Japanese people love fermented food. We have many traditional fermented foods such as miso, soy sauce, natto, rice bran pickles, amazake, and many more. At the same time, there are different creative fermented foods that people create and share. One of them I was fascinated by was fermented tomato sauce!! How exciting to transform tomato sauce into a more complex and healthy flavor full of probiotics!
The beauty of fermentation is that it is a collaboration between us and nature. Once we prepare the first few steps, we allow nature and time to process and transform it. And during this time of fermentation, not only the flavor but also the nutritional components of the food often become kinder and nourishing to our body.
Tomato, strong yin vegetable
Tomatoes, which many of us love, are a “night shade” vegetable. That means they grow in the nighttime, absorbing the starlight, moonlight, and darkness instead of the bright and warm sunshine. Therefore, this vegetable has the effect to make our body cooler and retain more moisture (yin energy). No wonder that it is one of the major summer crops, and Mediterranean cuisine is full of tomatoes.
Since I am aware of the strong cooling effect of tomatoes, I always try to balance the amount I use in my meal plan. In the summertime, we love eating slices of heirloom tomatoes in a salad or sandwich. Also, I would make chili, caponata, or pasta, using fresh tomatoes. Then, when the warm season is over, the fresh tomatoes disappear from our table. Still, I do sometimes cook with tomato sauce. In that case, I use the tomato sauce that I made during the summertime which is stored in the freezer. I grill the tomatoes at high temperature and purée them, then pack in the glass jar. The grilling process will allow the strong yin (cooling) energy to be calmed by the energy of fire. And the flavor is just so wonderful.
Through these fermented tomatoes, I felt that I found another way of mellowing the yin energy of tomatoes through the fermentation. (Cooking for a long time adds yang energy). And this can be indeed stored in the freezer!
What you need in order to make fermented tomatoes are only tomatoes, a sterilized jar, and salt. You can use both regular tomatoes (including heirloom) as well as cherry tomatoes. The thicker the flesh, the thicker the texture of the sauce. I got beautiful cherry tomatoes at the farmers market the other day which were both red and yellow. I was inspired to create a sauce beautiful in colors.
It is so easy to make. The only things that are required are the time and a little care. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces. Then put them into a sterilized jar. Add the amount of salt that is 1.5~2% of the weight of tomatoes. Crush and mix them well. Seal the jar and leave it out of direct light. Open it twice a day to stir. Introducing some air into the batch will promote the fermentation process. In a few days, the tomatoes start to bubble. Then the sauce is ready! Put the jar into the fridge and enjoy!!
When you have these three basic ingredients, you can also make different versions of fermented tomato sauce. You can add some herbs and spices. You can also add some crushed garlic. Adding some chili will not only create a hot sauce-like flavor but also it preserves the sauce better. I made one jar of sauce with half a red pepper. When I mix it with some cilantro, it will be an amazing salsa which goes so wonderfully with tacos, veggie burgers, or topping on the sautéed vegetables.
Various usage (update)
This sauce is so delicious that I have been using it in various dishes. The cold fermented tomato sauce pasta was absolutely delicious. I also added it on top of cold cilantro pesto pasta. What an amazing combination! The salsa mentioned above was one of the best salsas I ever had. Eating it with hummus, on top of salad, or on top of sautéed vegetables… Mmmm! Endless creative ways, and all of them are surprisingly delicious.
Fermented Tomato Sauce
- garlic (optional)
- fresh or dried chili (optional)
- fresh or dried herbs (optional)
- salt (1.5% of entire weight of the sauce)
- Step 1 Have the jar well sterilized.
- Step 2 Weigh the tomatoes that you will use.
- Step 3 Cut the tomatoes in small pieces and place them in a jar.
- Step 4 Mash the tomatoes with a spoon until they lose their shape and liquid is coming out.
- Step 5 If you wish to season the sauce with garlic, chili pepper, or herbs, put them in the jar.
- Step 6 Add salt (1.5% of weight of entire ingredients) in the jar.
- Step 7 Mix all the ingredients well with the spoon and seal the jar with a lid.
- Step 8 Let the jar sit on the counter for a few days.
- Step 9 Open the lid and stir twice a day until the bubbling activity starts.
- Step 10 Once it starts bubbling, the sauce is ready. You can store it in the fridge for a few weeks.