How did I get the tomatoes in the picture at the top of this blog looking the way they do with nice round cores taken out? The answer is the tool on the right side of the cutting board in this picture: a Calphalon Apple Corer with Plunger.
To begin at the beginning. I used to used a paring knife to core and seed the tomatoes. I’d cut off the top, cut off the bottom and then run the paring knife down and around the sides of the tomato 1/4” below the surface, cutting 4 curved wedges. I would then flip these wedges so they were skin side down and I’d press then down flat and run my knife parallel to the cutting board and cut off any remaining ribs, pulp, “guts” etc. This method worked, but cutting off the wedges was a bit fussy and you had to take your time to get it right. About 2 years ago when faced with a shortage of prep time and a large stack of Roma tomatoes, I was trying to think if there was any way to speed up this somewhat tedious and time consuming task. The lightbulb went off and I realized I might just have exactly the tool I needed sitting in a drawer.
The Calphalon Apple Peeler with Plunger has 3 parts. The rubberized handle, a 1/2” dia. hollow metal shaft, partially open, with teeth at the bottom and a plunger (locked in the middle in this picture) used to eject the core.
The tool in question was a Calphalon Apple Corer with Plunger. This tool, which I picked up 4 years ago at Williams-Sonoma, was intended to core an Apple and then you use the plunger to eject the core from the shaft. I hoped this tool could also work it’s magic on the Roma tomatoes. First a little about the tool. As you can see from the picture the tool has 3 basic parts: A rubberized handle, a hollow 1/2” (1.25 cm) diameter shaft with sharp teeth on the business end and a plastic plunger that helps eject the core from the shaft. The cutting shaft is partially open on one side and you can reach a finger in to help push out the core, but using the plunger is much easier. The plunger has a catch that locks it to the underside of the handle while you are actually coring the apple. This plunger lock is good because it helps keep the plunger up and out of the way so you can see what you are doing. It worked very well on an apple and my only concern about using it on Roma tomatoes was if the core it would remove was going to be too big. I am happy to report it was just about the perfect size.
These tomatoes were to be cored, seeded & halved. The apple corer made quick work of the coring and over half of the pulp and seeds. After cutting them in half I ran the tomatoes under cold running water to remove any remaining pulp & seeds. I used my pinky to release any pulp or seeds trapped in the voids between the ribs, but generally the water was enough to do the job.
To core and seed the tomato you center the saw bladed bottom of the shaft over the stem of the tomato and push down while twisting the tool in a circular motion. Think: Using a screwdriver to drive in a screw. You do this until you have gone through the entire tomato. You then twist it back up and out of the tomato and push the plunger to eject the core. The only tricky part is the core of Roma tomatoes isn’t always right in the exact center of the tomato and isn’t always perfectly vertical either. So I turn the tomato over and find where the core exits the bottom of the tomato. I put a finger on this spot to mark it and place the tomato on the cutting board so the part with my finger on it is on the board. I remove my finger and then tilt the tomato as required to make the core vertical. Then I center the shaft over the core and screw it straight down. Once you have cored all of the tomatoes, you can cut them in half or into quarters and continue working with them. Most of the pulp and seeds are already gone, but final cleanup is a breeze. Simply run the tomato parts under running water to clean out any remaining pulp and seeds. You can also insert your pinky into the voids in the tomato to release any trapped pulp or seeds. I you are dicing or julienning the tomato you can then proceed normally by flipping the tomato quarters skin side down and using a knife to cut off and protruding ribs and get the wedge to an even thickness.
If you make salsas, quesadillas, sauces or anything else that uses a lot of Roma tomatoes, think about investing in something similar to the Apple Corer and Peeler like I have. It only cost around $12.95 as I recall. The reason I say “something similar too...” is because I don’t believe this particular model is made anymore. There are plenty of others out there that cost somewhat less and also far more than the one I have. There is no need to pay far more money, all I would suggest is make sure the model you choose has the plunger, or makes some other provision for quickly spitting out the core. Once you have tried prepping your Roma tomatoes this way, you’ll never want to go back to your old way of doing things ever again.
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