Tomatoes are tasty, versatile — and oh yes, healthy too

Tomato season is my favourite season. Plucking a warm ripe tomato fresh from the vine and biting into it with juice running down my arm softens the sadness of summer’s end.

For years three fellow home economists and I made many jars of salsa during tomato season. Later, I made big batches of tomato sauce with other friends.

Tomatoes aren’t just tasty and versatile but they are also healthy. They are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. Carbohydrates comprise four percent of raw tomatoes. Tomatoes are a good source of fibre.

Canning tomato sauce

Always use bottled lemon juice or citric acid rather than fresh lemons because the acidity level or pH is more constant. Hot water bath canning is only for higher acid foods. Tomatoes need a bit of acid added to make them safe for water bath canning.

Tomatoes

  • bottled lemon juice or citric acid
  • salt, optional
  • dried herbs, to taste, optional

Place the required number of clean 500 ml or one litre mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner. Cover jars with water and heat to a simmer. Set screw bands aside.

Heat lids in hot water, not boiling. Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.

Wash tomatoes, remove cores and trim off bruised or discoloured portions. The tomatoes can be prepared in one of two ways.

Option 1 is to quarter tomatoes and pass through a food mill that separates seeds and skins from tomato pulp and juice.

Option 2 is to quarter tomatoes and place in a large stainless steel saucepan over high heat. Stir and crush tomatoes until mixture boils rapidly. Then continue to slowly add and crush freshly cut tomato quarters to the boiling mixture. Be sure to maintain a constant, vigorous boil while adding remaining tomatoes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Press mixture through a fine sieve or food mill to remove seeds and skins.

Return four cups (1 L) of sieved mixture to large diameter, deep stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil.

Add additional tomato mixture, one cup (250 mL) at a time, maintaining a steady boil. When all of the mixture has been returned to pan, continue stirring occasionally and boiling gently until sauce reaches desired consistency. Boil until volume is reduced by about one-third for thin sauce or by one-half for thick sauce.

Add quantity of lemon juice or citric acid specified below to each hot mason jar before filling with sauce.

If using, add salt and dried herbs to jar prior to filling: herbs and salt are optional. For a 500 mL jar use one tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice or one-quarter tsp (1mL) citric acid. One-half teaspoon (2mL) salt is optional. For a one litre jar, use two tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice or half tsp. (2 mL) citric acid and one teaspoon (5 mL) optional salt.

Ladle hot sauce into a hot jar to within half-inch (1 cm) of the top of jar to leave a headspace.

Using a non-metallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more sauce. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot lid on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining sauce.

Cover canner. Bring water to a boil and process filled jars 35 minutes for 500 mL jars and 40 minutes for one litre jars. At 1,001 to 3,000 feet above sea level add five minutes to the processing time.

Remove jars without tilting. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours. Do not retighten screw bands.

After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars. (From Bernardin)

Charred tomatillo chermoula

  • 2 lb. small tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed 1 kg
  • 2 tbsp. plus 1/3 c. olive oil 30 mL plus 75 mL
  • kosher salt
  • 1 2-in. piece ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped 5cm
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 c. coarsely chopped cilantro 500 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 5 mL

Prepare a grill for medium heat. Toss tomatillos on a rimmed baking sheet with two tablespoons (30 mL) oil.

Season with salt. Grill, turning occasionally, until flesh is jammy and skins are blackened and blistered, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let cool.

Discard liquid that has drained off into bowl.

Process tomatillos, ginger, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and remaining one-third cup (75 mL) oil until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Classic bruschetta

For the tomatoes:

  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil 60 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced basil 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar 30 mL
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt 5 mL
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes

For the bread:

  • 1 large baguette, sliced quarter-inch thick on the bias
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved

Make marinated tomatoes. In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, heat oil. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden, two to four minutes, then remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss together tomatoes, basil, vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add garlic and oil from skillet and toss to combine. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast bread. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Brush bread on both sides lightly with oil and place on large baking sheet. Toast bread until golden, 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through. Let bread cool for five minutes, then rub tops of bread with halved garlic cloves.

Spoon tomatoes on top of bread just before serving.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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