During my brief trip to Tennessee a week ago, my mom and I talked a lot about her childhood. I love it when she tells me stories about what she did as a barefoot little girl running through the forests. One of my favorite things she told me about was her moss carpet rooms. She would go out into the woods and find a space in the middle of a few trees. Then, she would search the forest for pieces of moss and she would lay them down, making a moss carpet. That was her play area. She told me that her mother taught her how to do it. I can picture that so clearly in my mind- my mom, just a little girl with dirt on her knees and curls around her face, picking up pieces of moss with her little hands and following her mother's instructions. I'm sure each step was passed on in my grandma's gentlest tone of voice.
Here is my grandmother. I adore this photo. I adore her.
Another story my mom told me was about the huge number of canned tomatoes that were always in the pantry. She said my grandfather would come home, break open a jar and sit down with a fork. He would finish the jar in one sitting. Can you imagine having an entire pantry filled with things you grew and were able to enjoy year round? It seems like kind of a dream these days. Instead, we crowd the grocery stores and empty the shelves of things we know nothing about. We don't know who grew them, who canned them, who processed them...we just accept that they are readily available.
I'm certainly not saying convenience isn't a valuable part of life, but wouldn't it be nice to know where more of your food came from from beginning to end? I think so.
With this idea in mind, I made my own tomato paste the other day. It didn't yield the number of cans my grandparents had in their pantry, but it is something I will use when the weather starts to cool down. And I know exactly where the tomatoes came from. Actually, I can see where they came from by looking out my kitchen window. I love that.
Homemade Tomato Paste
Recipe barely adapted from Saveur http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Homemade-Tomato-Paste
- 5 lbs roma or plum tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- kosher salt to taste
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Season lightly with salt. You can season the paste again later if you'd like.
- Transfer the tomatoes to a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Use a whisk and press the tomatoes through the strainer by using a stirring moment. This will strain the pulp and juice of the tomatoes, leaving the seeds and skin behind. If the tomatoes don't fit in your strainer all at once, strain them in batches. You can also use a food mill, but I don't have one and thought maybe you didn't either. Hence the strainer method.
- Heat your oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. Rub a large sheet pan with 1" sides with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pour the strained tomatoes onto the sheet pan. It will seem like a lot of liquid but it will reduce down significantly. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, for about 3 hours. The color will deepen and much of the liquid will reduce. After the initial 3 hours, reduce the heat to 250 degrees F and cook another 25 minutes or so until the color is a deep red.
- Store the paste in an airtight container for one month or freeze for up to 6 months. I put mine in ice cube trays, allowed it to freeze, then transferred it to a ziploc bag.