Prepping this cultured tomato paste during sweltering peak tomato season won’t heat up your kitchen.
I struggled to choose a name for this recipe. With merely two ingredients (tomatoes and salt), you render not one but two foods—cultured tomato paste and cultured tomato juice. Because both taste fabulous, I didn’t know which one to highlight in this post. The creamy, tangy tomato paste replaces the canned version with very little effort. As for the tomato juice, I would make a small fortune if I bottled and sold the slightly effervescent, refreshing, intensely tomato-y drink. It would make a fabulous base for a cocktail—one filled with gut-healthy bacteria.
“No-cook” in the name isn’t quite accurate either—good microbes cook the tomatoes without an outside energy source. “Easy, Hands-off, Microbes-Do-the-Cooking-for-You Cultured Tomato Paste and Bonus Cultured Tomato Juice” better describes this recipe but runs a tad long.
Simple ingredients, simple tools, simple method
You can make this two-ingredient, two-food recipe outside. You can make it at your campsite. You can make it during a power outage. (I hope you don’t experience one during a heat wave.)
At that campsite (or in your kitchen), you need only basic tools to prep this: a cutting board, a knife, a large jar, some cheesecloth or butter muslin, and a rubber band or string. While crushing the tomatoes with a clean hand and inserting some of your good bacteria to the microbial mix, you also avoid dirtying a utensil such as a potato masher. Once the tomatoes have fermented, if you don’t have a food mill, you can use a sieve to remove the tomato skins.
Like most fermented foods, you will have to wait before consuming this, so plan ahead. Fermentation fosters not only necessary, hands-on life skills, but also patience and an appreciation for the anticipated end results. (Go here for more on why I’m obsessed with fermenting foods.)
The short version of the cultured tomato paste recipe
- Cut cored tomatoes into bite-size pieces.
- In a large jar, crush the tomatoes with a clean hand, stir in salt and cover the jar securely with a cloth.
- Stir the tomatoes several times daily. After they become bubbly, continue to ferment and stir for an additional 3 to 5 days. Taste daily.
- When the tomatoes taste tangy and have become slightly effervescent, run them through a food mill (or push them through a sieve). Let gravity strain out the liquid for up to a day.
If desired, add a small amount of maple syrup or honey to taste after straining.
The short version of the cultured tomato juice recipe
- After removing the strained tomato paste and cloth suspended in the jar, close the jar of tomato juice and store it in the refrigerator or drink the juice immediately. If you’d like to bottle it, put it directly in the refrigerator after bottling to avoid geysers or explosions. The juice is so carbonated that you don’t need to store it at room temperature to increase the fizz.
The longer version…
For this post, I used ½ pound of tomatoes to render around ⅓ cup of cultured tomato paste and 2 cups of juice. I’ll make much more of both later in the summer or early fall after tomato prices have plummeted. I prefer Early Girl dry farmed tomatoes for just about everything but any tomato will work. If you choose a juicier tomato such as an heirloom, you’ll render more tomato juice and less tomato paste.
Strain the tomato pulp
Easy 2-Ingredient No-Cook Cultured Tomato Paste and Juice
- Food mill to remove tomato skins (see note)
- cored tomatoes
- salt ¼ teaspoon per pound of tomatoes or to taste
- olive oil (optional) to store tomato paste
- Cut cored tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Place in a large clean glass jar. (If making a larger amount, use a large glass or ceramic bowl.)
- Crush the tomatoes with a clean hand, stir in salt and cover the jar or bowl with a cloth. Secure the cloth with string or a rubber band to prevent debris or critters from landing in the tomatoes.
- Stir the tomatoes several times daily. After they become bubbly, continue to ferment and stir for an additional 3 to 5 days. Taste daily. When they taste tangy and have become slightly effervescent, run them through a food mill to remove the skins. Set these skins aside to either kickstart another ferment or add flavor to another dish.
- To strain the tomatoes, place a piece of cheesecloth or butter muslin over a jar. With your fist, push the fabric into the jar to create a suspended pouch that you will fill with the tomato pulp and juice. Secure the cloth to the jar with a rubber band or piece of string. Carefully pour in tomato pulp and juice only to the top of the jar opening. Allow the tomatoes to strain a bit before adding more. Place the lid on the jar and the jar on a plate to catch any drips that the cloth may release. Store on the counter or, if straining for more than a day, in the refrigerator. Strain the tomatoes until the paste reaches the desired consistency.
- Transfer the tomato paste to a small clean jar and store in the refrigerator. If you won't use the tomato paste within a few days, pour a little olive oil over top to help keep air out of your ferment. Covered in olive oil, the tomato paste will keep for at least a month. Keep in mind however, that as the tomato paste continues to slowly ferment in the refrigerator, the flavor will become more sour.
- Remove the fabric from the straining jar that now contains tomato juice, replace the lid or, if desired, bottle the juice. Store in the refrigerator.
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