Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Yikes!  Attack of the killer grafted heirloom tomatoes is in full swing!  Funny how you don't notice things when you're picking a few here and there for 'little' things - a salad, hamburgers, tacos, things like that - but suddenly you go out one morning to pick some 'Fall Gold' raspberries and WHAM!  There they are, dozens and dozens of ripe and nearly ripe tomatoes all yelling for you to DO SOMETHING!  So, I did.  I picked 16 pounds of 'em and right now, almost all of 'em are roasting away in the oven.  See, it's supposed to get REALLY hot the next coupla days - of course it is, we have out of town guests arriving, just like last week - and I figured if I didn't get 'em picked, roasted and frozen today, the cows were going to be enjoying them.  Luckily, even tho it's gonna be hot, it's plenty cool at night, and right now at 2 pm it might be pushing 80 outside but it's barely 63 inside, and the oven's been going since 11 am.

So all those lovely 'Black Krim' and 'Purple Cherokee' grafted tomatoes, along with a few free range 'Brandywine' heirlooms that popped up all over the place and a kinda odd looker that is probably some sort of hybrid that I don't recognize (and no, it's not the next big thing in hybrid tomatoes, trust me) that occured last year got picked, washed, cored, sliced in half across their equators, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and my fave pepper blend and bunged into a 250 degree oven on convection roast.  The entire house smells of tangy tomatoes on the roast.  I'll wait until they start to carmelize to maximize sugar, then shut off the oven and let it cool down on its own.  Then, into Ziplock freezer bags and out to the big chest in the garage/shop for use this winter in stews, pastas and soups.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Lots of fresh, organic if possible heirloom tomatoes, any variety with some size and meatiness to them
Salt to taste - any salt you like that can hang with big flavoured tomatoes.  I've tried different types of sea salt, my fave is still plain ol' Kosher, and I had a tasty tidbit of roasted 'Pink Brandywine' dusted with Himalayan Pink salt - if you can stomach the price, it's pretty awesome
Pepper - again, your choice.  I have my fave pepper blend
Extra virgin olive oil - no compromise here, use the extra virgin and skip the flavoured varieties
Fresh cilantro - a must if you're going to use the roasted tomatoes fresh from roasting in a sauce or salsa, otherwise skip this step

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Make sure the tomatoes are fresh picked, preferably in the morning a few days after their last watering.  The beauty of the grafted tomatoes I grow is that other than when they were planted, I've watered them twice.  The less water, the more sugar, the earlier picked, the more sugar.  It's all about the sugars, baby.  Give 'em a good washing but don't scrub unless you absolutely must, or you're going to dip 'em in boiling water to remove the skins (I wouldn't, but that's just me).  Coring is also optional, but I do that.  Slice in half across the equator (think globe) and place cut side up in a rimmed pan - cookie sheet, baking pan, baking dish, pie plate, anything that can catch and hold juice, and there's gonna be some.  Drizzle olive oil all over them.  I have an ancient Misto that is more of a Spritzo these days, so it spits a perfect, thin stream that I can play over the pans like a hose and give all of the tomatoes a nice taste.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper to taste over it all.  Ditto the cilantro if using (again, don't use if your going to freeze after roasting).  Stick the pans in the oven - no rush here, the pans can go in as you get them done, they'll be there a while - and don't forget them!  I use the convection setting in my oven to insure even distribution of heat and generally fill three racks completely with pans of tomatoes.  Start your racks at the bottom of the oven.  You can roast until you like what you see (or taste - go ahead, you'll swoon, I promise).  Mine generally roast for about 5-6 hours.  When they are done, leave them in the oven and shut it off.  You can open the door if you want.  When completely cool, portion into freezer bags or containers, label and freeze.  Use for soups, stews, pasta sauces, anywhere you need some tomato zing in the depths of winter.  Enjoy!

The two grafted tomatoes.  This end is 'Purple Cherokee'.  I cannot convey the size as Ho Dog was in the house, but just think HUGE.  Those cages are the big, heavy duty ones and they look pretty puny

This end is the 'Black Krim'.  Both bushes are loaded to the gills and this was after picking 16 pounds of them off the bushes

'Purple Cherokee'.  Some cat facing evident; totally unaffected, taste-wise
I couldn't load the harvest basket anymore or I would have had tomato sauce

Kind of speaks for itself there.  On the counter, the ones that didn't fit including the one in front, an enormous 'Brandywine' of the free range variety
A sinkful of goodies waiting to be processed

The processing station.  Simple but effective.  Two knives, small one for coring, big one for slicing

First pan, naked and waiting for the condiments and then into the oven

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