Home Preserves - Part 2

"Well, I suppose they've got a lot of pumpkin,' said Magrat. 'You know how it is at the end of the summer, there's always so much in the garden. I'm always at my wits' end to think of new types of chutney and pickles to use it all up -"
So we've seen what to do when we want to make ourselves some durable deliciousness for the Winter - the whole "being sanitary about it" thing and responsible preparation and stuff. But what are we actually supposed to do with that knowledge?
Well, whatever we want. The most popular home preserves are probably jams, because fruit is perishable and only available in season, but at the same time there can be a lot of it and it has to be used up somehow. But jams are too easy, and anyway, it's a little late for them. Which is not a problem, because there are other things you can preserve which are way more interesting anyway. My first choice is always tomato puree. At the end of Autumn tomatoes are ripe, tasty, inexpensive and available in large quantities. Then winter comes and suddenly they're hard little globes tasting of cardboard and with skin you could use to make sails out of. They're a sad thing to put on a sandwich, and hardly adding anything to any kind of tomato sauce, and I want my aromatic spaghetti in winter too. So the answer is: jars. It's actually very easy to make tomato puree at home which you can keep till winter and then fling about to your heart's desire.
  • Tomatoes. Lots and lots of them. No, really, don't start on this unless you have at least 3 kg of tomatoes, because they will shrink in cooking.
  • Whatever you want to season the puree with - optional
  • Big saucepan or a deep frying pan to cook the tomatoes
  • Sterilised jars and everything that goes with them
Peel the tomatoes, using boiling water to get the skin to come off. Chop them and put as much as You can in Your pot - the maximum amount that won't overflow when stirring. Depending on whether you want to make a "clear" tomato puree, you can add some olive oil or just cook them as they are. Whatever you choose, bring them to the boil, then put them over medium heat and simmer. Now, this will take a long time, because you don't want a water tomato-soup (okay, maybe you do, I don't know) so you need to reduce them quite a bit until you get something you won't need a hundred jars and bottles for. Fortunately, you don't have to hover over it all this time - provided you're careful about the heat, you can go and read a book or whatever, maybe come to stir it and check up on it a bit.
When they've been cooking for a bit, you can set out the other pot for the jars and put them over fire, too, so you have a nice set of tomatoes and glass boiling side by side to keep each other company. This is important, because you can't sterilise the jars in the morning, then put them away and use later - both the contents and the container need to be fresh out of the pot.
Once you have the tomatoes as you want them - thicker or thinner, spiced with garlic or basil or thyme or rosemary or all of them or none at all - take the jars out of their pot, put the hot puree into them, put the lids on but don't screw them tightly at this point, and back into their pot they go. Then you boil them once again, with the contents, for at least 40 minutes.
Bonus bad quality photo where you can't see stuff.
That's pretty much it.
Once they're done, take them out carefully, screw the lids tightly on, and leave the jars to cool. Some people advise to put them upside down for this, so that the contents blocking the opening provide additional insulation. I have no idea how useful that actually is, though it is an easy way to see if you've got them actually sealed or not.
At some point during cooling the jars may give an audible "pop" as the lid is sucked in. This is very good. In fact, when they're all cold, you should check the lids and see if they're all sunken nicely. A lid that is not at least a tiny bit sucked in is bad news.
Note: some recipes insist that, for contents which are not preserved with acids (vinegar, citric acid etc), you need to pasteurise them twice - once after making, and the second time after 24 hours. I have not been doing this so far, though You might, if you want to be extra safe.

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