First grade was difficult for me. I was a year ahead and shy. I vaguely remember being bored in class and learning cursive by looking at the letters above the blackboard. There was a great deal of time for daydreaming. I remember walking the few blocks to school, something that I am sure doesn’t happen anymore, and being taunted by boys en route. I remember being called on to read aloud, something I hated then and I hate now. And I remember the girl who sat in front of me and ate crayons, pencil wood, pencil lead, erasers, rubber cement, glue, and paste, who made it all worthwhile.
I eat paste now, too, but not the kind that sticks construction paper (which she also ate) to wooden popsicle sticks (yes). Just plain tomato paste. Inspired by a tomato conserva recipe on Food 52 from Marisa of Food in Jars (whom I am sure never ate rubber cement), I thought I’d take a chance this year and make a more concentrated sauce that I could use in place of purchased paste to thicken and enhance stews and roasts this winter. I find I use tomato paste far more than I use watery peeled, canned tomatoes altered by lemon juice.
My recipe is far more basic than hers, and may yield even less paste, but it’s a very easy solution to too many paste tomatoes. I cut them in half, salt them, and place them carefully next to one another, cut side up, in as many rimmed baking pans as will fit in my oven. I turn it on at 225 degrees and leave it until the tomatoes are shrunken but aren’t leathery yet. Then I place them all in a big bowl with a slosh of red wine, and grind down the pulp in a food mill, separating out the skins and seeds. (And the grinding will take you some time, so be patient and grind in small batches until you can’t get any more pulp out, then grind some more.)
The paste will be less thick than the commercial stuff, but much thicker than commercial tomato sauce. If you use premium paste tomatoes, it will taste wonderfully fresh. I freeze the stuff in ice cube trays.
Interested in more ways to preserve your tomato bounty? See more ideas from Food in Jars, including her famous tomato jam recipe. And stay tuned for a few more ideas about green tomatoes from yours truly!