My two-year-old grandson “helps” me pick the little red cherry tomatoes. He dutifully picks the tomato, puts it in the bowl, then without even letting it go, takes it out again and eats it. They fruit astonishingly prolifically on tall indeterminate plants climbing the south side fence on one bed. Sadly, despite being two-year-old’s sweet tooth worthy, they will never be a market variety – too hard to pick without splitting them.
Which means they don’t last, even a day on the kitchen bench. I’m getting a bowl like this every day though and with three other tomato varieties also fruiting (Brandywines, yellow cherries, and Principe Borghese). We’re eating Tomatoes as Themselves as a side dish with practically every meal. I’ve made Green Gazpacho with the yellow cherries a few times this season already – wonderful on a hot summer night. Pasta Puttanesca uses a whole bowl full of tomatoes. Fresh tomato sauces for things like Italian Kangaroo Meatballs, Huevos Diablos, Slow Cooked Green Beans Italian Style come up often.
And still there are more. Which means it’s passata and sun dried tomato time. I’ve posted about Sun Dried Tomatoes a few times. This time with the little cherries I didn’t bother threading them, just laid them on biscuit trays and dried them on the dashboard. The little ones halved dry in a single hot day.
But I’ve also discovered a really efficient way to make passata using the slow cooker. It works well for me because we are on stand alone solar power and this time of the year, there is free power to waste. I heat up the tomatoes in the slow cooker for a couple of hours, then blitz them just for a couple of seconds with a stick blender, then strain through an ordinary kitchen strainer to get most of the seeds and skin out.
Return the juice to the slow cooker, good pinch of salt, a few bay leaves or a sprig of oregano, perhaps some garlic, and leave it on high, with the lid off, till the passata is satisfyingly thick. It takes about 8 hours in my slow cooker, which means I can just leave it to it while I go about my day.
Sterilize some jars and their lids by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10 and ladle the passata into the jars. (A good tip is to leave a ladle in the passata so that it is sterile too). Lay a tea towel in the bottom of a big pot, put the lids on the jars tightly, stand or lay them in the pot, cover them with cold water, bring to the boil and boil for half an hour. Check that the lids pop in as they cool.
I really like being able to make half a dozen jars at a time when I have excess tomatoes without it being a huge mission. The little bit left over, too little for a jar, kept cooking for another hour till it was tomato paste thick and went wonderfully with Cheesy Zucchini Balls.