It’s finally here: tomato season.
I feel about tomato season in the same way I feel about football season. I wait anxiously for both all year. Neither lasts very long, so I savor every moment until it’s over. Our garden isn’t quite ready to yield ripe tomatoes, but the local farms are; stores are full of plump, beautiful tomatoes in every size, shape and color. Late summer is all about trying to think of amazing dishes that highlight the short-lived star power of the tomato. So when a representative from Williams-Sonoma contacted me and asked for my best rendition of a Bloody Mary using FRESH tomato juice, I jumped at the chance to challenge myself.
Confession: I’m a recent Bloody Mary convert. In all of my legal drinking age years, I’ve chosen a mimosa as my go-to brunch cocktail, partly because I adore bubbly and partly because I’ve always thought that Bloody Maries taste like weird cold soup. It wasn’t until an unforgettable trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea with my best friend that I finally got what all the fuss was about. We stopped into a local dive and bravely adopted a “When in Rome…” attitude. We ordered two of the “best Bloody Maries in town” and six oysters on the half shell. Amanda tried (and liked) her first raw oyster, and I fell in love with a spicy Bloody Mary.
Sundays are meant for brunching, aren’t they? What a perfect day to test Bloody Mary recipes- and there just happened to be pre-season football on! The one issue with the fresh tomato challenge is that I don’t own a juicer. My parents are big on juicing, throwing whatever ingredient sounds yummy and healthy into it and sometimes really enjoying the results. I was surprised to see an entire Juice Shop on Williams-Sonoma’s website, with multiple juicer options– this was big business! I learned that there are a few different ways to “juice”: slow juicing, high-speed juicing, and whole-food juicing. After reading about them all, I think a whole-food juicer (like a Vitamix) would suit our family best. It’s the fastest, yields more juice than other methods from the same amount of ingredients, and retains the pulp (for less waste). In the meantime, I decided that I could puree the tomatoes in a food processor and strain the result through a sieve for the juice. Here we go!
I mean, LOOK at these beauties. I wasn’t sure which tomatoes would give me a lot of juice, so I just chose the fattest, plumpest ones (and added a pint of farm-fresh cherry toms, too, just for the color!).
My husband, John, has been making a stellar Bloody Mary for years. It’s a rendition of a dear friend’s recipe that dates way back to his college days (let’s not do the math). Instead of using traditional Bloody Mary mix or the classic V-8 juice, we’d make our own version of tomato juice with tomatoes, parsley, celery, celery salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and jalapenos. We tossed all of those ingredients into our big food processor and whirrrrrred it into a juicy puree. It felt like making salsa!
We worked in two batches. Once the tomatoes and other goodies were blended, we poured the mixture through a sieve. We used a wooden spoon to press as much juice through the sieve as possible, setting the pulp aside. We were left with a decent pitcher of homemade tomato juice. Let’s make a drink!
While John chopped some fresh dill, I charred a couple of jalapenos for garnish. I thought the smokiness would pair well with the spice, and part of the fun of a Bloody Mary is the extra stuff goes in it! We prepped the glasses by running a lemon wedge around the rims and pressing the glasses into a pile of Old Bay (our favorite universal seasoning). I made two skewers with lemon, lime, and the charred jalapeno and set those aside with some celery and straws.
In a shaker, John spooned in some prepared horseradish. Next came equal parts Cholula hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, a couple pinches of salt, some fresh ground pepper, a squeeze of lemon and lime, and a lot of dill.
The tomato juice went in next, after stirring it well (the remaining pulp separates from the tomato water pretty quickly). John added the vodka and gave it a really good stir before pouring it over ice in the Old Bay-rimmed glasses. I added our garnishes and we took a taste: YUM.
With each sip, a new taste bud is happy: the heat from the jalapeno and hot sauce, the tang from the lemon and lime, the bite from the horseradish, the herby goodness from the dill. The fresh tomato really makes a difference to the overall flavor of the Bloody Mary, at the same time acidic and sweet. This cocktail tastes like late summer in a glass. Don’t forget to bite into the charred jalapeno!
In the end, we decided we’d put a lot of work in for brunch cocktails. The process would have been so much easier with an actual juicer, but the recipe stands as purely delicious. And the good news? We have plenty of tomato juice left over. Football’s on…bring over some bagels and lox. We’ve got cocktails covered.
Spicy Fresh Tomato Bloody Mary
For the tomato juice, you’ll need:
- 6 beefsteak tomatoes (homegrown or farm-fresh)
- 1 heaping pint mixed cherry tomatos (homegrown or farm-fresh)
- 4 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup Italian parsley
- 2 large jalapenos, quartered
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
For two Bloody Maries, you’ll need:
- 1 ½ cups fresh tomato juice
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 2 teaspoons dill (psst: dried works better)
- 4 splashes Worcestershire sauce
- 4 splashes Cholula (or other hot sauce)
- 4 pinches each salt and pepper
- Squeeze of lemon and lime
- 3 shots of vodka
For garnish, you’ll need:
- 2 whole jalapenos, charred over an open flame
- Lemon and lime wedges
- Celery stalks
- Old Bay seasoning
To make the tomato juice, puree the tomatoes, celery, parsley, jalapenos, celery salt, garlic salt, and black pepper in a food processor (maybe in two batches) or using a juicer. Pour puree through a sieve, pressing the tomato mixture through it to get out as much juice as possible. Retain pulp for another use.
On two glasses, run a lemon wedge around the rim of the glass and dip the rim into a pile of Old Bay seasoning. In a cocktail shaker, combine the horseradish, dill, Worcestershire sauce, Cholula, salt, pepper, lemon, and lime. Add tomato juice and vodka and stir vigorously or shake. Pour over ice. Garnish with a celery stalk and a skewer of lemon, lime, and charred jalapeno. Clink a glass to late summer, pre-season football, and tomato season. Yum!
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One year ago: A surprise romantic stay-cation weekend.