While Tasmania seems like an odd place to be growing tomatoes, it’s here that I’ve had some of the best tomatoes of my life. One of my friends put me onto a grower in the north, Annette, who hosts a once-a-year tomato festival. She sends the tomatoes out, all at exactly the same stage of ripeness, in color-coded boxes, and grows more than 100 varieties including reisetomate and the best purple tomatillos I’ve ever had. It’s made me understand the beauty of the tomato salad.
If you choose not to make the burrata curds, simply use burrata. A mild vinegar and a drizzle of honey on the tomatoes can stand in for the Honey Vinegar, if you prefer, or if you didn't plan ahead.
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) mixed heirloom tomatoes, such as Cream Sausage, Jaune Flame, Reisetomatoe, and Green Zebra
1 teaspoon sea salt
80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) Honey Vinegar (recipe below)
2 ripe peaches (optional)
80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓ cup) olive oil
1 bunch of fresh herbs of your choice (basil, mint, lemon verbena, whatever you like)
2 litres (68 fl oz/8 cups) unhomogenized milk
½ teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water
7.5 ml (1/4 fl oz) rennet mixed into 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water
150 g (5½ oz) crème fraîche
(Makes 2.2 liters (76 fl oz) vinegar)
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) honey
800 ml (27 fl oz) live vinegar or unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
250 ml (81/2 fl oz/1 cup) water
250 ml (81/2 fl oz/1 cup) rum
1 vinegar mother
To make the burrata curds:
Pour the milk into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the citric acid dissolved in water and stir gently. Cook over low heat, stirring very slowly until the temperature comes up to 28°C (82°F). Add the rennet mixed with water and stir for another 10 seconds. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it set for 15 minutes. Test the curds for a clean break by making a vertical cut into them with a palette knife, then lifting them up to see how clean the cut is. Cut into 5 cm (2 in) squares. Put back on the heat and slowly agitate with your hand, breaking up any large pieces until they reach 40°C (104°F). If you prefer the curds slightly drier, you can cook them out to 48°C (118°F) instead. Take them off the heat and let them cool.
Once cool, drain the curds in a colander for 1 hour, then fold them with the crème fraîche and some salt to taste. Be very gentle so as not to overwork and whip the cream – it should look something like the inside of a ball of burrata. Keep in the fridge until needed.
To make the salad:
Wash, core, and slice the tomatoes, then put them in a bowl and season with the salt and honey vinegar. Let sit for 20 minutes. If using, remove the peach flesh from their kernels and cut it into wedges, adding them and the olive oil to the bowl.
Spoon the cheese curds into a flat-bottomed bowl or onto a plate, then build the salad on top. Pour over some of the tomato juices and scatter with herbs.
To make the honey vinegar:
I make this version of honey or mead vinegar every year, especially considering Tasmania has such great single-flower honeys. It’s a beautiful product that has become one of my pantry essentials. Every summer I douse tomatoes in it, deglaze pans with it, and use it anywhere you want a touch of sweetness, but also some acidity.
Combine everything except the vinegar mother. Transfer to a demijohn (a large bottle with a short neck) or a suitable fermentation vessel. Add the vinegar mother, cover the mouth of the vessel with an airlock or cloth, such as a double-layer of cheesecloth, and leave to ferment for two weeks. After that, check on it occasionally, waiting until it’s acidic and floral with no trace of alcohol.