Monday, August 30, 2010

Preserving the harvest: Tomatoes, take two or so...

Getting sick of tomatoes yet? How 'bout apples because I'm sure I'll have more of those too!


Well, this weekend we had the annual tomato you-pick festival at the farm up the street so we are about set on tomatoes! Between our prolific garden and the farm I had more than 50 pounds (about 23 kilos) of tomatoes to save. What's a gal to do?


I roasted some, of course - mostly the heirlooms and fun ones like "green zebras".


Here they are, ready for a pop in the oven!

The larger tomatoes got cored, peeled, seeded (messy, all of it. I'm not good at controlling the mess, I'm afraid) and turned into a sauce. A spicy sauce, as it resulted. Somewhere between Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food recipe of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and salt and the final result the following was added: red pepper flakes, 4 types of onions, basil (fresh and dried), Italian seasoning, the leftovers of a jar of sauce I opened the other night, more garlic, some oregano, truffle oil, and pepper. Do you see why I need to own a book called The Art of Simple Food? I do love to add, edit, and add some more to a recipe...I can't even recall the last time I actually left a recipe alone and didn't change it...

Whoa. Embarrassing. I just sat here for a solid minute staring at the corner of our TV armoire trying to think of the last time I followed a recipe. I came up with nothing. Maybe the duck of March 2008 - the one with the 7 hour balsamic reduction sauce that our friend Andy, man of a million talented taste buds, looked like he might die over. Yeah, I know the date. I also found out I was pregnant that day so, you know, it was sort of monumental. Coincidence that Eh's favorite word and thing in the world is "duck"? I might have to stare at the corner of the TV armoire again for that deep thought...


So, yes, sauce! I got a very full 6 jars out of my pot today and enough extra for dinner tonight. My oh-so-wonderful husband made some of his homemade "sex pasta" (because I swear it is better than, well, you know...), sauteed up some veg from the garden/farm and tossed together another awesome and simple meal on the fly. He's cute. I like that guy. I'm keeping him for sure.

What about the other 5 million tomatoes? What was left was all the romas we picked. Those I washed, popped in freezer bags, and froze. Yep, whole, in the freezer. I know some would argue the roma tomato makes a better sauce or paste but I prefer them for our freezer tomatoes. They thaw quickly and since the seeds are negotiable they require little to no work to use in any recipe that calls for canned, diced, or even fresh tomatoes that get cooked down. Just defrost and the skin pops right off - and the rest goes into your recipe.


Freezer bags do not make for pretty pictures but you get the point. 5 more bags for the freezer. We already had 4 in there and a bunch more to pick from the garden. That means we have about sixty pounds of tomatoes in the freezer, plus the sauce. That's about right. We used seventy pounds from last August until about June, a few more bags from the garden and we should be golden - not a single gassed, unripe, billion mile transported tomato shall there be! Hurrah!

I should mention that we re-use our freezer bags. I also can't remember the last time we bought freezer bags. For a "no paper" kind of family (aka no paper napkins, paper towels, etc) it might seem counter-intuitive to use freezer bags but they work well for the space and we've reuse them to oblivion so, for now, I feel ok about it. Plus, my dream collection of 900 types of glass storage containers in every size imaginable costs bucks and space. It'll have to wait.

I ended up painting the top of our cheap chest freezer, aka storage central, with chalkboard paint recently (and the pictures are appallingly bad so you'll have to imagine) and writing lists of fruits, vegetables, pre-made and other foods we have in there as we go. I can't tell you how great it is to be able to just look at the top of the freezer and know, right away, if you have what you need for a recipe or not! If you have an uber-cheap, or don't care about it freezer I highly recommend getting a few bucks worth of chalkboard (or white board) paint and giving it a go! I like to use the "bistro chalk markers" - aka a chalk pen. We use bistro markers on our black fridge for notes as well - wipes right off the shiny front!

Next up: Corn. Don't worry, I promise to give you ideas on what to do with all this frozen or canned food come winter!

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