Sunday, September 6, 2015

Making tomato purée

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.


  1. Thank you for this, Patrice! I bought one of these on eBay two years ago - perfect condition - but no instructions. I have so few ripe tomatoes so far that I have been hand slicing and drying my tiny ripe Roma tomatoes - because I did not have enough to do anything else with. Next batch I get will be washed, run through my Victorio and frozen. I can probably do this and clean up in less time that it takes to fill half the trays in my dehydrator!

    My mother in law (the queen of potato, tomato and strawberry producers) picks all of her green tomatoes when frost is imminent and puts them in cardboard flats on newspapers in dark cool places (under the beds) in the house. Picked (usually) in September here - we can often have the last garden fresh tomatoes around Thanksgiving. Natokadn

    1. I did perhaps a few more tomatoes than you did, Patrice. I got another PINT out of the "waste" by running it through a second time (I was surprised). I got about 3.5 quarts of puree from mine today. I dried the metal really well and heated it lightly in my oven (150 F) for a couple of minutes that was shut off to make sure it was totally dry before putting it away. Mine only has one (the fine one) screen/sieve....I will need to order more. Natokadn

  2. I've had a food mill for a decade now and can't imagine canning tomatoes without is. It is a LIFESAVER when your garden is spewing out tomatoes quicker than you can deal with them. I usually quarter my tomatoes and heat them with a little water in the bottom of the pot to prevent burning. I seem to get more juice. I've run the peelings through a second time a few times and it really isn't worth it. I have run peach peelings through it a time or two and have gotten a worth while amount of juice. I use a knife to peel them as I seem to cook my peaches too much when trying to get the skins to slip.

  3. We have a Victorio and used it to process apples for applesauce last year - our first time using it. We were very happy with the results. I took it to a friend's house and we processed many pounds of apples until I had to leave, then she and her kids kept going and did many more. All told we were able to stock up three families with applesauce. YUM!

    Our paste tomatoes are just coming in a few at a time; I'm going to borrow your idea of making paste with what I have and freezing it until there's enough to can. Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. I will add another glowing endorsement for this tool. We have run black raspberries and pears through ours. We made pair butter using honey and I took some of the leftovers and made fruit leathers in the dehydrator. That was yummy!

  5. I am up to my elbows in tomatoes right now and really appreciate this post! With our area so deep in drought, buying this will allow me to skip both blanching and running the tomatoes under water while squeezing the seeds out. I just ordered and it's on its way. Thank you for the tip!

  6. steve, thanks for fruit leather tip!

    1. Deborah, The fruit leather was good just in the pantry on a shelf for about 3 months. That was as long as it lasted. I think the honey and a small amount of sugar was what kept it good for that time. I really think it would have stayed good for much longer but it just got eaten up!

  7. LOVE the Victorio!!! We don't like raspberry jam, too seedy, but the Victorio makes quick work of those seeds, as long as you have the correct screen. Put the juice in the freezer and make jelly in the winter. Works awesome for V-8 juice. Cook up the vegetables, run through the Victorio, reheat the juice with the additions of salt and lemon juice and can. I've even canned pumpkin after running it through the Victorio to get out the stringy stuff. You will wonder what you've done without one!!! The worst part is cleaning the screen though:( Cindy

  8. Stop watering your tomatoes and cut off the leaves and blossoms and small fruit. Be brutal. They will get ripe faster. Usually we do that August 1st here on the west side

  9. I also love my Victorio! I will add a word of warning that the metal screens tend to want to rust very easily. My husband bought me a can of Food Grade Silicone Spray. I step outside (because I don't like the overspray getting on everything) and give it a good coating with that spray before storing it away. I haven't had any more issues with rust. However, even though hubby bought the food grade silicone, I like to play it safe and give it a quick wash before I use it.

    Southern Girl

  10. Running the pressings through a second time will not add substantially to the puree volume, but will contribute to the flavor.

    And if the green tomatoes don't ripen, well, do you know how to make green tomato chutney? green tomato relish?

  11. Okay, I'm convinced.

    Lehman's ... where did I put my Lehman's catalog ... ?

    Just Me

  12. My father had one of these and his / our experience was the same as yours.
    The strainer works.
    We used to freeze and can at about a 50/50 ratio.
    Don't know what was better, but both were much better than even the best store bought canned tomato sauce.

  13. we used to put unripe tomatoes on a shelf on the back porch and they would ripen up in 3 or 4 days. Not from completely green, but from not quite red.

  14. Own one of these strainers and it's fabulous for lilikoi (passionfruit) and guava. Makes jelly and jam-making so much easier.

  15. If you plan on processing grapes get the grape corkscrew. The standard one will bind up tight as a drum with the skins.

    Also, depending on the tomato variety we will run them through twice to get the pulp. For making pasada (sp?) sauce we will run them through thrice..............

  16. Hi Patrice, I've been using my Victorio Food strainer for 40+ years now. Mine has all metal parts, but as another already commented, the metal parts do rust, so after each use, I dry all parts really well, and store it away. You'll love it, it's a time-saver, for sure.
    Happy birthday from Melissa in MI. :-)

    1. I usually will put the metal parts into the oven for about 10 mins at my "keep warm" setting.( 150 degrees) and that dries them out well. Especially in all the nooks and crevices that are so hard to get dry.

  17. Another huge fan of the Victorio! To keep mine from rusting, I've always dried the metal parts really well and then wiped them down with cooking oil.

    Enjoy it! I've had mine for ten years and I don't know how I managed without it! :-)

  18. I was given my mother in laws Victorio, I am missing that small clear tube for the peelings I always have to jockey 2 bowls closely I will have to look and see if there is a place for it and order one if there is !!! We have 2 or 3 screens and spirals and do apples and grapes and raspberries and tomatoes . so much easier and quicker even if mine does leak a bit , it is really old.! Always use the correct screen and spiral tho ! Karen Jones

  19. I took my tomatoes, dipped them in the boiling water to loosen the skins, then smooshed them, let them drain and then put them in freezer bags. .............However, then I had separated the skins from the stem part, and put the skins (full of lycopene - very healthy), and put them in the dehydrator. When they'd dried, I took a coffee/herb grinder (not used for coffee), and ground them into powder, and jarred it. When I want to add a little for flavoring, or soups or whatever, it's all set to go, and it's free.

    Love your blog and read it all the time! : )

  20. I am using a Victorio for the first time this year . I'd never even heard of it before ! $49.99 on Amazon :-) . It is saving SO MUCH work ! And I am getting so much more from my tomatoes . I encourage you to run your skins thru once , at least . I had to try and with a small amount of skins , I got another 3 cups of puree ! I so enjoy your blog , thank you for sharing with us .

  21. I am using a Victorio for the first time this year . I'd never even heard of it before ! $49.99 on Amazon :-) . It is saving SO MUCH work ! And I am getting so much more from my tomatoes . I encourage you to run your skins thru once , at least . I had to try and with a small amount of skins , I got another 3 cups of puree ! I so enjoy your blog , thank you for sharing with us .

  22. Clip any new blooms, tiny fruit and all leaves below the larger fruit to "rush" ripening tomatoes.

  23. Patrice, Took your advice and purchased the Victorio. Just wanted to say that I re-ran the pulp a couple more times and was surprised how much more puree came out, even though it didn't look like much was left