The tomatoes in the greenhouse are ripening and we’re fast approaching a glut of tomatoes that threatens to overtake the mountain of beans picked from the garden. Not that I’m complaining about having tomatoes. To eat a tomato warm from the sun is one of life’s simple pleasures. Give me a table in the sunshine with a plate of tomato, mozzarella and basil, drizzled with oil and accompanied by a piece of foccacia to mop up the juices and I’m happy.
My favourite sandwich is generously buttered white bread with sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, which is then squashed and left somewhere warm for a while so that the tomato juice runs into the bread. An effort, I realise, to conjure up those long lost childhood days before we had ice packs, when a packed lunch would be crammed in the bottom of a bag as we went off all day to explore on our bikes.
In the greenhouse, it seems to take an age for the tomatoes to ripen fully and the first tomatoes of the season are eaten sparingly, perhaps in a sandwich or popped into my mouth as I stand in the greenhouse. Then as the pyramid of tomatoes picked each day threatens to avalanche, rations increase. We eat tomato soup with tomato & garlic bread, spaghetti with tomatoes, potatoes baked with tomatoes, cold tomato salads, warm roast tomato salads, tomatoes for lunch, tomatoes for supper and then before the family rebel, I pick a big basketful that I bag up and throw in the freezer (just as they are – no need to do anything to them) for the winter.
Here are my six favourite ways to deal with a glut of tomatoes:
Chop tomatoes and boil in a large pan until they’re reduced by about a quarter and then put through a food mill to remove the pips and skins. Or use oven dried tomatoes for a more intense flavour. Sometimes I bottle passata but although it’s immensely satisfying to line up the jars on the shelf, I’m not a confident bottler and worry that I may poison everybody, so usually end up freezing it instead.
3 Oven dried tomatoes
I put small bags of these oven dried tomatoes in the freezer to add to casseroles or to stir into pasta. A bowlful of spaghetti, topped with some of these concentrated tomatoes, grated cheese and a fried egg makes a quick dish.
4 Tomato ketchup
I make tomato ketchup using the recipe from Food for Keeps by Pamela Westland. My children mock me. Who, they ask, would ever bother to make tomato ketchup? They tell me it doesn’t taste as good as Heinz. I tell them it tastes different. They agree. And not so good. I only make tomato ketchup when we have a monumental glut of tomatoes.
5 Sweet Tomato Chutney
I used to make pots and pots of chutney but have scaled back, to make just a few jars of different kinds. This is one of my favourites and we use it to liven up a cheese sandwich or cheese on toast.
1 clove garlic
2 pieces stem ginger
500 ml vinegar
1.5 kg tomatoes
450 g granulated sugar
1.5 teasp salt
(If I’m growing chillies too then I add one or two finely chopped for a little heat)
Finely chop the garlic and ginger, roughly chop the tomatoes and put everything into a preserving pan.
Bring to the boil and then simmer uncovered for about two hours until the chutney has thickened.
Pot as normal.
6 Green tomato mincemeat
This tastes much better than it sounds. I use the last of the tomatoes, that I know will never ripen and make this mincemeat to use in mince pies and also a mincemeat tart with a coconut topping. Honestly, you wouldn’t know that it was made with green tomatoes.
Do you have a glut of tomatoes? Share your ideas for using them. Please.
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