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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Tomatoes Reign Supreme!

Frugal Kitchens 101

Tomatoes are botanically a fruit that is used as a vegetable.  They range in colours from pinky red to orangy red to yellows, oranges and even deep purples, greens and whites.  From a gardening perspective tomatoes fall into two categories, heirloom and hybrid.  From a cooking perspective tomatoes fall into three categories: cherry/grape, paste, and slicing.  Tomatoes in my garden being second in quantity and variety only to herbs.  In the kitchen tomatoes reign supreme!  By far they are the most consumed food in our house with some type of tomato product and/or fresh tomatoes being consumed daily.  They earn the number one position in foods that I preserve coming in well over the 10 hamper mark if I take into consideration the tomatoes I grow as well.  Home canned tomato product constitute close to 60% of all the home canned products I make each year or in terms of jars about 600 jars are tomato products. 

Tomatoes are easy to grow and in most cases very low priced when in season.  The going price for a hamper of tomatoes here is $8.  Although I do not buy my tomatoes at an $80 value I could not buy the same amount of commercially prepare tomato products that I make for that price.  Tomatoes are one of the most frugal foods there is because of the versatility.  Just look at some of the few ways tomatoes can be used!

  • jams/jellies - Tomatoes can be used to make jams and jellies.  I've made several and they are wonderful! 
  • condiments - Tomato based condiments include: salsas, chili sauce, chutneys, chopped for tacos etc, sliced for sandwiches etc, ketchups, various bbq sauces, and other sauces like taco hot sauce and seafood cocktail sauce.  Tomato based salsa has come to the forefront with commercial tomato salsas available.  However, home canned tomato salsa will beat commercial salsas both in terms of flavour and texture.  At the same time fresh made tomato salsas make for a quick and easy to make condiment.
  • sauces - Tomato sauces range from fresh made to canned to frozen either plain or with other ingredients with or without meats so that gives a wide range of possible tomato sauces.  Homemade tomato sauces come in at less than a quarter the cost of most commercially made tomato based sauces.
  • soups - Tomato based soups range from plain to just about anything you can imagine adding to them.  As always soups are a frugal meal choice especially when homemade.  Tomato based soups can be made fresh, frozen or canned as well.
  • stocks - Tomato stock is absolutely wonderful especially when roasting beef.  The resulting gravy is amazing! 
  • appetizers - Tomato slices make wonderful appetizers when drizzled with a little olive oil then topped with mozzarella cheese and grilled.  
  • salads - Tomatoes are an ideal base for salads.  Dice then add a few diced vegetables (broccoli, red onions) and fresh herbs, drizzle with vinaigrette.  Pour over cooled pasta for a summer light salad.
  • flavour enhancer - Tomatoes are perfect flavour enhances for soups, stews and breads.  Dry tomato to make tomato powder or condense into paste for instant flavour boosters.  Toss fresh tomatoes into breads for a delectable treat.  
  • garnish - Tomatoes just have that bright, cheery look that makes fresh sliced perfect garnishes.
  • juice - Tomatoes can be made into juice by themselves or add other vegetables for a garden fresh juice.

2 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Thanks for sharing. I have not heard of a lot of that, like Tomato jam. I just know the basic tomato stuff.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Linda, it really is surprising what a versatile vegeatable/fruit tomatoes are! Tomato jam is quite lovely and you will find several of the recipes in this blogs archives.