Tomatoes are coming in by the bushel basket and plastic bins. I need to can as many as I can today before heading out tomorrow for Maker Faire NYC. Not enough time in the day…
A bushel, according to Wikipedia, is a measure of dry volume, the equivalent of eight gallons or four pecks.
By Labor Day weekend, there are more than enough tomatoes to start canning but more will come in September, especially the Roma and San Marzano varieties. The cold fog of August seems to delay ripening. Elsewhere I would expect that Labor Day would be closer to the end of season for tomatoes. Here at Pillow Road it is not quite peak season but there’s certainly a good mix of varieties to do things with.
I first made salsa because a lot of peppers are ripe. For me, one of the keys to salsa is getting the right texture, as well as taste. I use a food processor but instead of throwing everything in at once, I like to do peppers and onions together and then do the tomatoes separately. The tomatoes need only a few presses of the pulse button. Tomatillos are also ready so I made a green salsa as well.
I had enough tomatoes to can seven quarts of sauce. I use an Italian food mill to process the tomatoes. I filled a 12 quart pot with the raw sauce and I cook it for several hours to reduce it. (The raw sauce froths initially and you have to watch for that, and then it settles down to a simmering boil.) Boiling off water gives me a sauce that has more body to it.
I had never studied the ratio before: 12 quarts reducing down to seven. Seven is also the number of quart jars that fit in the pot I use for the boiling water bath. Things do get easier when you know the capacity of the related equipment you have.
I had maybe a quarter cup of sauce leftover after canning. I added some balsamic vinegar, salt and thyme to make a sauce for grilled pork chops.
For a brunch today, I made a gazpacho from green zebra tomatoes. I blended them with lemon cucumbers, tomatillos, garlic, green peppers and some sherry vinegar. I liked the color, texture and flavor. The tomatillos seemed to thicken it. I used cherry tomatoes and scallions as a garnish.
Tomatoes, table grapes, tomatillos, peppers, squash, cucumbers, blackberries, pears and apples are ready to be picked. Now what to do with it all? I made two types of salsa tonight, red and green. Nancy and I made applesauce and dried apples. There’s more to be done but I enjoy seeing it all come in so colorfully.
I picked the first tomatoes of the season as well as some Italian green beans. I combined them for dinner, parboiling them beans and then sautéing the tomatoes with garlic before adding the beans.
We have had a warmer than usual summer, I believe, and that might account for tomatoes ripening earlier than normal.
I got started on the end of summer tasks such as canning and pickling over Labor Day. I also baked a loaf of sourdough bread from a starter I’d been nursing for weeks. I was particularly pleased to get the first batch of tomatoes canned. The tomatoes are coming in late this year. I also made a batch of fresh chevre. Since I had the tomato sauce on the stove, I made a delicious tomato soup, adding fresh corn and chives.
It’s kind of a triple play for the kitchen — pickling, canning and baking.
On Sunday was our apple harvest party. Despite it being an off-year for the apple crop, we made enough cider for everyone to have some. We had the cider press going for several hours. I have about ten gallons in a carboy to ferment as hard cider. Joe took a carboy of last year’s hard cider and raised it up to the “next level”.
I made a French-style beef stew (daube), a vast amount of salsa, assorted rounds of goat cheese, an argula salad with cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumbers and pasta with a fresh sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. In short, the goal was to use as many of the remaining tomatoes as possible. I tapped a keg of American Ale that I had brewed in the spring. Nancy made zucchini bread, congo bars and corn bread — however, we forgot to put the cornbread out.
John stopped by with his house-truck and gave us tours of his nice wooden house built on the bed of an Isuzu truck. He just left Oregon and he’s off for six months traveling around America with his four-wheel residence.
Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. We had lots of young kids around, enjoying themselves, the dogs and the pool. Lots of friends dropped by to share some food and conversation.
I was too busy to take photos. However, the last thing to be made was a pear tart by Chris and Kim Collett. They poached the pears in red-wine then covered it with a pastry crust and baked it. The tart wasn’t finished baking until everyone had left so Nancy and I enjoyed it after cleaning up. Incredible. I had to take a picture of it, although the photo doesn’t suggest how good it was.
I can’t quite describe how good this tomato soup was, made from homegrown tomatoes. Simple to make: butter, shallots plus several pounds of tomatoes cooked for two hours and hand-blended. Topped with cream and a few leaves of oregano and then shared with Nancy.
Maybe the best taste of this summer and a memory I will hang on to as I head East to stay for the rest of September.
Sometimes the beauty of a simple tomato is striking — this one has just the perfect size, shape and color. I’m not kidding — it just feels good in the hand. I hope it tastes as good as it looks.
(I’m not sure the iPhone photo does it justice. Here a link to the original on Flickr.)
I was gathering tomatoes to do my first batch of canning. I made six quarts of tomato sauce, the first of the season. Canning is great for the far greater majority of imperfect tomatoes.
The first tomatoes are ready in the garden. I have great expectations for this tomato crop. It appears that the wait that began when the plants were started in the greenhouse in March, and then put in the ground in early May, is now over. Picking the first tomatoes is wonderful, but soon there’s a flow like through a firehose of tomatoes and tomato sauce now through September. Summer is here in full.
This Roma tomato was sauteed with other vegetables and then put over polenta.