Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh tomato, let me count the ways I love thee...

As a kid, the family joke was often about me and my ketchup. Every edible was festooned, dipped or drug through it before being eaten. Oddly enough, I HATED tomato soup. That changed early in my 20's, however, when Scot shared with me some tomato soup made by his Mom. It was simple, but luscious. Tasted like summer. A few years ago I endeavored to recreate it, and marveled at how simple the recipe is: 8 lbs of tomatoes, four medium onions, three celery stalks, salt, pepper, and butter. For the past few years I've canned a batch or two (or three) each year and shared it with others and enjoyed it through the damp Pacific Northwest Winters. It's perfect with a toasted cheese sandwich; nothing fancy, just Midwest redneck style: plain white bread w/ lots of butter and Velveeta. 

(I also I LOVE pickles but HATE cucumbers.) 

Today was the day. With an 8 lbs variety from a CSA like garden score on Craigslist and another 20 lbs of romas from a farm stand, I set about soup making. Always looking for a way to improve, I tried the Sauce Master that was gifted to me, thinking it might improve over the food mill I'd used in the past. To make a long story short: more setup required, it makes an awful mess, and the result is too much wastage. 

Recently I made blackberry jam, and found that the juicing feature of the Bullet Express I'd gotten Scot for Christmas made FAST work of the task of mashing/seeding/pulping the fruit, and the result was compounded if you ran the pulp through 2-3 times. Each time it extracted more juice, each pass richer and thicker than the last. It made the most rich and velvety jelly; more like a smooth and perfectly seedless jam. It's as dark as night and as flavorful as the berries times ten. 

So I figured it would do well with the tomatoes, too. I'd halved and quartered the tomatoes, and tossed them on the stove with the other components to cook down. Preparing the Bullet Express, I had the bright idea of placing the large cone shaped hopper from the Sauce Master on top, so I could easily funnel a large amount of tomatoes into the fairly small opening on the Bullet Express. Brilliant. Using a 4 cup Pyrex to ladle things in, it was working really, really well. Thick, rich juice was flowing out. 

Scot stood behind me as I thrilled at my new improvement. Until, that is, I had an even better idea. He says that he saw the error in my ways but was dumbstruck to stop it. Thinking if filling the machine with one dump was good that two would be better, I quickly scooped up another four cups and dumped it in... problem is the base of the Bullet Express only holds about 4 cups, and then it would "back up" into the hopper I'd placed on top. However, the hopper just sat on top with the spout extending down a bit into the Bullet Express -- it was in no way a "closed system." Immediately, hot tomatoes starts to flow out onto the counter. Seeing no other option, I press the button to start the juicer, and tomato sauce flies out the spigot while it continues to pour out of the sides of the machine, and some even flies out the top of the hopper, splashing my white kitchen cabinets with a wave of red. 

In situations like this, some people get angry. But... what good does that do? I realize how STOOPID what I just did was, and I started laughing hysterically. Scot, my loving, anal retentive, Type A husband, is appalled and disgusted at both my stupidity and the resulting mess. (But did he move to stop it? Noooooo... he claims to have been paralyzed by the thought of, "What part of this doesn't she understand!?") Kris comes running into the kitchen to see what the commotion is about and joins in the laughter over the tomato volcano I'd just created. 

Tomatoes. Everywhere. Red. My cabinets are white. My floor is white. Or... they were. In short order, every kitchen towel is dirty, but the mess is cleaned up and I am happily juicing my way to soupy happiness. The batch was completed in good order, and the results are FANTASTIC. I took the pulp and ran it through three times, extracting as much tomato goodness as possible. All that was left was a rather dry pile of seeds and fiber. The soup is a beautiful red color, thick with a rich flavor without having to boil it down at all. 

The batch currently cooking down is going to make marinara, then another batch of tomato soup. 

With much less mess. I learned from my mistake the first time! 

1 comment:

  1. So this is the future for my daughter, huh? She is a ketchup fiend. Everything has ketchup. Personally, I think food is merely a ketchup delivery device.

    She only likes one kind of tomato soup, which is the Pacific brand Organic Tomato soup which is amazing.

    I'd love your tomato soup recipe if you are willing to share it.