Raw Tomato Preserves

This summer I got my hands on a case of fresh roma tomatoes and ventured into this ferment.  I’d wanted to try it for a good while, and when Sandor’s latest book came out, I decided to get to it.  I followed the recipe as is on page 117 of The Art of Fermentation. . I did this in July and with warm temperatures, the ferment went quick.

First I halved the tomatoes, added salt and stirred with my hands.  I did not attempt to get anything submerged at this stage. After 1 day, I could stir it down to where all the halves were submerged.  (I have fermented tomatoes before for the juice [to make bloody marys], and I knew that if I let this go even a day too long the bacteria would strip and  all the pulp from the skins, leaving me only the skins and a thin slurry of what was the pulp at the bottom of the vessel- and this time I wanted the pulp.)

tomato halves readyI stirred two or three times a day.  Each morning a black spidery-looking mold would have formed atop the floating tomato halves.  I would quickly stir this into the mix, and get everything coated in the bubbling liquid. After a couple days, the Kahm yeast would try to get organized in pools of juice around the floating halves, but again, a quick stir would dispel them. Once the rapid bubbling was over, and while there was still pulp on the skins, I strained off what juice there was (about 2 gallons), and processed what remained of the halves, separating the skins/seeds from the pulp. Here are the tomato halves ready to strain.

processed pulpAnd here are the tomatoes being processed in a slick little device I borrowed from the neighbor. Tomatoes in the hopper upper right, paste into the hotel pan on the left. and skins/seeds into the container lower right.




draining juice from the pulpI then put the pulp in a cotton bag and let it hang over night, twisting it to get as much juice out as I could.  At no time did a thick layer of mold appear on the cloth, only a very thin slight white bloom, likely yeast, and I saw no need to attempt to remove it by scraping it with a spoon.


kahm yeast on tomato juice


I put the juice in a vessel, and within a couple hours a lovely rich layer of Kahm yeast had formed.   Since I know this can influence the flavor, I poured the juice into glass jugs with airlocks to keep out the oxygen. I ended up with 2.5 gallons of juice that are now fermenting for next year’s cocktails.



ready to pressNext, I took the ball of paste that had dripped overnight and placed it into a clean cotton cloth and tied the corners. I set this to press inside a stainless steel hotel pan with a concrete block on top, further squeezing out more liquid. I put dry towels beneath and on top of the wrapped ball of paste, and changed these a couple times a day as they wicked out juice from the paste.

salt added


After 3 days I removed the paste and marveled at the color. Gorgeous!  I added salt, 25% by weight, and kneaded it into the paste.  But this proved way too much salt for my palette.  If I use the paste now in a quantity where I obtain the tomato flavor I desire, it is inedible because of the high salt content.  But is it ever beautiful?  Beauty has its limits though, so, frustrated, I formed some of the paste into 1-inch balls and cubes and dehydrated them.  I now use these to grate the dried tomato paste over foods I want to salt, and beauty comes right along with it.  The red color looks spectacular on poached eggs, roasted chicken or steamed cabbage. So, I use it as I would salt, with a little elegance.  The final yield was 1 pint of paste.

completeNext time I’ll use half the salt. (Or I’ll add a batch of unsalted paste to what I’ve already made and see how that goes.)

From Russia, with Love, Solodukha and Ryazhenka

A letter from Russia with recipes for two new ferments I haven’t heard of before…

Dear Sandor,

Firstly, I really love your books, and thank you for helping keep traditions alive!

I have a recipe to share with you; I am from Russia, I grew up in the countryside, on what was basically a farm, and my family have a huge lore of recipes passed down generations (including a sourdough starter that predates the revolution…!)

It is a porridge known as Solodukha (from the word ‘solod’, which means ‘malt’ – the word ‘solod’ itself, in fact, basically means ‘sweet’) My granny often made this porridge for me, and its especially comforting on a chilly morning.

malted (sprouted, dried & roasted) rye, ground fine, around 50 gr per person
water, about 150 gr
1 tsp sourdough starter (preferably rye-based)
a few tablespoons squashberries (according to wikipedia, that is the english equivalent of kalina – a small red berry from the genus ‘Viburnum’) – if you cannot find these, raspberries or fresh ripe red currants work well too.
1/4 tsp salt

Grind the malted rye to a fine powder, add the water, salt, and starter, and leave in a warm place for at least 8 hours. Once fermented, stir in the berries, place in a clay, ceramic or cast-iron small pot, cover with the lid and cook overnight in a very low oven; for the last hour or so take off the lid. Or make a bain-marie in a slow cooker and cook on low overnight.

My granny would always put this into the Russian stove before bed, hot from a days’ baking, and the porridge would cook in the slowly falling heat. if I beat my granddad to occupying the top of the stove for the night, I would wake up to the aroma of roasted rye and berries wafting up from below…

Serve it with plenty of good, yellow butter, and a glass of fresh, or soured, creamy milk, or ryazhenka (recipe follows…)! Enjoy!

Here is also a recipe for ryazhenka, a fermented ‘baked’ milk.

Place fresh, creamy raw milk (I’m sure you know to stay away from the stuff labelled ‘milk’ in the supermarket…!) in a heavy, cast iron pot, cover with a lid and place in a very low oven overnight (not higher than 110 Celcius, lower if your oven can). In the morning you should have a beige to light-brown, slightly nutty smelling milk with a ‘skin’ on top – you can eat the skin now, or, if you can resist, leave it in for now! Once cooled to blood temperature, add a tablespoon of raw soured cream. Put in a very warm place (or in a thermos flask!!!) for about 8 hours, or till thickened and soured. If you left the ‘skin’ in, it will be deliciously chewy…*wipes drool from keyboard*


From Russia with love
Milla 🙂