Tomatoes, Peeling and Seeding

I’m frequently asked two questions about the process of peeling and seeding tomatoes. One of them is: “When blanching tomatoes in order to release their skins, how will I know how long to keep them in boiling water?” Well, I wish I could give a definitive answer, but truthfully, you’ll need to go by “feel.” Gather all of your tomatoes and separate them by how they feel (individually). Heavier, less firm ones, with a deeper darker red color (less orange) are riper and need less exposure to heat in order to let go of their skins. Really ripe tomatoes will need just 10 seconds in rapidly boiling water and firmer ones will need up to 20 seconds. Your best bet is to work in small batches (no more than 4 tomatoes at a time), all with the same “feel.” And use a large slotted tool to remove them quickly, since every extra second counts. Remember, you’re not cooking the tomatoes, just skinning them. If you’re new to this, place a bowl of ice water close to the stove and, after retrieving the tomatoes from the boiling water, immediately submerge them into the ice water, which will stop the cooking process immediately. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t need to do this extra step anymore.

The second question is: Do I really have to take the seeds out of the tomatoes?” To me, there aren’t many “have-tos” in cooking (as opposed to baking). A lot of what you do really should depend largely on personal preference. However, there are several reasons why most people remove the seeds in tomatoes. First, some people find them hard to digest. And second, the seeds are suspended within a water-rich substance that, when added to a sauce, will naturally dilute it. This means that, in order to get your sauce to the proper consistency, you’ll need to cook it longer to evaporate this added water. Consequently, this extra cooking time can remove some of the fresh tomato taste from your sauce and affect some of the other flavors as well. If removing the seeds feels like too much of a bother, I suggest you omit this step and see how you like the sauce. That’s the beauty of home cooking.

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