When I planned my first serious garden, I made room for seven Roma tomato plants. That way, I’d have plenty of fruit for homemade spaghetti sauce, roasted corn salsa, and more. But as I began to research and develop my own recipes, I quickly came to realize I’d need a tomato press.
You can process tomatoes for recipes and canning without a tomato press, of course. But it involves boiling them, plunging them in ice water so they’re cool enough to handle, scoring and peeling them, then seeding them.
I am totally willing to put in the work when it comes to from-scratch foods. But if there’s a faster way to do it? I’m all about “cook smarter, not harder.”
The tomato press definitely falls under that category.
If you’ve never used one, the concept itself is simple—after all, it’s a food mill—but there are a few tricks and tips that’ll make using one much easier. So make sure your tomato press is firmly attached to the countertop, and get ready to get messy!
Most tomato presses aren’t very tall. So placing a shallow, large container—like a 9×13″ casserole dish—under the pulp output is ideal.
As you grind the tomatoes, skins and seeds are pushed through the waste output. Some people suggest taping a garbage bag to this output, but trust me—you’ll want to use a food-safe, gallon-sized plastic bag instead. Try to find the ones that stand on their own. It makes things that much easier.
Many tomato presses say that you can put tomatoes into the press whole, no slicing or dicing involved. While I would love to do that, I’d recommend that you at least slice them in half to ensure the tomatoes are free of pests and disease inside.
It’ll take a fair amount of jamming and squeezing to get the tomatoes down into the press. I’ve tried a wooden spoon, but nothing matches the manipulation abilities of your hands. If the juices from the tomato start to irritate your hands—and they might, depending on how long you’re at it—you can totally wear food-safe plastic gloves.
The skin and seeds that come out of the waste output and into the bag actually have a shocking amount of good pulp with them still. I run tomatoes through the press three times total. That’s why I use a food-safe plastic bag to collect the skins and seeds!
Below, you can see how the amount of pulp and juice grows with each time the skin and seeds are processed.
Once you’ve gotten all you can out of the waste, don’t throw it away! You can compost it. Lots of valuable vitamins and nutrients are left over in the skin and remaining pulp, and that can go right back into the soil that created it.
When you’ve processed all your tomatoes, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to disassemble the press and give it a thorough cleaning.
It can be tempting to simply rinse the press out, but it’s often not enough to completely remove all the sugars and scraps of fruit that can gum up the mechanics of the press. I failed to do this the first time, and holy mold city…BLEH. Since mine is mostly plastic, I can simply take it apart and run the pieces through the dishwasher without worrying about rust.
That’s it! If you’re new to using a tomato press, I hope these little tips help make the process easier for you.
Have more tips for making processing tomatoes easier? Share with everyone in the comments below!