It's late in the season, but finally our tomatoes are coming ripe.
I went out this week and picked the first batch of the season. Prior to this, we only got a few ripe slicers for sandwiches. Now the paste tomatoes are -- at last -- ripening.
I had to be careful as I picked. A few tomatoes were beyond redemption, but the wasps loved them.
There are tons of green tomatoes left, so hopefully they'll ripen before we get our first frost.
Meanwhile, I wanted to make tomato purée. This staple of every pantry is fairly laborious, because not only do the skins and stems need to be removed, but the seeds as well.
Introducing a nifty gizmo I bought last year but never used (because our tomato plants didn't ripen): a food strainer.
I had no idea what to expect from this piece of equipment (having never used one before) and had a sinking feeling it was going to be very complicated to operate.
Oddly enough it was an article by the incomparable Jackie Clay in the latest issue of Backwoods Home Magazine that made me realize what a valuable resources this tool is.
She specifically mentions the Victorio food strainer and notes how easy it is to use.
So I assembled it and gave it a try.
The directions are extremely clear.
I didn't have to pre-process the tomatoes at all (except a light rinsing). I merely cut them into chunks and added them to the hopper.
Holy cow, it was fabulous. Easy to crank, and perfect results.
The purée comes out the front, entirely devoid of seeds, skin, etc.
All the junk comes out the side hopper. Apparently this junk can be run once more through the hopper to squeeze a bit more pulp out, but it wouldn't be a whole lotta extra, so I didn't bother.
I stopped periodically to dump the puréed tomatoes into a larger bowl, but otherwise I just happily cranked away.
All things considered, it wasn't really all that messy either.
I gave the leftovers to the chickens, but they didn't think much of it. After a few minutes of half-hearted pecking, they abandoned it. I dumped it in the compost pile.
Cleanup was pretty straightforward.
The instructions specifically state the parts should not be placed in a dishwasher, which is fine since we don't have one anyway.
A brush was necessary to get to the narrow end of the strainer basket and get all the tomato pulp out of the mesh.
The food strainer has some small parts (a spring, a gasket, etc.) that I bagged up to keep them together. I may order extras of these parts, just in case.
I ended up freezing the purée until I have enough to justify canning a full batch. I'll keep picking tomatoes as they come ripe. We've had a couple of close calls with freezing temps, but thankfully it hasn't damaged the garden yet.
Altogether I couldn't be more pleased with this strainer I purchased last year. If I hadn't been stopping take photos, etc., the whole process from assembling the unit to cleaning it up took about half an hour. The actual straining of the tomatoes took -- maybe -- fifteen minutes tops. Consider how much longer it would have taken to heat water, dip the tomatoes, slip the skins, smush them up, etc., and you can see this is quite a time-saver. The results are also far superior.
Definitely an excellent addition to our kitchen repertoire.