September is canning season.
Discover a couple of secrets that make our kitchen one of the best in town.
|In this newsletter you will learn about pummarola.
The main ingredient of pizza - a dish that was created in Naples, Italy not Florida!
You might have heard the story of Queen Margherita, the spouse of Vittorio Emanuele, the last King of Italy: The Queen was visiting Napoli and someone offered a slice of pizza for Her Majesty to taste. She liked that slice so much that Napoletans named the basic pizza Margherita.
Pizza Margherita is made with bread dough, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Spices would be necessary if the ingredients are tasteless ... like most tomato sauce you buy in the stores.
Pummarola is the Napoletans name for tomato purée. Sauce and paste are two different things ... read on to find out.
|You must try to grow your own tomatoes!
If you don't try your own, you will never know the difference - believe me!
Do you like grocery store tomatoes?
How can grocery store tomato sauce taste any better?
The best sauce or purée is made with ripe tomatoes that contain little water, called paste tomatoes.
The first secret is fruit maturity. We use the tomatoes that we don't dare to bring to the market ... the ones that are very mature, almost spoiled. No bugs can resist the taste of a fruit that is very mature.
If you only buy perfect looking fruit, you will never discover the taste of tomato fully matured on the vine. Accept the fact that some bug has tasted the fruit before you. Just cut the bug bite out and enjoy the rest.
Cut the tomato in two halves, cut away the core and green parts. Proceed following either of these two methods to remove the water.
Paste tomatoes are 80% water! Other varieties might reach 90%.
The taste is in the pulp (pummarola), not in the water.
We suggest two methods that give different results of sauce consistency. We use both methods to create the base of our best dishes.
|Method 1 - Cooking down
There is no short cut to good cooking!
Place the tomato halves in a cake pan and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.
Drain the water released during the baking process (we found the baking pan to work better than the cookie sheet shown in the picture).
Use this tomato press to divide skin and seed from the pulp. The skins and seeds that drop in the bowl on the side should be repressed twice - the third time through you will discard just skins and seeds.
We love this little tool. It works great and it is easy to clean. Very unexpensive at different web stores ... google for: Tomato Press
|The juice that you obtain by pressing the tomatoes still has a high content of water - about 70% - that must be partially cooked down in a 8-quart pot for a number of hours at low flame. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes.
We are crazy and admit cooking the sauce down for up to 20 hours on extremely low flame, without bringing the sauce to a hard boil.
Fewer hours could satisfy your taste. You want to monitor the water content. You don't want the sauce to become purée - follow method 2 for this result. We have tested different cooking down times between 4 and 20 hours. You should get a very good sauce between 4 and 8 hours.
Remember: There is no short cut to good cooking!
The sauce should be stored in jars (traditional canning) - we have sauce jars stored for several years that still taste good. Of course you can freeze the sauce but you risk freezer burn after-taste! We would not risk to spoil an ingredient that took so long to prepare.
Also we recommend to leave the sauce pure. No salt, no spices, so that you have an ingredient that is ready to use in any recipe.
|Method 2 - Remove the water first
Place a cotton sheet (old bed sheet) in a high pot and fill in the tomato halves. Cook on the stove for an hour, or more. Again, we believe that cooking at low flame for a longer period will give you a better result than at high flame for a shorter period.
The water will drain as you pull the cloth out of the pot.
You will be surprised of how much water will drain. This picture shows an 8-quart pot filled with tomato halves.
The picture below shows the cooked tomatoes and the water - the proportions are 2/3 water versus 1/3 of pulp. The 8 quarts of tomato (volume of raw) cooked down to two quarts of water and one of pulp.
Use the water as a natural fertilizer for your plants.
Press the pulp three times using the tomato press shown above. The result is tomato purée, ready to be canned in jars. We recommend to use pint jars.
See the difference? On the right you see the 2 quarts of purée - the spoon stands - on the left the sauce after 6 hours of cooking down.
The other 8 quarts of raw tomatoes that we have processed using the method 1 gave us one additional jar of sauce - we guess that this sauce has a 30% of water - we have evaporated 50% by cooking down.
|While the purée of method 2 possibly contains 10% of water.
Tomato paste has almost no water content. We have no use for tomato paste in our kitchen!
Make the best pizza in town
Use one pint of tomato purée on top of a large pizza dough (we recommend Cardinale's) - cover with whole milk mozzarella cheese (we recommend Tenuta's) and bake at 400 for 45 minutes. Try your Margherita with your favorite toppings.
Not all toppings need to be baked! Try prosciutto or mortadella.
Tip: Take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you start. Sprinkle corn flour on your counter. The dough will not stick to the rolling pin.
Coat your baking sheet with olive oil - the pizza will not stick - also coat with olive oil the edge of the pizza to obtain a crusty bread.
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Looking forward to meet you at the market this Saturday, or some day.
Your friends will be under the white tent,