Whether you’re a porch gardener, an apartment plant parent or a full-fledged farmer, come August, you’re up to your ears in tomatoes, and by now you’re probably tapped out on caprese salads and marinara sauces. Unfortunately for you, tomato plants in Missouri are bound to keep producing well into October, if not November.
You’ve most likely already found myriad ways to use up your juicy fruits. You’ve discovered the simple joys of tomato toast with a smear of mayo; your pantry is packed with jars of homemade salsa; and your freezer is stocked with tomato paste. (If any of these are new to you, step to it! You still have plenty of time to succumb to the ’mato madness.)
While the season is in full swing, break from your routine and make a batch of tomato water with your garden haul. Exactly what it sounds like, tomato water is the liquid from a tomato—but it’s strained, so it lacks the heavy, pulpy thickness of tomato juice. Think of it as the essence of the tomato, with a flavor that I’ve only been able to describe as “the suggestion of a night in the garden.” Do with that information what you will. It’s fresh, it’s light, it’s vibrant, and it’s vaguely vegetal. But this orange-hued liquid becomes a magic elixir, transforming cocktails, vinaigrettes and soups with a bright acidity, similar to the eye-opening effects of a quick squeeze of lemon or a splash of white wine when cooking.
To make your tomato water, quickly blitz tomatoes and a hearty toss of salt (to let out all those juices!) in a food processor, and let the tomatoes drain through a cheesecloth overnight. It’s that easy. Then you’re ready to whisk that water into some olive oil and champagne vinegar for a quick vinaigrette, get a little funky by gelatinizing it in a 1950s-inspired tomato aspic, or make it a simple syrup and turn it into sorbet. Or, of course, you could always add booze. Think beyond the basic bloody mary and try an herbaceous gin-based cocktail or a vodka concoction that takes advantage of flavors from the tomato’s garden buddies, like basil garnishes or jalapeño simple syrup.
Armed with this new tomat-spiration and perhaps a few wild hairs in the kitchen, you’ll be burning through a bushel in no time with nary a plate of pasta Bolognese in sight.