One of the perks of living on the Hāmākua Coast is the availability of the most delicious tomatoes EVER. Since moving here I have come to love fresh ripe red tomatoes. Think Kamuela Tomatoes or Hāmākua Springs Tomatoes. Well now we have Hawaiian B Natural Farms. And this tomato/pepper farm is located in nearby Kalopa. And Susan Hamilton, the owner, is always so friendly and accomodating. Best of all, she will sell off grade tomatoes for $1 a pound. You heard me. One dollar per pound. I bought 20 pounds. I just cannot pass up a good bargain.
What makes a tomato off grade? Noticeably, to me, it is mishapen or overly large or it has what I have termed "stress marks":
If you are going to use the tomatoes to make a fresh mozzarella tomato salad (yum) then you might not want off grade but for my purposes (stewed, salsa, roasted) it really doesn't matter. Most of the skin will be unidentifiable or not included, as is the case with stewed tomatoes. For some tomatoes I have no idea why they were deemed off grade:
My house cannot have enough cans of tomato products whether it is sauce, paste, diced, stewed. After taking several suggestions from friends (after all, with 20 lbs of tomatoes you need some suggestions!) I decided to make stewed tomatoes and freeze some of it (one day I will have to learn how to "can").
First thing I did was search the web. I swear I don't know why I have a shelf full of cookbooks. I always turn to the internet and do a google search. I ended up with a great recipe for the crockpot (one of my favorite kitchen appliances).
I followed the recipe online (sort of) with a few moderations. First, a pictorial walk through the crucial steps:
This is what approximately 15 pounds of tomatoes looks like (I took out a few pounds for a friend).
First course of action: Drop cored tomatoes (need to take out that middle core. I used a small paring knife and just "circled" it out) into hot almost boiling water for about 45 seconds to a minute. Put tomatoes immediately into ice cold water (a big bowl next to your pot works well). This will make it easy to peel. You can tell from the picture above that the skin start cracking while in the water. Once it's out of the hot water and in the cold water, you can just pick them up and peel off the skin with the paring knife OR your fingers. Here's what the "naked" tomatoes looked like once they were peeled:
I felt like they were undressed. I felt bad for them. No core and no skin. Yikes.
Next course of action is to cut into wedges. I cut them into wedges and then cut the wedges in half but I don't think that it's necessary to do that second step. Wedges would probably be fine. Here's what mine looked like:
Dump them all into the crockpot. My crockpot is the typical size one (is that 6 quarts? Maybe 5).
You can gauge how full the crockpot is. Now is the time to add your ingredients:
- 6 to 8 ripe tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
- 3 tablespoons sugar (more or less)
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
13 tomatoes (cored and peeled)
4 tablespoons butter
2 onions, chopped finely (Kaipo, my daughter, used the onion chopper that I bought from Macy's)
2 small yellow bell peppers, chopped
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
All that is left to do is to turn it on low on your crockpot, overnight. When I woke up in the morning the smell was incredible. It made me want to eat pasta for breakfast. I used all my energy to resist the urge.
When it cooled I ladled out the stewed tomatoes into containers and put half of them in the freezer. I have a couple of them in the refrigerator which I will use when I make my portuguese bean soup in a couple of days.
I can't wait to try it in a recipe. Just eating it plain was delicious enough. But I can just imagine it in a stew or a soup. Having only paid $1 a lb for the tomatoes AND having had a say in all the ingredients (butter vs. margarine and all fresh ingredients) I feel a sense of control over my food that I don't get from canned foods purchased at a supermarket. Let me know if you try it and any modifications you make!