I figured an appropriate follow-up to the previous discussion on “TomatoLand” would be one featuring what else…tomatoes!
It’s mid-summer and the tomatoes are popping off the plants!
If you’re not growing them yourself then try to get them from a farmstand or farmer’s market for the best flavor. Here in the Savannah area the best tomatoes (and peaches) are to be gotten from Jerry Polk. Jerry used to have a produce market on Liberty street here in the historic district but due to declining business and high rent he had to close this past January. Luckily he hasn’t left he business altogether as he and his wife still sell produce at a street-side stand near Teeple’s Seafood on Victory Drive (3209 E. Victory Drive, Savannah). His sister Becky Polk-Bashlor operates “Polk’s Plus” where I live here in Pooler, GA (807 US Hwy 80 W., Pooler, GA).
- Select fruit that have plump taut skin and have a deep intense color.
- Select fruit that have an aromatic quality.
- For best flavor store at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Chilling shuts down enzymes responsible for flavor as well as causes the interior cells to burst, resulting in a “mealy” texture.
- If a tomato is cut but not completely used, place on a plate covered with plastic wrap and store on the counter, using it in the next 24-48 hours. Even sliced tomatoes will lose their flavor in the refrigerator.
- When slicing tomatoes, slice vertically instead of horizontally to yield slices that generally have more solid meat content and stay together when picked up to put on sandwiches, burgers, etc.
- For best flavor, season tomato slices with salt and pepper before building your sandwiches and burgers.
- Plum varieties of tomatoes (such as Roma) are generally preferred for cooking due to the fact that they have a higher percentage of solid meat content and less water thus resulting in less volume loss due to evaporation during cooking.
- Peel tomatoes by scoring the bottom of the tomato with a sharp knife in an “x” shape. Drop a few at a time into a pot of rapidly boiling water for about 30 seconds and then using a slotted spoon, remove and shock in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking and quick chill them. The skin will then slide right off.
- The term “Concasse” in recipes and menus refers to tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded, and diced.
- While classically it is considered “proper” to always seed a tomato when dicing it, scientists have now determined that a lot of the flavor of a tomato is contained within the gel that surrounds the seeds. If the texture of tomato seeds doesn’t bother you or give you indigestion as it does with some people, leave the seeds in. Otherwise, you can rub the gel and seeds through a fine mesh strainer to reserve and use the tomato juice and gel while still removing the seeds.
- To seed a tomato: Considering the stem end as the “north pole”, cut the tomato in half horizontally at it’s equator. One at a time, hold each tomato half cut-side down over a bowl and squeeze out the seeds.
- Ever tried chasing a cherry or grape tomato across the plate and onto the table before you were able to stab it??? Do your guests a favor and cut cherry, teardrop and grape tomatoes in half or in quarters (depending on their size) when using them in salads so that your guests don’t have to worry about making a scene or squirting someone in the eye when eating it!
- Bumper crop of tomatoes and no time or inclination to can them? Simply wash them and then place in freezer bags…no blanching, peeling, cooking, or cutting necessary. Place in the freezer and store up to a year. The skins will slide off as they thaw and you can then make a “fresh” tomato sauce or soup in the middle of January!
- While you’re grilling, smoke or char-grill tomatoes and stick them in the freezer for use in sauces and soups such as smoked tomato bisque. Cut the tomatoes in half and grill until charred or smoke them over indirect heat. Tomatoes can also be smoked in the oven.
- Recipes calling for green tomatoes are using tomatoes that are simply unripe. While some varieties such as Green Zebra are actually green when ripe, “green tomato” recipes came about as a way of using tomatoes that wouldn’t have time to ripen before the frosts of fall. The tomatoes could be picked and put in the root cellar or other cool places for alternate recipe usage. A raw green tomato has a tart to neutral taste and is very similar to eating a tart green apple or mild flavored melon.