We’re slowly reaching the finish line here in Tomato-land. A cool night last night reminded us that it will all soon be over. We will stop eating tomato salads for lunch and dinner, we will stop making stuffed tomatoes to eat with our lunch salads and dinner salads; no more beeftekis baked with tomato slices, no more fresh tomato sauce with roasted veggies, no more green pickled tomatoes, but most of all, no more boiling down and processing, and no more drying.
There’s still quite a few kilos of loaded plants out there in the collapsing bales, but the tomatoes will be picked soon, I’m sure, to finish ripening on the dining room table downstairs…. and yes, be processed. Those will be The Last.
I never made dried tomatoes while I was in Mykonos. I never even met anyone else that did either (not that this means anything), but for some reason Mykonian flat roofed houses seem to come to mind when I dry tomatoes. Probably because they are ideal for this job. Guaranteed sunshine, a dry atmosphere, and a steady northwind to keep humidity and rot away. Too bad I can’t beam ourselves and our tomatoes over there for a quick drying session. We’d hook up with some old pals, and just hang out a bit. Back in the day, some of those pals also used those flat roofed houses for other activities which did not make me very popular with the locals. Because of the strange behavior of my friends, I’m sure my neighbors thought I was a real hussy. I think it was probably a good thing that my Greek wasn’t very fluent then.
Working with tourists was an exhausting business. Seven days a week, day in day out, morning and evening, often going on until late at night. To a Greek, the shop closes when the last customer leaves. This meant we sometimes had to draw straws as to who would stay awake to close up the shop. We just had to party on and keep the vibrations going because that was how money was earned. Tourists came to relax, blow off steam, or just frolic in their irresponsibility, and we who worked all summer long had to provide the services and the atmosphere they thrived in and paid for. The only time we could sleep was on the beach between shifts, or wherever we lived, but it was always just a few hours snatched here and there, and never enough. So sometimes one had to get inventive.
Homemade Tomato Sauce (simple unstrained method)
For this process you will need a water bath canning system and mason type jars with rings and lids. Or a pot tall enough to boil the jars in, completely covered in water. I did this the first time I canned in a water bath. I threw some knives into the bottom of the pot for the jars to stand on so they wouldn’t directly touch the bottom and possibly explode. After you try this once, you end up purchasing a regular canning system.
Collect your tomatoes and wash them, scraping away any dried leaves or dirt. In a food processor, chop them, then pour them into a large pot. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate them. This method may take more time, but you will also end up with less tomato skins in your sauce. Personally this doesn’t really bother me, but some people it does. These same people will then also have to strain their tomato sauce to make it pure and seedless. I’m not one of those. I buy that kind.
Cook your tomato sauce on a medium to slow heat until it has reduced by at least 30%. I like to cook mine until it is reduced by more than half. This creates a thick and flavorful sauce, but it also takes about six to seven hours of simmering.
When your sauce has reduced enough, put it on a slow simmer on a back burner while you sterilize your jars, lids, and rings. Before I seal my jars, I like to wipe them down with alcohol. Something like Grappa is perfect, but never rubbing alcohol which is a poison!
Fill your jars with sauce, seal them finger tight and process at a boil for 15 minutes.
Set them on shelves and admire them.
We have a ton of plum tomatoes. Both red and yellow. When they are dry, I layer them in the jars, cover them with olive oil, and they look very lush.
If you don’t have a flat topped roof on a Cycladic house in the Aegean or somewhere in southern Italy or Spain or Mexico, you will need an electric food dryer. We got ours two years ago from my sister-in-law and have been thanking her every time we use it. Thank you. Thank you.
Slice your plum tomatoes in half, scoop out the jelly-like seed stuff, and place the hulls skin side down, on the drying racks. Turn it to about 135F, or whatever setting is recommended for that model for fruit and vegetables, and leave it alone for seven to nine hours. Towards the end, check them every so often so they don’t get too dry, otherwise they resemble sour chewing gum. Let them cool completely with the top off, so as not to cause condensation, then layer them in jars. Cover completely with olive oil.
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