-quart saucepan, and cook over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, using the plate with the largest holes that still capture the seeds. Let cool; then refrigerate in nonreactive containers for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 year. You can also can the purée using the instructions below.

Canning Tomato Purée

Have ready as many clean pint jars and bands as needed. Simmer new lids in a small saucepan to soften the rubberized flanges. Put 1/4 tsp. citric acid in each jar. In a large saucepan, bring the purée to a boil over medium heat. Ladle the hot purée into the jars, leaving 1 inch of headroom. Be sure there are no air bubbles in the jar (if there are, run a butter knife through the purée). Wipe the rims, put on the lids, and screw on the bands fingertip tight.

Put the jars in a large pot fitted with a canning rack. Add enough water to cover the jars by 2 to 3 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a rolling boil. Boil the jars for 40 minutes (plus 2 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level). Be sure the jars are covered with water the entire time. Turn off the heat.

Wait 5 minutes or so and then use a jar lifter to transfer the jars to a rack or towel and let cool.

The purée may separate, with the pulp rising to the top of the jar and the translucent yellow juice dropping to the bottom—this is fine.

After about 8 hours, remove the bands and see if you can lift the jar by the lid. If you can, then the seal is tight; if not, refrigerate the jar and use within 10 days. Date the jars and store them in a cool, dry place. You do not need to store the jars with the bands on; the lid is enough. The purée will keep, unopened and at room temperature, for up to 1 year. After opening, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. If separated, gently shake the jar to recombine.

Canning Tool Kit

To can tomatoes, you’ll need citric acid, which lowers the pH of the tomatoes for safe canning, and a few special canning tools. You can reuse jars and bands that are not chipped or dented, but always use new lids.

Jars, bands, and lids

Jar lifter

Canning rack

Citric acid
Serving Suggestions

Keeping tomato purée on hand is like having money in the bank; it’s a base that can add depth and flavor to all kinds of dishes. Here are four easy ways to use it.

Quick marinara sauce Sauté finely chopped onions and carrots in olive oil until soft, add tomato purée, and cook until flavorful and thickened. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in minced fresh basil, a bit of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 10 more minutes and serve over pasta.

Fresh tomato soup Thin tomato purée with chicken broth and heat until simmering. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a good olive oil. Or add chopped, cooked chicken, fried tortilla strips, diced avocado, hot sauce, and minced fresh cilantro for a take on Mexican tortilla soup.

Tomato granita Put tomato purée in a shallow baking dish and season with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Freeze, running the tines of a fork through the purée every couple of hours to break up any crystals that form. Serve as a refreshing starter or as a palate cleanser between courses.

Bloody Marys Add a bit of cold water to tomato purée, then stir in freshly grated horseradish, hot sauce, lemon juice, and vodka for a fresh brunch cocktail.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : Per 1/2 cup; Calories (kcal): 40; Fat (g): 0; Fat Calories (kcal): 5; Saturated Fat (g): 00; Protein (g): 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0; Carbohydrates (g): 9; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 10; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

We settled on a different solution at our house. We blanched the tomatoes first, peeled them, and then ran them through the marvelous Italian tomato press (inexpensive, even at Williams Sonoma). As in the video, we ran the pulp through the press a few times and then added the pulp to the purée and reduced the mixture for 10-15 minutes before canning. The end product has the consistency of a good canned crushed tomato, but tastes much fresher. (The press was also terrific for making a spicy Georgian plum sauce for grilled meats and fish. Highly recommended, it's on everyone's Christmas list this year.) Also, the Bloody Marys made with the purée are pretty fabulous!

This is basically the standard recipe for tomato puree, but it will not give you the incredible flavor available from just-picked tomatoes. The main culprit is the 10 minute cook prior to preparation. My favorite way to avoid the pre-cook (especially when making a large batch) is as follows: 1. Clean tomatoes, briefly dip each one in a pot of boiling water to loosen the skins. 2. Set out two large bowls, each with a sieve or a colander 3. Working over the first bowl: remove the skin, cut the tomato in half and remove the seeds with their surrounding gelatinous blobs. 4. Let the skin and seeds drop into the colander and place the pulpy part of the tomato into the second sieve/colander. Any stems, green parts, and bad parts should be set aside for compost or thrown out. 5. Put all the liquids that drain from the colanders into another container for later. 6. Pass the skin, pulp and seeds through a food mill, making sure to scrape the pulpy puree off the bottom of the mill. Let this liquid sit for a few hours. Skim off the liquid that rises to the top. The heavier, thicker red liquid on the bottom can be used as tomato juice or to thin the sauce you make from the tomatoes in the second bowl. 7. The tomatoes in the second bowl can now be coarsely chopped or pureed and used your favorite way. My three favorite ways to use these are: 1. Chop and mix with fresh basil, onion and virgin olive oil for bruschetta. 2. Chop and use for a fresh marinara sauce, which I also use for pizza. 3. Coarsely chop and freeze 2 cup batches using a Foodsaver vacuum machine and bags. This only works well if the tomatoes are well-drained. I'm fortunate enough to have a wood burning pizza oven, so I've rationed the frozen tomatoes for my pizza sauce in the winter.

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