Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tomato Paste Balls (refrigerator storage)

Today was a busy day - I was up early and off to a Soroptimist District Meeting in Yerington, about 90 minutes drive away. Plus, it was hot out today - I'm tired! Tomorrow, I'm meeting a girlfriend for lunch and wandering about the monstrous Crafts Faire (around 350 vendors) in Genoa for their annual Candy Dance. So this is a quick post of a tomato preservation recipe for those that have paste/Roma-type tomatoes to play with. Tomato paste is nice to have around, but an open can or jar will often mold before I use it all. With this old Italian recipe, the paste is cooked/dried until it can be rolled into little one-tablespoon balls and stored in oil. A quart jarful fits easily in the back of my refrigerator, and usually lasts us a couple of years.

Tomato Paste (3/4 quart jar of 1" balls)
6 quarts paste tomatoes - cored and smashed, then cooked until soft and sieved through a wire mesh strainer (really press out all liquid possible; you can then dry what's left and powder it for a vegie seasoning blend, or the chickens love it)

Liquefy in blender and add to sieved tomatoes (pour through strainer too):
1 T salt
1 celery stalk, with leaves
¾ C chopped onion
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed
¾ t pepper

Cook down to a thick paste (I cook it in an open crockpot overnight to eliminate constant stirring or possible burning). It's thick enough when a spoonful doesn't drip off when turned upside down (if too wet, it could mold before it dries). Spread ½" or less thick on glass plates, score into 1½" diamonds, and let dry until paste can be scraped up and rolled into 1" balls (not so dry that it turns into leather, and it's easier if you oil your hands). Layer balls in sterilized wide-mouth quart jar, cover completely with olive oil, and store in the refrigerator. Scoop out balls as needed (each one is approximately one tablespoon), mashing and stirring into hot liquid to thin if necessary, and making sure remaining balls are still covered with oil. Excess oil is good in salad dressings.


Stanoman said...

I came across your post while searching for best ways to store tomato paste after opening the tiny can.

This is a great idea!

I notice in your article, you say "lasts us a couple of years". This sounds long and a bit dangerous. I know the acids in tomato when canned can last a long time, but what about just in oil like this?

Sadge said...

Hi Stanoman,
I sterilize the jar in boiling water then let it dry upside-down in the dish drainer until I'm ready to use it. I use extra-virgin olive oil, and keep it refrigerated. The olive oil pretty much solidifies in the refrigerator, and is one of the slowest oils to go rancid, especially if refrigerated. Paste from a can would have to be dried more before storing this way, but I think the removal of almost all the moisture also helps storage life. Plus, I use the paste in cooked dishes, usually sauces, soups, and stews, that boil for quite a while after adding the paste. You also have to make sure no tomato paste is left above the oil or it will mold, so I wipe down the inside of the jar as the level drops and sometimes have transferred what's left to a clean jar after a year. I think things store better in glass and the oil never comes in contact with the metal of the lid. I've been making a batch every other year for the last 20 years and haven't had any problems so far.