Making the most of your tomatoes

By: PAUL McKAY

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AUGUST IS traditionally the time of glut. No crop is better at producing more than we can cope with than the tomato bush.

If grown well, in good fertile soil, they should by now be producing bucket loads. To avoid a glut on the vegetable patch becoming a gluttony in the dining room, we have to find ways to preserve and with tomatoes there is no shortage of methods.

Soups

Making tomato soup uses up a surprisingly large quantity of tomatoes and tastes fantastic. Once cooled, it can be put in the freezer and last until Christmas where it makes a tangy unexpected reminder of the summer past.

Tomato and Basil Soup:

• 2kg of very ripe tomatoes

• 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil

• 1 tablespoon of olive oil

• Fresh cream (optional)

• Salt and black pepper

Blanche then peel the tomatoes and put them into a large saucepan to gently simmer. When the mixture is completely liquid, the tomatoes are cooked. Put the mixture through a sieve to remove all the seeds. Bring back to the boil then add the salt and pepper and basil. If desired, stir in the cream just before serving.

Chutneys and jams

There are a wide range of chutneys using tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, all of which use up vast quantities of tomatoes. One popular Portuguese recipe is for a sweet tomato jam, which makes a delicious start to the day, spread on toast.

Tomato and Vanilla Jam:

• Ripe, pulpy tomatoes

• Sugar

• Lemon juice

• Vanilla pod

Peel and cut tomatoes (you can deseed if you wish). Use equal amounts of prepared pulp to sugar, put in a sauce pan with the vanilla pod and stir gently, bringing to the boil. When it sets like jelly on a cold spoon it is ready. Add the juice of a lemon or two and pour into sterile jars.

Sun dried tomatoes

For me, this is the ideal way of preserving. Not only is it virtually free to do, the tomatoes are even tastier at the end of the process than when you began. The sun dried tomatoes can be stored in olive oil and the oil itself is fantastic on salads.

On a very hot and dry day collect as many tomatoes as you can. Slice them thinly and lay them out on a clean table cloth. Cover with a gentle sprinkling of sea salt. If you have chosen a good hot day, they will dry within eight to 10 hours. If not, bring inside overnight and put out again the following morning.

I used to use complicated structures involving netting to keep insects away. However I soon learnt that the combination of heat, dry conditions and the salt meant a lack of insects anyway, so I stopped worrying about it.

Once the tomatoes are dried, they can be put into a jar containing olive oil and some herbs of your choice.

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