Tomato Enzymes and Consistency

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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The final consistency of a tomato puree depends not just on how much water has been removed, but also on how long the puree spends at either moderate or high temperatures. Ripe tomatoes have very active enzymes whose job is to break down pectin and cellulose molecules in the fruit cell walls, and so give the fruit its soft, fragile texture. When the tomatoes are first crushed, the enzymes and their target molecules are thoroughly mixed together, and the enzymes start breaking down the cell-wall structures. If the raw puree is held at room temperature for a while, or heated to a temperature below the denaturation temperature of the pectin enzymes, around 180°F/80°C, then the enzymes will break down a lot of the cell-wall reinforcements, and these liberated molecules will give a noticeably thicker consistency to the puree.