Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Bounty of Tomatoes

What’s a girl to do with a never ending supply of tomatoes from the kitchen garden? Put them up for winter of course. This was supposed to be a bad year for tomatoes here in Middle Tennessee but I gotta tell ya, my garden didn’t get the memo because they just keep coming and coming. I even dreamed about maters the other night. Every batch I finish I put all the equipment away for the year only to pull it out in a week and cook up a few more jars.

But, I promised myself this was it. There are only two of us, as my husband reminds me on a regular basis and Annie the dog doesn’t really like tomatoes. My crazy hens Cilantro and Coriander clean up the leftover ends and skins off the compost pile but that doesn’t help me with the front end production.

I have given loads away, I think my neighbors see me coming and hide…although they seem to like maters better than zucchini and really appreciate it if I turn those tomatoes into fresh salsa before I deliver to their doors. I call friends and invite them to come and harvest anytime but people are busy these days and they like them much better already in a basket left in a convenient place on their front porch. I call it my veggie ministry. I keep recycled plastic bags close at hand when I'm working in the kitchen garden, since it is in our front yard, one never knows when a passerby will stop to chat and I can bless them with a sackful of tomatoes.

We had a baby shower the other day and I was so happy to contribute bruchetta by the gallon. A fabulous way to use up lots of maters and it was delicious to boot (if I do say so myself)…of course what’s not to like about chopped tomatoes, garlic, sweet onion, sweet basil, a couple of shakes of sea salt and fresh ground pepper all mixed and drizzled with olive oil served up on toasted bagels with a little shaved parmesan cheese?

This year I canned just tomatoes, spicy tomatoes, Italian style tomatoes, tomato juice and salsa. Altogether I jarred (as they say here in the south) 30 quarts and 15 pints total.

It doesn’t end there, oh no…I couldn’t stand for tomatoes to go to waste so I froze 20 pints, pureed and quartered; great for soup, chili and stewed okra this winter.

Some summers are so crazy I just quickly wash tomatoes and freeze them whole in large plastic bags. Sounds like glass balls clinking every time I move them around while rooting in the freezer on routine archaeological digs (to make sure everything that went into the freezer is being used in a timely fashion). Later when I have time I will break out the frozen red balls, run some hot water over them which causes the skin to crack and peel easily then cook them down for canning.

If freezing and canning isn’t enough I also dehydrated 6 quarts of Roma and heirloom plum tomatoes; something wonderful to soak in olive oil and slather on salads and mix with pesto for pasta. Dried tomatoes are so tasty we eat them as a snack right out of the jar.

It seems like a lot of work but I know I will enjoy the ‘fruits of my labor’ this winter when home grown tomatoes from the kitchen garden are just a memory.

Here is a quick and easy recipe that I used to make an Italian blend all chopped in the food processor

20 cups of tomatoes – washed with any bad spots cut out then chopped in the food processor. My gardening neighbor pals, Jack and Al chop (with skins on) in a food processor the tomatoes they use for their summer production of salsa and they make 100s of jars to sell and no one is the wiser.
Peppers – seeded and chopped (food processor) use whatever sweet peppers you have to equal about 4 cups - I used 2 Italian fryers, 3 sweet bell, 2 pimento and 3 sweet banana

2-3 large sweet onions – chopped in the food processor.

6-8 cloves of garlic – pressed

½ cup chopped basil leaves

¼ cup chopped oregano leaves

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 Tablespoon sea salt

Mix all together and simmer for 2-3 hours.

Ladle into hot and sanitized quart jars, seal. Can be water bathed for 20 minutes to ensure a safe and sealed product. Makes about 6 quarts.

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