Fresh Tomatoes to Gourmet Puree

It's time to harvest your tomato sauce! Cooking tomato puree from fresh tomatoes in your garden will make you feel like a true gourmet chef! And the amazing homegrown flavor can be savored all winter in your favorite tomato-based dishes. And if you aren't able to grow your own, check your local farmer's market for interesting heirloom tomato varieties and give those a try. You want to have about 2-3 lbs for one 9" x 11" roasting pan.

Here's the basic recipe:

--Start with a large glass, enamel or stainless steel pan and fill it with clean tomatoes. I usually cut exceptionally large tomatoes in half to make them fit better and roast a little faster.

--Drizzle on about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (organic, extra virgin is best) and use your hands to coat all sides of the tomatoes.

--Sprinkle with sea salt and/or pepper as desired.

--Your tomatoes are ready to go into the oven and they should look like this: 

--Next, roast the tomatoes in the oven at 325 degrees F for 3-5 hours.

The longer you roast them, the thicker the puree will be, but the less you will have. So keep an eye on them and definitely get them out when the tops have browned a bit, like this: 

"Juicier" tomato varieties tend to produce a lot of yellowish water in the pan so if you want your sauce to be thick, you may want to pour off that water before processing. The "juice" is very tasty, so save it in a jar in the freezer to add to other dishes like soups or stews.

--After the tomatoes have cooled for about 15 minutes, spoon them into your processor of choice. A basic foodmill works well to seperate out the seeds and skins, however I prefer using the Vitamix which pulverizes seeds and skins making the resulting puree nice and thick. Plus it's a lot quicker and easier, which is helpful when you are processing over a hundred pounds in a season. 

Delicious thick smooth tomato puree.

Note on food mills:  I recommend using a good quality food mill. The best one I've found is the Cuisipro Stainless Food Mill. Now that I've upgraded to the Vitamix, I still use the food mill for making applesauce.

Once the puree has cooled, we first freeze the puree in a muffin-type silicone pan I ordered from Silpat/DeMarle. Each "muffin" is actually an 8-ounce disc. You can freeze it in any container. Once frozen, the puree can be popped out of the container and placed into a bag to be vacuum sealed. We use a Foodsaver vacuum sealer.

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