There's nothing like a garden tomato. When the August sun beats down, tomatoes are at their peak -- ripe, red, pungently perfumed, and by this time of year, in greater numbers than you can give away.
Tomatoes are so easy to preserve, though, that it's possible to eat them for a good part of the year.
Tomato sauce, juice and paste are the en principal tomato products, but homemade catsup is also simple and sweet, and plain tomatoes, quartered and canned, make a nice winter dish. CANNING TOMATOES is simple, and because of the generally high acid content of this vegetable, the jars can be processed in a water-bath canner. Exceptions to this rule are the new, low-acid tomatoes. If you grow these, either eat them fresh, process them in a pressure canner, or make them into catsup, where the acid content is increased by the vinegar.
To can tomatoes, select firm, ripe ones. Drop them into boiling water for one minute, and then into ice water. Slip off the skins and remove the cores. Depending on size, you can leave them whole, cut them in half, or quarter them.
Pack the tomatoes into jars, until they reach 1/2 inch from the top, then press them gently to fill in the spaces. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pints and 1 teaspoon to quarts. Seal, and process in a boiling water bath: 35 minutes for pints and 45 for quarts.
To make TOMATO JUICE, use ripe, juicy tomatoes. Wash, remove the stem ends, and cut into pieces. Simmer until soft, stirring often. Put through a strainer. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart. Reheat to boiling, fill jars to 1/2 inch from the top. Seal and process quarts and pints in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.
Just as juicy tomatoes make the best tomato juice, those with the least juice make the best TOMATO SAUCE. Italian plum tomatoes are ideal for this, because they are mostly pulp and cook down to a smooth, thick puree in a short time.
For sauce, wash and quarter tomatoes to fill a large enamel pot. Crush slightly, cover the pot, and simmer at medium heat until the tomatoes are tender.
Then either put them through a food mill, or whiz them in a blender, which will puree them, skins and all. Put the puree back into the pan, and simmer until it's thick. Add basil leaves or hot pepper if you want spice.
When the sauce is suitably thick, ladle it into hot jars and seal them. Put the jars into a water bath for 20 minutes. Then, when you need tomato sauce, all you have to do is open a jar and add the flavorings of your chioce.
This recipe for TOMATO CATSUP calls for one peck, that's 8 quarts, of tomatoes, and turns out 5 pints of fine catsup. Great for using up a really abundant crop.
For catsup, wash, stem and quarter one peck of tomatoes. Peel and quarter 2 medium onions. Blend both, in small amounts, in a blender, until smooth. Run the puree through a food mill or strainer to make it smoother still.
Put 4 quarts of puree into a large enamel pot. In a piece of muslin, tie up the spices: 1 teaspoon hot pepper, 1 1/2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon whole allspice, 1 peeled garlic clove and 1 stick cinnamon. Add the bag to the pot. a
Add 2 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon celery salt. Bring to a boil at high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium, and cook about one hour, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and cook and stir until the catsup is very thick. Ladle it into jars, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
With these tomato products on hand, no matter how cold the winter gets, you'll have hot tomatoes.