Friday, March 25, 2011

Free Range Friday: how do you say it?

I finally got to make a trip to Kansas City's fabled River Market. In addition to the great company and an incredible Ethiopian meal, I enjoyed the sights and smells of fresh produce and dried herbs. I was especially excited to see Roma tomatoes priced at seven for a dollar.

The interesting thing about fruits and vegetables is the fact that we can make them as healthy or as diet killing as we like. For the carnivore, a breakfast of corned beef hash, eggs over easy and sliced tomatoes is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. If you like salt on those tomato slices, the healthiest part of the breakfast will be your napkin.

Look at some labels; you’ll find that most commercial tomato products contain things like tons of sodium and high fructose corn syrup. Speaking as one who eats tomatoes like apples (raw and in large quantities), there has to be a safer way to preserve that taste of summer succulence.

In ‘You Say Tomato’, author Joanne Weir offers this recipe for tomato juice: “Wash, core and quarter 5 pounds of ripe red tomatoes. Place in a large nonreactive pot over medium heat. Add 1 small red onion, halved, and 1 celery rib with leaves. Cover and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Cool. Discard onion and celery. Pass tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine sieve. Discard solids. Measure juice and return to cleaned pot. For each 4 cups of tomato juice, season with 1 tsp. sugar, up to 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste. Stir to dissolve over medium heat. Cool, then chill. Taste for salt. Serve within three days.”

Let us not forget ketchup, the king of condiments Yes, you can make it at home. Here’s a recipe from Pick Your Own. You’ll need about twenty-five pounds of ripe tomatoes. Dunk them, a few at a time, in boiling water for forty-five seconds, then put them in ice water. This loosens the skins so that the tomatoes practically peel themselves.

Are your hands clean? Cut open the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and excess juice. Put the pieces into a large pot and start them simmering. Stir in a cup of chopped onion, a clove of minced garlic, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt (optional), 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and a cup of sugar.

While the tomatoes are cooking, put 3 cups of 5% apple cider vinegar into a saucepan. Using cheesecloth, make a “teabag” containing 3 tablespoons of celery seed. Let this “tea” simmer for 30 minutes.

Once the tomato mixture is mushy enough, run it through a food mill. Put the mixture back in the pot, add the vinegar “tea” and boil it down over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook it until your ketchup is the desired consistency, then pour it into sterilized jars and process them in a boiling water bath. Let ‘em cool and share them with your friends. Depending on your suppliers, you can have homemade ketchup, minus chemical enhancements, for about $0.65 per eight-ounce jar.

How about you? Are you a tomatophile? Is it to-may-to or to-mah-to?

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