Finding really good, vine ripened, sweet tomatoes with a lower acidity level in the Philippines is not a easy task. Growing them in your own vegetable plant from seeds, particularly those purchased abroad, is even more of a challenge, it seems. Finding plum or roma tomatoes instead of round ones is even rarer, though I did find them at Fresh Fields on a couple of occasions. Why good tomatoes of the sort great with pasta sauces are so difficult in our tropical weather would seem inexplicable. Maybe it’s the soil, or the humidity, the bugs, or the lack of cool nights followed by wickedly warm and dry periods for the fruit to ripen. At any rate, I tend to use a lot of canned Italian tomatoes for pasta sauces and stews as they are economical, consistent and flavorful…
However, every once in a while, I run across some pretty good locally grown tomatoes that are ripe and less acidic, often from my suki Toscana farm stand on the Sta. Rosa road leading up to Tagaytay, and when I hit that once or twice in a year bounty, I buy as much as I can. A few weeks ago, I bought some 5-6 kilos of tomatoes at PHP50 a kilo and I let them sit on the kitchen counter for another day or two to ensure they were at their ripest.
To preserve them, boil water in large pot. Take the ripe tomatoes and make a cross mark on the base of the fruit. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for say 30 seconds just to blanche them, then transfer them into an ice bath. Peel away the skins and place them in a bottle or storage container. When you have finished blanching and peeling all your tomatoes, you may choose to smush or crush a few and add that on top of the whole tomatoes. They naturally let off a lot of “tomato water” and eventually they should be submerged in liquid. Store in the fridge for up to several days, or pack for freezing and they will last several weeks. If you want to really preserve them, you will need to seal the bottles and boil them until sterilized… like the process typically described for jams/jellies.
Frankly, these were NOT as good as the canned Italian plum tomatoes I get at the grocery, but at least they were local and fresh. I particularly like to add them chopped up to a simple pasta that we like to make at home… just heat up a pan, add a generous amount of olive oil, throw in some grape or cherry tomatoes and saute for a couple of minutes, add the chopped tomatoes that you have in the fridge, add cooked pasta with some of the pasta water, turn off the heat, add lots of cubed mozzarella, chopped basil, sal and pepper and serve hot. So simple, so delicious and less than 15 minutes to prepare total (except making your own tomatoes, of course). Other ideas for a bounty of tomatoes? Make semi-dried tomatoes in your oven… they are super yummy!