Can I salvage these tomatoes?
October 3, 2009 3:15 PM   Subscribe

While trying to cook a large quantity of tomatoes for sauce, I accidentally burned a few on the bottom of the pan. Now the burnt aroma pervades the entire (did I mention large) batch of tomatoes. Is there any way to salvage this project?

I'm trying to make tomato sauce.

I started by cutting up raw tomatoes and chucking them into my biggest, deepest pot. Once there was a few-inches-deep layer of tomato chunks in the bottom of the pan, I turned the heat on high underneath and continued cutting and chucking tomato chunks. After a while, the chunks became difficult to stir around because the pan was so deep. I stupidly left the pan unstirred on top of high heat. Not long after I finished cutting up the tomatoes and adding them to the pan, my nose notified me that the bottom layer of tomatoes had burned. Uh oh.

A mild but noticeable burned smell seems to pervade the entire potful of tomato chunks, which are in varying states of cookedness. I pulled the rawest layer of tomato chunks off the top of the pan, thinking I might be able to salvage them, but that still leaves at least 20 lbs of tomatoes sitting in what is now a burnt-tomato-scented broth.

Advice? Do I have to throw out the whole lot? If I dig out the un-burnt tomatoes can I continue cooking them in a clean pan, or will the resultant sauce have that unpleasant burned flavor to it? Would it make a difference if I strained off the liquid and just cooked what's left of the un-burnt tomato flesh? Is it true that a peeled potato can "absorb the burnt taste"?
posted by Orinda to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Peanut butter.
posted by axiom at 3:27 PM on October 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

The peanut butter tip is great, but make sure you tell the people who are eating the finished product in case any of them have a peanut allergy.
posted by amyms at 5:03 PM on October 3, 2009

If you cook tomatoes again, and you're using an electric stove, use a trivet to keep the pot off the burner a little bit, it should reduce the risk charring. A bent metal coat hanger makes a quick trivet in a pinch.

I did the same thing with a batch of sauce earlier this week, and I took tomatoes off the burnt layer, but decided to pitch 'em. I left the sauce outside in another pot to cool down and forgot about it for a few days. I went to throw them on the heap and bravely tasted the sauce and the burnt taste wasn't there anymore. I'm not sure what happened to the sauce in that time, aside from a bit of rain, but I think a lot of the burnt taste was coming from the smell of the burnt tomatoes at the time of cooking and it dissipated after a while. I'd try peanut butter instead of leaving your sauce out for a few days. It was cold outside, so I wasn't terribly at risk of anything, but still... this is one for the "should I eat it" files.

Also, sorry for the derail.
posted by glip at 6:14 PM on October 3, 2009

If I were in your situation, I would look for a roasted veg recipe on a site like Roasted eggplant, roasted pepper, roasted tomato in a marinade of olive oil.
posted by effluvia at 6:36 PM on October 3, 2009

Yeah, triple make sure that nobody eats it with a nut allergy. Most people don't expect a simple tomato sauce to have peanuts in it, so make sure it's labeled as such in your freezer or pantry -- you'll probably forget in a few weeks!
posted by barnone at 7:57 PM on October 3, 2009

Next time you burn to bottom of a pan, resist the urge to scrape the bottom - if you can pour off the top and leave the burnt stuff stuck to the bottom you can essentially separate out the two & save it. Hindsight I know, but take it as advice for the next time.
posted by Dmenet at 8:08 PM on October 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Has anybody here actually tried the peanut butter trick? I found it in the same Google search that turned up the raw potato idea, but it sounded just a little too bizarre. Also, although the sauce I'm making is unlikely to be eaten by anybody with a peanut allergy, it's not impossible for some combination of forgetfulness + potluck to have very bad results in that regard.

I've ladled the tomatoes that were above the burnt layer out of the pan and set them aside in the freezer for the time being. I'll test out glip's dissipation theory later. Perhaps time will heal all tomatoes. But in the meanwhile, I'm still open to suggestions and reports on your burnt-tomato experiences.
posted by Orinda at 9:36 PM on October 3, 2009

In my one experience with slightly burning a very large batch of tomatoes on the way to be ketchup the answer is no. It is a very distinctive taste that permeated the entire batch. We carefully avoided scraping the bottom, tried all manner of "antidotes" (not peanut butter however) on small portions unsuccessfully . It finally ended up in several very unsightly flushes down the toilet.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2009

No. It's basically fucked.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:44 PM on October 4, 2009

« Older Non-steroid alternative for toddler asthma?   |   Swedish Chef Theme Song Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.