As my food processor largely lay idle over the past few years, I’ve relied more on my food mill.
Mine is a low-tech, hand-cranked, stainless-steel model with screens in three gauges that not only puree foods but simultaneously strain out foreign particles. Useful for mashed potatoes and silky soups, the mill provided some peace of mind while I made baby food from prunes and dried apricots that sometimes harbored pit fragments.
But even on its finest setting, the food mill couldn’t eliminate every coarse particle in a puree. For cane berries, I needed a fine-mesh sieve that removed too much pulp. Ditto for tomato sauces free of pesky seeds and core fibers.
I’d long since resigned myself to imperfect tomato sauces until my husband’s penchant for junk-sale shopping bore quite possibly its sweetest fruits to date. Spying a hand-cranked gadget of tomato-red, high-grade plastic, Will knew it was a good-quality piece even before he noticed the “made in Italy” stamp. That alone seemed worth the $2 price tag.
A bit of Internet searching identified the World Super Velox as a tomato press and strainer with something of a cult following. Ours was a vintage model, at that, judging by the erstwhile Montedison company’s renown several decades ago for manufacturing Moplen polypropylene. Used models like ours can be had for about $30 on eBay. New ones are about $40 online.
Among the Velox’s most impressive features are an industrial-strength suction cup that wowed Will, even before research confirmed its 220 pounds of compression. Indeed, in the words of one reviewer, when the suction cup is engaged, it’s like the mill is bolted to the counter.
The gauge of the Velox’s single screen, perfect for tomato seeds, also is useful for those vexing cane berries. A quick test of unstrained raspberry puree revealed that the Velox captures the crunchy pips, even if the berry skins sneak through.
The Velox will prove itself, of course, as I replenish our freezer cache of tomato sauce. Another contraption that has captivated us over the past year, the pellet smoker would infuse a refined tomato sauce with a bit of rustic character. The following recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, provides instructions for wood-smoking with gas or charcoal grills, as well as pureeing the sauce with a blender or food processor.
Smoky Tomato Puree
1 cup mesquite or hickory wood chips
4 pounds perfectly ripe, small, round tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot. Soak wood chips in water for 15 minutes or more. Add drained chips to hot coals if cooking on charcoal. For gas grills, place drained wood chips on a piece of foil set directly over heat source.
Arrange tomatoes on grill directly over heat. Cover and grill, turning once or twice, until skin is slightly charred and blistered on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a sheet pan.
When cool enough to handle, coarsely puree tomatoes (skin and all) with salt in a blender, food processor or food mill. Pack into small freezer containers. Label and freeze for up to several months.
Makes about 4 cups.