Posts Tagged: tomatillos
If you also found a silver lining to staying/working at home this summer by planting and tending to your garden, did your wish for a bumper crop of tomatoes come true? What happens if your tomato plants are prolific producers?
Preserve those tomatoes!
The easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them. You don't need to blanch them, you don't need to peel them. Just rinse, dry, core, and put them on a small tray or plate in the freezer. Once frozen solid, move them to a freezer bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible before closing. Pull the bag out of the freezer when you're ready to use the tomatoes. To peel, let them thaw just a little and then run each tomato under warm water to slip off the skins. It's that easy. (They won't have the texture of a fresh tomato, but they'll be perfect to make a fresh sauce for dinner.)
Don't throw away those skins! Or soft tomatoes. If you have a dehydrator, lay tomato skins on the tray, sprinkle with your favorite spice mix (garlic salt works well), and dry until crispy to make a tomato skin chip. Some heirloom tomato skins are bursting with flavor. Or instead of making chips, toss tomato skins and soft tomatoes into a freezer bag until you fill the bag. Thaw and puree the bag's contents and dry the mixture on your dehydrator tray as a crisp leather. Grind up the leather to make a tomato powder to use for camping soup mixes and dehydrated salsa mix. Sprinkle tomato powder on scrambled eggs for tomato flavor without the extra moisture or add to meatloaf, burgers or soups to enhance flavor. Get creative!
If you're a canner, there are lots of options. Many people don't think of tomatoes as a basis for jam or jelly, but with the right spices and some sugar, the flavor profile changes significantly. I served Spiced Tomato Jam in a blind taste test with third-graders a few years ago and they guessed it was apple pie and pumpkin pie because of the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. It's delicious!
A family favorite is Tomato Apple Chutney. This savory spread is a collection of tomatoes, apples, onions, raisins, garlic, cucumber, red bell peppers, a little sugar and spices. I like to mix it with mayonnaise for a sandwich spread. The first time I made it my husband and I ate sandwiches for lunch and dinner three days in a row. It is one of the first red tomato products I can each summer.
Another family favorite is Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Puttanesca Sauce. The combination of roasted plum tomatoes, eggplant, onions and red peppers with capers, olives, spices, balsamic vinegar and wine make a chunky pasta sauce that smells fabulous when you open the jar. I usually make 3-4 batches and enjoy them all year.
My pantry staple is plain crushed tomatoes. I add spices when I make a meal, cooking them down, adding tomato paste (remember the tomato powder?) and dried veggies. Each jar of crushed tomatoes can become part of a unique meal. The main thing to remember is to add acid to each jar before filling it to ensure there's enough acidity to make the tomatoes a high acid food and safe to can in a steam canner or boiling water canner. I normally use bottled lemon juice, but this year I'm trying a few jars with cider vinegar; rumor has it that after being stored for several months the vinegar flavor mellows and enhances the flavor. I'll label the jars to identify the acid used.
I learned a great tip at one of our public classes a couple of years ago. Often when canning tomatoes, there's watery liquid at the bottom of the cook pot. Don't throw out the tomato water! You can jar and process it with the rest of your crushed tomatoes. Use the tomato water to cook couscous, quinoa, rice or as the liquid in a soup.
This is the first year I've actually put my garden in on time and shouldn't have plants loaded with green tomatoes right before the first freeze. If I do, I'll be thrilled because I'll make Green Tomato Salsa Verde – it's delicious! (It ranks up there with Tomatillo Salsa; I've already made three double batches and plan to make more.) Green tomatoes are more acidic than ripened tomatoes and you can use them in place of red tomatoes in any canning recipe, following standard acidification methods.
I just picked a cherry tomato off the potted plant on my back patio that is purposely within easy snacking distance from my kitchen. If I get too many to eat within a couple of days I'll cut them in half and dehydrate them. The result is as good as candy.
So many tomato possibilities! If you want more ideas, contact the UC Master Food Preserver online help line at Ask a Master Food Preserver.
Visit our website at http://mfp.ucanr.edu/to watch a variety of preservation videos from Cooperative Extension offices around the country, explore recipes, and find out more about the UC Master Food Preserver Program.
UC Cooperative Extension advisor Maria de la Fuente said she has planted tomatillos in her backyard garden every year since she moved to California from Monterrey, Mexico, in 1995. De la Fuente serves UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in various roles. She is the director of UCCE in Monterey County, an advisor to commercial specialty vegetable producers in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara counties, and the Master Gardener coordinator in Santa Clara County. She said she personally uses tomatillos regularly to make fresh green salsa, green pico de gallo and flavorful traditional sauces for dishes like chili verde.
“You could use green tomatoes, but it doesn't taste the same,” de la Fuente said. “There's really no substitute.”
Tomatillos are native of Mexico and a staple of Mexican cuisine. De la Fuente, who lives in Santa Clara County, said she starts seeds indoors in March and transplants into her garden in mid-May with great success.
“They grow like weeds, but I also buy a lot in the store,” de la Fuente said. “I make a lot of green salsa.”
Tomatillos, small green or green-purple to red fruits that mature inside paper-like husks, can be a healthful addition to family meals, according to the UC CalFresh nutrition education program, which developed a fact sheet in English and Spanish for cooking and eating tomatillos. Tomatillos contain Vitamin C, Vitamin K and potassium and are naturally low in calories.
To grow tomatillos, spread seeds on moist soil in an egg carton or shallow tray, place in a sunny location inside and keep the soil moist. When the plants are about six inches tall, transplant about three feet apart into garden soil that has been mixed with compost or humus. Select an area where they will get plenty of sun and be sure to plant more than one as two or more are required for proper pollination. The plants will grow to about 3 or 4 feet high and will need support to keep the fruit off the ground.
Tomatillos look like delicate Chinese lanterns on the vine. They are ready to harvest when the fruit fills and splits the husk, but leave the inedible husk on until use. Tomatillos may be kept in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator for about two weeks. For preservation, they may be frozen fresh or cooked. Prepared tomatillo salsa, chutney, relish, jam and sauce may be preserved using boiling water or pressure canning methods.
To prepare tomatillo sauce, gently squeeze the vegetable from the husk. Wash in cool, running water to remove stickiness from the skin. Sauté 2 cups chopped tomatillos, 1 diced onion and 1 diced garlic clove in 2 tbsp. oil. Add ¼ cup of water and heat until the vegetables are soft. Purée in a blender. De la Fuente suggests adding fresh cilantro to enhance the flavor of the sauce.
The CalFresh fact sheet says parents may feed children 6 months of age and older cooked tomatillo and sweet potato puree. Toddlers may be offered small pieces of cooked tomatillos and carrots. Older children may enjoy the vegetable served with cooked potatoes and onion as a burrito filling, or the pureed sauce as a dip with quesadillas, bread or raw vegetables.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.