In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
A vegetable strainer makes short work of tomatoes.
The Indispensable Food Strainer
I've found a tool that is almost as invaluable for the garden as a hoe. I have a hand-crank Victorio food strainer that I've used for several years now and I'd sooner give up my food processor than my strainer. I use it to make tomato sauce, applesauce, seedless jams, pumpkin and squash purees for breads, and even for pureeing vegetables like peas and corn for soups.
How It Works
This tool has a very simple design. It has a vise that clips it onto a counter top, and all the parts come apart for fairly easy cleaning. You put the whole fruit or vegetable (sometimes cooked, sometimes not, depending on the vegetable) in a hopper on top, turn the hand crank, and pureed food comes out one chute while peels and seeds come out another. There are screens with varying hole sizes to use depending on what you are pureeing--small for tomatoes and larger for denser fruits and vegetables.
A Great Find
My strainer is an old one that I picked up at an estate sale for next to nothing. It seems that no one knew exactly what it was, sitting there in pieces in a beat-up cardboard box in the basement. The minute I saw it, I zeroed in, hoping I could get across the basement to scoop up the box before someone else got to my treasure first. In truth, no one was interested but me. So I paid my five dollars and carried it home.
I cleaned it up, put it together and set about preparing my first batch of applesauce. I made a complete mess because the gaskets were old and leaky, and I had the wrong size screen. But I found a supplier for parts and soon had it outfitted like a queen. I processed a bushel of apples in about an hour, including the cooking time before running the apples through the strainer.
Filling the Freezer
This year I've begun processing in earnest. I've always filled my freezer with blanched whole fruits and vegetables, intending to take them out to use in winter. Now with the strainer I'm replacing the bulky packages with tidy packages of various purees. We eat a lot of soups, and I can just reach into the freezer and pull out whatever vegetable puree sounds good.
Also, having all my fruit processed means all I have to do to make jam in the winter is pull out the puree, thaw and cook it. It saves me from having to spend all that time over a hot stove at this time of year when everything is coming in from the garden.
My strainer is made of metal and weighs about ten pounds, although the new ones are made of high-tech plastics and polymers, making them much lighter. There are even motors available if the idea of hand-cranking all those tomatoes is tiresome.
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