Remember all those lovely tomatoes?
Sally sent me an email telling me that she had linked to me on her all tomato blog (best idea ever) and even though I still haven’t written back to her because I suck at returning email and have been spending all my time fretting over important things like growing even more tomatoes and if I have enough coffee mugs for The Blathering her post did get me started thinking about how I had NO idea what to do with all these gd tomatoes but the more I thought it the more it turns out I have LOTS of ideas so lucky for you here they are!
First of all, I like to just walk right out in the garden and pick a tomato and eat it sprinkled with salt. Here’s a visual representation for you which includes one of my favorite! things! ever! – my jadite salt shaker that my mother in law gave me.
Remember that scene in Ratatouille when the snively critic tastes the ratatouille for the first time, and he drops his spoon, and his childhood floods in and in an instant he’s six years old again and he’s sitting in a stone kitchen somewhere in the french countryside and his mother is cooking him lunch? That’s how I feel when I eat a fresh homegrown tomato warm off of the vine. Best thing ever.
So that’s one. Only four hundred tomatoes to go.
Anyway, then Mr. E and I still had all these wads of tomatoes so we canned twelve quarts of tomatoes, following the recipe in the Ball Blue Book. If you’re even pondering canning anything, you must get the Ball Blue Book. You don’t need a fancier book or a cuter book or a big hardcover coffee table book. No. Get the Blue Book.
Anyway, the tomato canning instructions are very detailed and we followed them to the letter. The only thing I’d add is that it’s going to take forever, you’ll need more dishcloths than you ever thought possible, you want to use good sharp knives and a real wooden cutting board, and everything in your kitchen will be covered with tomato juice. Oh, and you need a canner and a jar lifter. And of course jars and lids. But any decent hardware or kitchen store will have all this stuff togetherish for you to pick up all at once. And the Blue Book will tell you what you need – I probably left some stuff out.
It’s a bit of an initial investment, although not huge, and when you bust out a jar of tomatoes in January that you canned in July, it will all be worth it, trust me. And you can reuse everything except the jar lids next year.
Also, please make sure to pick the hottest day of the year to do your canning, just for authenticity’s sake. If you really want to get in the mood, you can read some Little House on the Prairie before or during the process.
In the wintertime, I will mostly use my canned tomatoes to make soup – run a can of tomatoes through the food mill straight into a pot. Boil it up, add a few cooked noodles (I like wagon wheels because I am five) and some salt and pepper and voila! Best lunch ever.
Speaking of stuff, these are the knives I use. I’m a big fan and I’ve been collecting them over the years and my mom switched over to ceramic knives and gave me hers. (Ceramic knives are so weird but whatever). Anyway, now I have a shitload of knives, but it’s ok to start with one. A good knife is worth the price, it really is and yes I put mine in the dishwasher and I so don’t need a lecture about it thank you very much in this house it goes in the dishwasher or it goes in the trash the end.
Where was I? Oh, yes, overpriced kitchen hoo ha. I have this knife sharpener, which is very loud but very awesome and you can tell me all you want about your knife sharpening stone or god knows what but you will pry my electric knife sharpener from my cold dead hands. And I could write a sonnet about my tomato shark, but I won’t. But you should get one. For certain.
So. Next I made tomato sauce, but since I was pretty much over canning at this point, I just made freezer sauce, in two separate batches. I filled one stock pot with unpeeled tomatoes cut in half, and I simmered this for about a day, at which point I put the whole shebang through my food mill. The milled liquid got cooked down some more, and I added some red wine, some salt, a little bit of sugar, two bay leaves, and some herbes de provence. At the same time, I filled the other pot with peeled diced tomatoes, olive oil, and a ton of chopped garlic, and cooked that for about the same twelve hours – this makes a much chunkier sauce but there will be a lot less of it. After both batches had cooled I put them in ziploc sandwich bags and tossed them in the freezer. We used a bag of each kind the other day to make chili and it was quite delicious, if I do say so myself. You don’t even have to thaw the tomatoes, just peel off the ziploc and throw them right in. I probably started with about fifty large tomatoes, and I ended up with about six sandwich bags worth of sauce.
It looks like we’re going to get a second batch of tomatoes – there’s a bunch of green ones on the vine. And I’m still picking anywhere from four to ten a day now. If I end up with leftover green tomatoes, I will definitely make piccalilli, which is a sort of sweet green tomato relish. My step father makes it and I have to beg jars every three months because I can’t eat a tuna fish sandwich without it. That recipe is also in the Ball Blue Book. I think I’m going to try making sun dried tomatoes and maybe roasted tomato something or other, although Mr. E is not a big fan of hot cooked tomatoes, so we’ll see.
Some other things to make with tomatoes – caprese salad is a big one around here (sliced fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil.) Sometimes I make a nice big platter of these, sometimes I stack them in tomato “napoleans” which you can see here:
Mr. E has been making tons of traditional style fresh salsa, but one of my other favorite tomato dishes is just a can of black beans (rinsed) tossed with tomatoes, half a seeded diced jalapeno, a couple diced tomatoes, a few chopped peaches or a mango, chopped basil or mint, and a little diced red onion, drizzled with some olive oil, lime juice, and whatever mild vinegar you have lying around. Oh, and salt and pepper. You can eat this with chips, on chicken, over a tortilla, on its own with a spoon right from the refrigerator, whatever.
Of course there’s always the time tested BLT but since gluten free sandwich bread is pretty sub par, I haven’t been eating too many of those this year.
And if you have like, farm hands to feed during threshing time, there’s always my favorite fattening as hell meal of all time – country ham, cheesy potatoes, and biscuits filled with thin sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.
So there’s my “what to do with tomatoes” ideas.
May the tomato force be with you and protect you from late season blight.
Filed under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments »