I do believe I've finally solved the tomato sauce problem. Not that I think I've ever mentioned I had a tomato sauce problem but, you know, people tend to be secretive about these things.
In the past
whenever I've made tomato sauces, purées or concentrates to bottle or freeze they always end up with a bitter after-taste. Sometimes it's strong, sometimes it's barely noticeable, but it's always there. Last
night I finally managed to make one that was sweet and flavourful, without any of the nasty after-taste.
I'd done some reading
around on the net and come up with a few ideas. I tried each one out separately but I've finally come to the conclusion that I get the best results by just doing all of them. So, here is my recipe (with
explanatory notes) for getting great pulp (to do with as you will) from your toms.
Use really, really ripe tomatoes. By that I mean ripe
to the point they dent when you touch the skins. If what you start with is as sweet as possible you're halfway there. I pick my toms at near-full ripeness off the vines and then let them ripen up some more inside before cooking with them. Tomatoes with a high pulp-to-seed ratio are great for cooking, e.g. beefsteaks, black krims and brandywines.
the tomatoes, don't cook 'em down in a pot. This is to do with the fact that both the skins and seeds of tomatoes can impart bitterness during the cooking process and a gentle baking to the point that the (halved,
cut side up) tomatoes are soft but still holding their shape keeps this at bay far better than the boiling-in-a-pot process. You can blanch, peel and de-seed your toms before cooking if you prefer, but that's a much more fiddly and time-consuming way to go about it. I'm all about finding the easiest way, particularly when there's a lot of stuff to process (not that there's a huge number of toms this year but there're more than I expected.) I bake my toms in an enamel roasting pan with a bit of olive oil and thyme (smells fantastic!), but use whatever flavours you like.
Use a mouli to separate
the pulp from the seeds and skins of your baked toms. This is soooo much quicker and easier than trying to sieve them. Don't try to eke the last little drops out of the seed/skin pulp left in the mouli as you risk crushing out some bitterness. New moulis are very expensive but I picked up a nice big old one with two different plates for $15 from a market.
there do whatever you like with your pulp. If it's not as sweet as you'd like, a little brown sugar goes a long way. Use it immediately in pasta sauces, gently concentrate it down for bottling or freezing or ketchup-making - whatever you like. The possibilities are endless.