30 September 2009

How to get those tomatoes naked

I rarely enjoy the task of removing tomato skins, and sometimes prefer to leave them, for certain things, such as last week's chutney, where the combination of textures (apples with their skins on, peppers, etc) conceal the tomato skins. But for a good tomato sauce, skins off is undeniably better. I've tried a few methods, dropping the tomatoes in boiling water to remove the skins, and pressing the raw tomatoes through a food mill, which separates both skins as well as seeds. The boiling water method works just fine, but it is a rather hot process working on a wood stove, and the heat tends to wear me out faster than the task. And the food mill is a slow process, but only leaves me with a puree, when sometimes I would rather have some of the texture of the tomato meats and seeds in the finished product. So it was with excitement that I read about a trick to remove tomato skins raw, in a 1980 Organic Gardening publication.

I've been wanting to try it out and see if it is a viable method for removing the skins from large batches of tomatoes. So I set out with a 20lb pail of ripe Roma tomatoes. I have a pleasant work counter and stool, so that I can sit at a comfortable height to do large food processing tasks. Here's the technique: use only ripe tomatoes, paste types work best, but it works for all varieties.

Scrape the tomato skin with the back of your pairing, or small kitchen knife. Scrape back and forth a few times, applying slight pressure, like you are shaving the skin, rotating the tomato to work around the whole fruit. You will start to see the skin wrinkle under the right pressure, and the texture of the tomato changes to that of a water balloon, as if there's a layer of water just under the skin. This method separates the skin from the flesh underneath. Then slice off the stem end and peel down from the top. The skin should come off easily.

I found this to be a method comparable to the boiling process, perhaps a bit slower, but no standing at a hot stove, waiting over a steaming pot for the water to re-boil. I certainly enjoyed the task more, and felt less worn out afterward. And sometimes that's more important than the length of time a task takes.

Naked tomatoes, ready for processing.

Add a few diced peppers, and garden herbs, and we've got a taste of summer to grace humble winter meals. What a delight when the harvest basket is full of such vibrant color, and flavor!


Gail said...

With a title like that, how could I not comment?

I haven't this one, shall try it.

Ummm, Romas!

June said...

Tomatoes are the sexiest fruit! Who wouldn't want to get them naked. I've always used the quick boiling dip, but I will try this next time I have bounty and can't bear the steam.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just put mine in the freezer (until a time when I have the gumption to tackle the end of season glut) Once the frozen tomatoes start to thaw the skins slip off quite easily. I see from reading "the way we live" that you don't use refrigeration, but perhaps some of your readers do.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Gail, I guess nudity always grabs attention, even when applied to fruit!

June, too true ;)

Anon, I've never tried it but I've heard it works quite well.

Cindy said...

ooo, I love the tip, I'll try that next time, having a big pot of boiling water going when theres 2 little ones about isnt my idea of a fun or safe afternoon.