Why would I go to the trouble of making my own tomato products? I’m busy as it is, so giving myself and extra project when it can be bought at at store in a can seems counter productive.
Well, because doing everything within reasonable reach for good health is a top priority in our little family. This is not without reason: my husband, The Bod, survived cancer as a child. Roughly from age 2 to 8 he was treated for leukemia. Not long after, when he was 11, he lost his father to lung cancer. Now he is so dedicated to health, wellness, and physical strength in an effort to avoid any future illnesses, it give’s him a… well… nice physic and thus the reason I tease him with the nickname The Bod.
Now that I’ve recently discovered I have an AI disease preventing me from having gluten, diary, eggs, and other things, it’s added to the importance of prevention in our family. I’m fine, as long as I eat right there are no symptoms or problems. We have two precious young girls and one bebe on the way who we don’t ever want to watch sufferform an illness. Not everything is in our hands as far as that goes, but whatever I CAN get my hands on to prevent, I WILL.
All this just to say, eliminating canned tomatoes is my new personal goal. There’s BPA in cans just as there is in plastic baby bottles and water bottles – and canned tomato sauce is one of the worst sources of BPA since its acidity causes more of the dangerous plasticizer to leech into the sauce. This is because of their acidity which can wear away the plastic lining leading to BPA contamination. (Info can be found here and here.) Don’t let me scare you! You’ll still be okay having canned goods, I just think if I’m going to start somewhere, this is the place to do it. Tomatoes are one of my top favorite foods in the world, so fresh home made products also promise me richer flavor and better textures. I’m sold.
I took my first lesson from my new best friend, Alain Ducass’ book, Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good. One of the first recipes is a Tomato Confit. Immediately I could think of endless recipes where these tomatoes would go perfectly and enhance the dish. They’re mostly to be used as a garnish or condiment, and the flavored olive oil you get from the confit is a bonus ingredient also to be used.
Now, It’s not going to be written in exact recipe form. I don’t think it’s a science so I want to leave room for creative idea and flavor experimentation. The idea is just slow roast your tomatoes and store them in olive oil in the fridge. Here are the steps to take to get a good tomato confit:
1- Choose about 2-3 lbs of vine tomatoes, or plum tomatoes, and blanch. To blanch, boil a pot of water and drop a few tomatoes in for only 15-30 seconds then remove and drop into a bowl of ice water.
2- Next quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Throw in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and the fresh herbs of your choice. Thyme was used above. Gently toss until coated.
3- Season your baking pan with a clove of garlic then spread the tomatoes across the pan so they’re not overlapping. Let the juice from the bowl onto the pan as well.
4- Place in the oven and turn on to 215 degrees. Let the oven stay ajar slightly, maybe wedge with a chopstick or other thin heat resistant tool tool. Now you just let the tomatoes slow roast for 2-3 hours. Occasionally check on them and turn any that look too dry on top. Around 2.5 hours you can start removing tomatoes as they finish and let them cool.
5-Store in a glass jar. Fill it half way with tomatoes, then add a couple gloves of thinly sliced garlic and herbs (again thyme was used above, but get creative here… sage, rosemary!) finish filling with tomatoes and olive oil. Will keep stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Finished! All you have to do is make sure you’ll be around the house for a couple of hours. I took the time to do this when my girls took their afternoon nap. I blanched and seeded the tomatoes before they went down. Then popped the girls in their beds and the tomatoes in the oven. Then I sat down outside under a shady tree just outside my door and read a book in blissful silence. Every so often I’d peek at my babies, the ones in the oven, and take in the aroma that began to fill the kitchen.
So far these have gone on pizzas, tartines, paninis and salads…. and the options keep coming. The verdict: making my own tomato confit is enjoyable, surprisingly relaxing, and well worth the effort for the flavor and health I know I’m giving my family.
Next tomato challenge? Paste? Ketchup? We’ll see….