Peeling tomatoes to make into pasta sauce can be messy business.
Last year I peeled and stewed over 150 lbs of tomatoes from my garden into tomato sauce. Some of those tomatoes went into pasta sauce, others I made into salsa or left as diced tomatoes. I have experimented with removing the skins and will share my method for peeling tomatoes.
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The common practice for tomatoes is to first dip the tomato in hot boiling water, then into an ice bath to cool the tomato off and allow you to be able to handle it. From there, the skin can be peeled.
But I find this method difficult:
- I have to keep an eye on the tomatoes in the boiling water so they don't completely break their skins in the hot water and over cook.
- I have to constantly add more ice to my ice bath as the hot tomatoes melted them quickly.
- I still end up having to handle hot tomatoes, while peeling the skins between watching the boiling tomatoes and adding ice.
I found a better solution that works for me, and can be accomplished by only 1 person. No extra helpers needed (in case you don't have friends or family who want to peel tomatoes all day).
Step 1: Warm Water
Keep the water in the warm pot just below a simmer. When you add the tomatoes they will require longer in the pot than if the water was hot. But this is fine with me. It gives you more time to do other things, and gives you more leeway if you get distracted. I recommend adding only 3 tomatoes or so at a time, and letting them sit in the warm water for 2-3 minutes. You may see the skins start to peel away, and this means they are ready to come out. Although, you may have to pierce the skin, before it peels away.
How to transfer hot tomatoes: Jar lifter!
I have tried using tongs to grip the tomatoes but I found I sometimes mushed the tomatoes and dropped them. The best method I found was to use my handy jar lifter from my canning kit seen here to lift the tomatoes from the bottom. The tomatoes get a safe ride from warm water to cold in this cradle.
Step 2: Cool Water (Ice Bath)
When your tomatoes are starting to peel their skins off in the warm water, move them to the cool water. This slows the cooking process and cools the tomatoes down so you can handle them easier. As the boiling water was not super hot, the tomatoes aren't super hot, so my ice doesn't melt as quickly. I add more ice every hour or so, when the tomatoes coming from the ice bath are still too hot to handle for my liking.
Step 3: Peel the Skin
There is no secret sauce here. The skins should peel off nicely, if the tomato is ripe. The process of warm water will separate the skin from the flesh nicely, so hopefully you can slip off the skins.
Step 4: Repeat the Process
I recommend 3 tomatoes in each stage at a time. I have found, I can peel and dice 3 large Brandywine tomatoes in the same amount of time is takes 3 tomatoes to start to burst their skins in the warm water. So I have 3 tomatoes in warm water, 3 tomatoes in ice water and 3 tomatoes on the cutting board to be skinned and chopped. When I finish peeling and chopping, the tomatoes in ice move to the cutting board. The warm tomatoes move to ice and 3 new tomatoes move into the warm water. A steady flow, no juggling hot tomatoes!
I hope you will learn from my burned fingers from handling hot tomatoes and will turn down the heat to warm. If you have your own system for peeling pounds of tomatoes please leave it in the comments section below.