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How do you crush whole plum tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon? Anyone use a blender for this?

Footballman407 Sep 30, 2013 05:41 PM

Just about every marinara recipe I come across says to use whole plum tomatoes and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon. Even the beloved Marcella Hazan (RIP). I however have never had sucess with this in practice. The tomatoes are never soft enough and they just break into big chunks rahter than a smooth silky texture. I end up with a large chunks of tomato and a watery sauce. It seems to me that the best way to handle this would be to pulse the tomatoes in a blender before adding them to the sauce. Does anyone already do this?

I also have a couple questions about simmering. How long do you simmer? How do you know when it is done? Is it supposed to be a bare simmer like chicken stock?

Thanks in advance!!

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    lisaonthecape RE: Footballman407 Sep 30, 2013 05:50 PM

    I usually take the lazy method and crush them by hand (just squish them into a bowl), which also allows you to pick out any unwanted bits. I've never had my marinara turn out watery with this method. I would not recommend a blender--the texture comes out too thin--but a quick pulse or two with the food processor might work. Just don't overprocess.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lisaonthecape
      fldhkybnva RE: lisaonthecape Sep 30, 2013 06:25 PM

      I also dive right in and crush them by hand, but beware the splatter.

      1. re: fldhkybnva
        Monica RE: fldhkybnva Oct 1, 2013 08:06 AM

        I always use hands too but yeah, make sure you wear an apron.

        1. re: fldhkybnva
          mike0989 RE: fldhkybnva Oct 1, 2013 10:06 AM

          Same here

        2. re: lisaonthecape
          scunge RE: lisaonthecape Oct 2, 2013 02:49 PM

          Hands or a scissor it works fine for me.

          1. re: lisaonthecape
            PHREDDY RE: lisaonthecape Oct 3, 2013 04:20 AM

            Hands up!

          2. pagesinthesun RE: Footballman407 Sep 30, 2013 05:53 PM

            I use my kitchen sheers and snip away at the tomatoes (in the can) until they are the consistency I am looking for.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pagesinthesun
              c oliver RE: pagesinthesun Sep 30, 2013 05:56 PM

              I do what each of you do.

              1. re: pagesinthesun
                Footballman407 RE: pagesinthesun Sep 30, 2013 06:07 PM

                That sounds good with whole tomatoes but the San marzanos that I got today were actually crushed so I don't think the hand method or the shear method would work.

                1. re: Footballman407
                  c oliver RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 07:00 AM

                  If they're already crushed, then why do you need to do them any more?

              2. greygarious RE: Footballman407 Sep 30, 2013 05:59 PM

                That technique is not meant to result in a smooth sauce. If you don't want chunks and bits of tomato in the sauce, go ahead and use a blender or food processor. You can simmer (gently bubbling) the sauce down to the desired thickness. There's no way it can be more watery than when chunks remain, since either way you are working with whatever liquids and solids were there when you began.

                1 Reply
                1. re: greygarious
                  Footballman407 RE: greygarious Sep 30, 2013 06:05 PM

                  Thanks for your response!

                2. mcf RE: Footballman407 Sep 30, 2013 06:07 PM

                  You squish them with your fingers, never the blender, IMO.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mcf
                    hotoynoodle RE: mcf Oct 1, 2013 08:05 AM

                    or use a food mill if you want silky smooth.

                    that's a gadget i don't own so just use my hands.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      Karl S RE: hotoynoodle Oct 3, 2013 05:56 AM

                      indeed, the food mill is far and away the best tool for fruits (tomatoes are fruits, botanically if not culinarily). Better than a blender or food processor.

                  2. s
                    susan1353 RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 07:05 AM

                    They'll also crush better if they're already warm. I, too, usually crush them with my fingers before I put them in the pot, and cook them down chunky. If I want a smoother sauce, I use an immersion blender right in the pot once the tomatoes have cooked down a bit.

                    1. w
                      Westminstress RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 08:15 AM

                      If you want a really smooth, silky texture, start from passata (tomato puree) rather than crushed tomatoes.

                      1. c
                        cozylummox RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 08:41 AM

                        i read a memorial on her in the NYT yesterday and discovered said treasured marinara recipe, i actually had to read it out loud to my boyfriend it seemed such a revelation.

                        my thought is that once they have warmed, they are a bit easier to crush with the back of a wooden spoon. depending on the depth of your saucepan, you could use the sides as leverage?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cozylummox
                          ARenko RE: cozylummox Oct 1, 2013 10:03 AM

                          This is essentially what I do, except I give them a rough chop with a spoon when I first put them in the saucepan. Then periodically during cooking I mash them with a spoon against the bottom or sides. It's pretty smooth after 45 minutes of simmering and a bit of mashing.

                          1. re: ARenko
                            melpy RE: ARenko Oct 1, 2013 11:04 AM

                            Typically after a brie hand crush or chop, the tomatoes will disintegrate through cooking time. If they aren't breaking down it is due to heat and cook time.

                            1. re: melpy
                              ARenko RE: melpy Oct 1, 2013 01:40 PM

                              My experience as well. I really don't need to do much mashing - heat and time do most of the work.

                        2. i
                          INDIANRIVERFL RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 10:12 AM

                          Sledge-O-Matic. Sorry, Gallagher was in town last weekend.

                          I either simmer to the taste I want or until I can't wait any longer. No kidding on that response.

                          1. jpr54_1 RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 10:33 AM

                            I use a potato masher-
                            easy no mess-and clean hands

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jpr54_1
                              Njchicaa RE: jpr54_1 Oct 3, 2013 05:32 PM

                              Potato masher here too.

                              1. re: Njchicaa
                                mikeguen RE: Njchicaa Jun 3, 2014 07:34 PM

                                Potato masher is best. Use a squiggly wire type. You do not want a pure. When eaten, the chunks of tomato will add a natural flavour burst to your recipe.

                            2. j
                              jaykayen RE: Footballman407 Oct 1, 2013 12:20 PM

                              If you want a smooth sauce, you must blend after the simmering and not before.

                              1. e
                                Erika L RE: Footballman407 Oct 2, 2013 10:17 AM

                                +1 on the potato masher.

                                1. Monica RE: Footballman407 Oct 2, 2013 01:22 PM

                                  and how do you crush italian sausages with the back of a wooden spoon? a lot of recipes say that but i find this almost impossible..I just use my hands.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Monica
                                    fldhkybnva RE: Monica Oct 2, 2013 01:27 PM

                                    Same here or a new favorite method is to sort of scrape bits off as I throw it in the pan or use a fork.

                                    1. re: Monica
                                      cozylummox RE: Monica Oct 2, 2013 02:11 PM

                                      Usually I remove the casing/skin, and when placing into the pan try to put in as small chunks as possible...then crush with a wooden spoon throughout cooking. You'll need a friend to help you wash your hands- it's messy. Also, It always gets a little easier as they cook.

                                      1. re: cozylummox
                                        Monica RE: cozylummox Oct 3, 2013 05:55 AM

                                        Yes, that's what I do...i usually wear disposable plastic gloves when removing casing and cutting into small pieces with hands...

                                    2. t
                                      treb RE: Footballman407 Oct 2, 2013 01:26 PM

                                      Go to your local hardware store and get a food mill. As for cook time, an hour should suffice for maranara.

                                      1. Bryan Pepperseed RE: Footballman407 Oct 3, 2013 06:27 AM

                                        Based on a theory I read at a pizza making webpage that said canned tomatoes should be rinsed (to remove the "can taste") and de-seeded (cause the seeds are bitter) I "process" them under running tap water. After draining in a strainer, I usually use my immersion blender, but sometimes just use my hands.

                                        1. mtlcowgirl RE: Footballman407 Oct 3, 2013 06:49 AM

                                          When making my Bolognese, I usually crush my tomatoes about halfway through the cooking process with a wooden spoon. They appear to thicken the sauce better this way. Don't know why. Probably a chemical reaction. As for simmering, one hour is usually norm.

                                          1. s
                                            Sam D. RE: Footballman407 Oct 3, 2013 10:04 AM

                                            I use a stick blender after they have been simmering. That has worked just fine for me.

                                            1. Monica RE: Footballman407 Oct 3, 2013 10:30 AM

                                              potato masher, etc..they all all fine except it creates more dishes and potato masher isn't so easy to wash!!

                                              1. r
                                                rasputina RE: Footballman407 Jun 3, 2014 07:45 PM

                                                I use a food mill

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