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
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):
Per 1/2 cup;
Photo: Scott Phillips