The garden is in full swing, and while I’m doing the best I can, production is quickly out-pacing me.
I typically offer up the extra bounty to our neighborhood, but I think we’ve reached the point where even they groan when they see my text messages pop up. I have been canning every week, but it’s difficult to get the energy to stand over a hot stove with record heat blanketing Louisiana. I ordered a dehydrator with the intention of broadening my horizons and saving the gigantic herb garden before this heat does it in. But that doesn’t solve the problems of today.
Yesterday, I still had a ton of tomatoes in need of processing, and I didn’t have the time or mental energy for lots of hands-on prep work, so that excluded Roasted Tomato Lime Salsa, though I did make some last week. I also did not have enough tomatoes to make marinara, so I turned to my cookbook library and found Roasted Tomato Paste in The All-New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. I initially balked, because 12 pounds of tomatoes for four, 4-oz jars? Psssssh. But with a Heathen home to help me, I could knock out prep in 20 minutes. However, because both the tomatoes and resulting paste slow roast, it’s still a seemingly longer project, but it was also 90 percent was hands-off. I reckoned that the tomatoes needed to go, so a paste experiment it was.
We started by coring/seeding and quartering the tomatoes, then roasting them in the oven:
Then we pureed them in the food processor, spread the puree on sheet pans and roasted that, stirring every twenty minutes or so until we reached the right color and consistency (following photos are 1-freshly pureed, 2-halfway through, 3-final paste):
Finally, we water-bath canned per the recipe.
It worked out well, but by all that is holy, learn from my mistakes. Line your sheet pan with heavy duty foil. Mine is currently on a fourth round of soaking and I’m about to take the oven cleaner to it. Le sigh.
So, overall, this recipe is long on time but short on hands-on effort. Sure, the yield was small, but those tomatoes were destined for the compost bin if I didn’t figure out a plan that worked with my timeframe. That’s the key for me for successful canning; pivoting when you need to and managing your time. I salvaged the tomatoes but didn’t wreck my other goals for the day.
As always, I will include my usual canning advice, which can be found in this post, and this one. Canning is the very essence of science of food safety, so unless you want to live on the edge via death-by-botulism-roulette, follow professionally developed and tested recipes from trusted sources.
And just when I finished this project, the Husband announced his intention to harvest another round of tomatoes tomorrow, in the 105 degree heat. That dehydrator can’t get here fast enough, I’ll tell y’all that.
Roasted Tomato Paste
- 12 pounds Roma tomatoes, stems removed and halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for taste
- 1 teaspoon citric acid
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove seeds and pulp from tomato halves with a spoon, then cut halves vertically. Place tomato quarters on three rimmed baking sheets lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake tomato quarters for 1.5 hours, checking every 20 minutes after the 40-minute mark to prevent burning. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
Process tomatoes in a food processor in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in citric acid. Add more salt if needed for taste.
Return the puree to one sheet pan and spread out evenly. Bake at 350 F until tomato mixture is deep red and very thick, stirring every 20 minutes (could be anywhere from 2-3 hours based on your oven and water content of your tomatoes).
Spoon mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space, remove air bubbles as best you can, wipe rims, and apply lids and bands. Process for 40 minutes in boiling water, adjusting recipe for altitude. Remove jars from heat to cooling rack and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Inspect seals and refrigerate any jars that failed to seal for short-term use.
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