Tomatoes are, indisputably, my favorite vegetable, or should I say my favorite fruit? Botanists classified it as a fruit, but in 1887, for taxing purposes, the US Supreme Court categorized tomatoes as vegetables. Leave it to the government! Classification verification aside, tomatoes are the official fruits, and vegetables, of many US states.
Tomatoes have a rich history. They are native to South America, and the first possible domestic growers were Aztec Indians in Central America. Pueblo Indians believed if tomato seeds were ingested, the eater was given powers of divination. Because there is a small amount of poisonous toxins in the stalk and leaves of tomato plants, for many years in Europe and the New Colonies the fruit was thought to be poisonous. Finally by mid 1700s the tomato was widely eaten throughout Britain with other countries following suit. Without a doubt, now, tomatoes are one of the most loved vegetables in the world; a fact made obvious from the amount of recipes using them.
Tomatoes are also one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Not much space is required to place a few tomato plants in the ground. In no time an average gardener will have a counter full of the ripe, red fruit. Many home growers take it one step further, canning and freezing their own tomato juice, sauces, and salsa. During harder economic times, numerous families are planting large gardens and canning voraciously, ensuring they have home grown vegetables on the table all through the long winter months.
To efficiently put up your own tomatoes, certain equipment is necessary. A tomato juicer is essential to anyone desiring home canning and freezing. My mother spent hours in the kitchen, straining tomatoes through cheese cloth and colander, separating the pulp and seeds; a juicer would have saved her a lot of time.
Many different types of tomato juicers are on the market today. Some are designed for use by hand, while others are electric, speeding up the process a bit. Manual tomato juicers, or milling machines, are intended for smaller batches. When planning on purchasing a manual juicer, look for a durable cast iron body along with simple set up and easy clean up. There are a wide variety of sizes to choose from depending on your needs. Manual juicers are usually adjustable and clamp onto a counter or table top using rubber stoppers. Usage is easy. Tomatoes are fed into a chute hopper, making sure to not fill the hopper more than half way full, and gently pressed down while hand turning a crank. The juice squeezes out through a strainer, runs down a chute, and is collected in a container while the seeds and pulp are removed. Some manual juicers are made to sit directly on the table top, although slightly more costly. Be careful in choosing a tabletop style; if the base is not thick and sturdy enough the whole contraption will be unstable.
Electric tomato juicers are more expensive, but also are sturdier, quicker, and easier to use. Various wattages determine the strength of the juicer, allowing easily for small bunches of tomatoes, or larger batches with restaurant quantities. Usage is easy and quick. Simply turn the machine on and place tomatoes into the funnel or hopper, then press with a pestle. The machine does the rest of the work. According to what screen or speed you use, the juice, puree or sauce will collect in a provided container.
If possible purchase a juicer that is rust proof. Juicers made out of aluminum must be thoroughly cleaned and dried to prevent rusting. Rust will react with the natural acidity in tomatoes and cause them to spoil quickly, not a good thing for freezing and canning.
Tomatoes have been on this earth from the beginning of time and people have loved to consume them. Whether eating one straight out of the garden with a shaker of salt and juice running down your mouth, or harvesting bushels full to can into juice for delicious recipes during cold winter months, tomatoes will continue to share a place at the world’s dinner table.
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