Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tomatoes Galore

One of the reasons I never resort to buying tomatoes out of season is that we put up tomatoes so many different ways that I only crave fresh tomatoes straight from the garden and never from the store First we take care of the canned whole tomatoes, putting up around 50 quarts, since they are the most versatile. Then, after they are done, we move on to purees for sauces and soups. And then it's on to dried tomatoes for tapenades, stews, and eating out of hand. The only things left will be salsa, and that will happen later this week, and freezing quarts of fresh tomato sauce with lots of fresh basil, parsley and garlic for pizza, which will happen just before the frost.

To make puree, we have a wonderful gadget called a ' Roma Sauce Strainer'. Tomatoes are put through a hopper, a handle is turned that turns an auger, and the puree flows into a pot, the seeds and skin into a separate bowl for composting.

The puree is boiled for a few hours till it thickens a bit, then ladled into hot sterilized jars and processed in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes.

Drying tomatoes is done in a food dehydrator. The tomates are cut into thick pieces, sprinkled with salt

and put into the dehydrator for around 24 hours.

While they are drying the house is filled with the wonderful warm aroma of tomatoes.

Having the larder filled with all the different type of preserved tomatoes is more than just an incredible feeling of food security, it's the culmination of a summer well spent. A year that started in March with the seeding of tomatoes in the greenhouse when the cold wind whipped around, planting them out of doors in the long days of May, rejoicing with the first cherry tomato in July, and the few short summer months to relish the full sized tomatoes warm from the vine. And now, we can look forward to a winter of glorious dining!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Canning Tomatoes

Summer is the time to can tomatoes, winter the time to savor the smells and tastes of our bounty. Opening up a jar of canned tomatoes always bring to mind the title of my friend Andrea Chessman's book Summer In A Jar. And indeed it is. It is like tumbling back into those hot and humid days of summer. The days of butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. When what was for dinner meant a trip to the garden. But now is the time for making sure we have enough put by to get us through the long winter. Canning is a wonderful summer activity. We put up enough whole tomatoes and puree so that we never have to by any store bought tomatoes. Let us just eat fresh field grown tomatoes when they are in season, when the hot days of summer are still with us, that way during the winter months we can be content to go to the pantry when we crave tomatoes and not to the store!
Here's how we can whole tomatoes.

We start with 25 to 30 pounds of plum tomatoes

The tomatoes are blanched for 1 minute 45 seconds so we can remove their skins.

Then they are put into cold water to cool them down, and to make them easier to handle.

As they are peeled they are put in a pot large enough to hold them all.

The pot of peeled tomatoes is heated,

put into sterilized jars

A lid and ring are put on and hand tightened

And put into a boiling water bath for 25 minutes

25 Pounds of tomatoes will yield about 7 quarts .

And, into the pantry they go.