Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Ketchup and fries? Yes, please!

When August gifted me with well over 100 pounds of tomatoes (all at once, mind you), I had to get serious about putting them up, and fast!  I immediately headed to the library and checked out every post millennial book on food preservation not currently housed in my collection.  Because food safety guidelines are constantly changing, anything written before 2000 is now considered out of date.  **See note at the bottom of the post**

While flipping pages contemplating recipes, I came across one for catsup.  I find ketchup (or catsup) to be a take it or leave it condiment.  I’m just not a huge fan.  In college, I dated a guy who put it on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.  Gross.  Honestly, I find it to be too sweet and lacking in, oh, I don’t know, maybe TOMATO flavor!  I thought the time had come for a little ketchup redemption, especially since the first listed ingredient would not be HFC!

Catsup

1 cup white vinegar

1-1/2 inch stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces

1-1/2 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp celery seed

8 pounds of paste-type tomatoes

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

1-1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sure jell cook-type

In a small saucepan combine vinegar, cinnamon stick, cloves, and celery seed.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat; transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Wash tomatoes.  Remove stem ends and cores; cut the tomatoes into quarters and place into a colander to drain.  You can discard the liquid or keep it for cooking purposes, which is what I did.

Place tomatoes in a large stainless steel pot, add onion and ground red pepper; bring to a boil, cook uncovered, stirring often for 15 minutes.  Press tomato mixture through a food mill or sieve; discard seeds and skins.  Return pureed tomato mixture to pot, stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Boil gently, uncovered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Strain vinegar mixture into tomato mixture; discard spices.  Add lemon juice and salt.  Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes or ’til desired consistency is achieved.  After I did the final cook-down, my mixture was still too runny for ketchup.  If I continued cooking, I would have ended up with one half-pint, so I added 1/4 cup cook-type sure jell.  Because sure jell tends to clump when added without mixing with sugar, I used my immersion blender to blend everything into a smooth consistency.  I continued cooking on med-low heat ’til the sure jell thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ladle ketchup  into hot, sterile half-pint jars, leaving 1/8 headspace.  Wipe rims; adjust two-piece lids to fingertip-tight and process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours.  Yields 4 half-pints.

Rosemary & Garlic Potato Wedges

4 med potatoes, unpeeled

3 cloves of garlic, minced

large sprig of fresh rosemary, minced

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.  *KITCHEN SHORTCUT*  Using an apple slicer/corer, cut potatoes into wedges, slice the “potato core” in half, lengthwise.  Place potato wedges, garlic, and rosemary into a medium bowl and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.  Using your hands, lightly toss to coat evenly; sprinkle on salt and pepper and gently toss again.  Lightly grease a 4-sided baking sheet (or baking dish with olive oil), arrange potato wedges in a single-layer, and bake for one hour, turning half way through.

**The USDA/NCHFP’s guidelines are constantly evolving due to repetitive laboratory testing.  What were once acceptable canning practices, like using flour as a thickening agent or adding dairy products to pre-canned recipes, are no longer considered safe.  If you do use an older recipe, make sure all ingredients and directions are compatible with current acceptable canning procedures.  If you are unsure or have a question, be sure to check with your local extension office.  Remember, safety first!

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Garden Presents: America’s All Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes.

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Filed under Boiling-Water Bath Canning, Spices & Sauces, Vegan, Vegetarian

Sun-dried Tomatoes

Well, technically they are dehydrator-dried tomatoes, but I won’t tell if you won’t! ;)

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Slice tomatoes into 1/2 – 3/4″ rounds and place in a single-layer on dehydrator trays.  I always give my trays a quick spray with olive oil to keep the dried tomatoes from sticking.  Set the temperature to 135°F, or the recommended setting for your dehydrator, and dry for 6-8 hours, or until they become leathery.  Store in an airtight container.

Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Dried tomatoes in oil are one of my favorite ways to add a little something extra to a recipe.  Whether I’m adding them to a curry dish, topping off a quinoa black bean burger, baking them in bread, or pairing them with basil pesto and a crusty baguette, those little tomato rounds really seem to add the flavor punch I’m looking for!

Place dried tomatoes in an airtight jar and cover with olive oil.  Tomatoes in oil MUST BE REFRIGERATED.  Canning tomatoes in oil is not recommended since botulism spores can (and will) thrive in an anaerobic low-acid environment, oil provides just that!

Sometimes I like to kick things up a notch by adding fresh herbs (basil and rosemary make a nice addition), dried pepper flakes, and sliced garlic.  When using fresh herbs and garlic, the jar should be consumed within 2-3 weeks, since those components can become rancid.  Should your oil solidify, remove from fridge and allow jar to come to room-temperature.  If the oil is clear the tomatoes are still okay to eat.

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Hoarders: Produce Edition

I definitely subscribe to the “less is more” theory when it comes to acquired stuff… except for fabric and kitchen appliances that is! ;)  I’ve gotten very good with simplifying, streamlining, and purging useless objects from my life.  That’s not to say I live in a home with naked walls, or have tossed every childhood memento, but I have really lightened my load over the past five years.  You never realize how much stuff you have til you move it… and after all my travels and house hopping in college, I became very tired of moving stuff!

Unfortunately, if you were to step inside my home right now, you would think I was well on my way to being on an episode of Hoarders followed by a veggie themed Intervention!  Thankfully, the crate climbing and fermentation side-stepping only lasts a few short weeks!

I’ve reached the point in this bountiful season where I’m canning on a daily basis; the star of the jar is usually tomatoes.  This past weekend, Canning Palooza took place in my kitchen!  For two days I did nothing but blanch, boil, slice, chop, and simmer the essence of Summer; filling  jars that will be savored when the trees are barren and the garden is dormant has consumed my every spare moment.

I started out with approximately 100 lbs of tomatoes; I am proud to say I am now 60 lbs lighter!  Unfortunately, that will all change once I step back in the garden.  We’ve had rain for the past several days, so I know there will be a cornucopia of ripe vegetables ready for the picking!

Here are several images of my produce packed kitchen.  I apologize for the sub-par photography, most of the pictures were taken in the middle of the night, so I was forced to use the dreaded flash.

 L-R Top crate is full of Green Zebra and Amish Paste tomatoes.  The bin underneath is packed with Pattypan squash.  The bottom front tub has Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, and Hillbilly tomatoes; next are boxes, bowls, and trays of Cream Sausage tomatoes.  Another tray of Amish Paste and Hillbilly tomatoes.  Two gallons of lacto-fermentation pickles and several jars of tomato butter setting their seals.  Then it’s a bin of Cherokee Purple and Hillbilly tomatoes and finally a wash basket of Hillbilly tomatoes.

The counter holds a plethora of Summer squash in the form of Pattypan and Patisson Strie.  I also have some just-cut celery hanging out next to the canner.

And on top the freezer is a huge bowl of Purple Tomatillos, Chinese 5 Color peppers, and several jars of dehydrated tomatoes!

And now I present you with the first images of Canning Palooza 2011:

As you can see, my piano has become the canning catch-all.  It is packed full of various tomato sauces, stewed tomatoes, carrots, beets, tomato butter, and jams of raspberry, cherry-vanilla, apricot, and tomato.  The ledge above the piano holds another gallon of fermenting pickles (these are dill) and a quart of pickles with Chinese 5 color peppers!

On the bench I have several bags of dehydrated tomatoes.  The piano is the last step in my canning work-flow.  Everything has been wiped and labeled, it just needs put into one of two canning closets.

AND I’m happy to report that the piano is empty once again… at least until I wipe and label last night’s canned salsas! ;)

So please forgive me and my scattered postings.  Between getting the Fall gardens in, and keeping up with preserving Summer’s harvest, I’m one busy, sleep deprived, little bee!  I have so many tasty things to share, but the time to do it is scarce!  So until next time, Happy Harvesting and Canning!!

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Stewed tomatoes and bringing you up to speed.

I apologize for the lack of recent activity in the blog, but peak harvest season is in FULL SWING!  If you were to step inside my home you would be climbing over crates of freshly picked tomatoes, side-stepping gallon jars of fermenting pickles, and listening to the dehydrator and canner compete for your audio attention.

I had quite a few “filler food posts” lined up, but when my 16 month-old laptop bit the dust last month (and that is just the tip of the shit-storm), I lost over 1500 pictures!  Everything from December 2010 through mid July, gone.  Like unrecoverable gone.  Bummer, huh?  Oh well, that will teach me for: (1) not backing up my computer onto my external hard drive, and (2) not transferring my images onto said external hard drive.

Since I lost all my photos, I now have a large que of blog posts waiting for accompanying images.  Although I live in my kitchen during this time of the year, most of my activities revolve around preserving the harvest, so there is not much “real” cooking and recipe experimentation going on.  Most of my daily meals consist of snacking on raw produce and grilled veggie sandwiches, which I have already posted about.  I’m hoping to sneak in more food time, but with 60 lbs of tomatoes staring me down on a daily basis, it does not look too hopeful!

Because my tomatoes are in their “full throttle” production stage, I am constantly searching for new ways to put them up.  Don’t get me wrong, I like canned tomatoes, especially in soups and curry dishes, but I still have quite a bit left over from last year’s harvest.  While flipping through my ever-growing library of canning books, I found instructions for stewed tomatoes.  Seeing as how I grew celery this year, I knew I had to give this recipe a whirl!

Stewed Tomatoes - from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration

4 Qts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes (24 large)

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper (I used Purple Beauty, see note below)

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Cover; cook 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  Ladle hot vegetables into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece lids.  Process pints 15 minutes, quarts  20 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.  Recipe yields 7 pints or 3 quarts.

I ended up with 5 pints of stewed tomatoes and 1 quart of tomato juice.  Instead of tossing the left over juice, I reserved it to use as cooking liquid for quinoa and rice.

**Never ever EVER change quantities of acid and non acid foods in canning recipes.  Varieties, however, are interchangeable.  If a recipe calls for 1 cup chopped green pepper, you can substitute 1/2 cup green and 1/2 cup jalapeno, etc.  This is ok because you are still meeting the required 1 cup amount.

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Garden Tour and My Battle with Blight

Last weekend, I spent most of Friday night, all of Saturday morning and some of Monday afternoon tackling the beginnings of late blight on my tomatoes.  Late blight is usually our precursor to the ever loathsome dog days of summer.  Every July, the bottom leaves develop spots, turn yellow, shrivel up, and die, leaving my tomato plants looking like a sad mess.  Thankfully, late blight seems to favor my leaves and not the actual fruit itself.  However, it can affect and destroy the leaves, stems, fruits, and tubers of potato and tomato plants.  Late blight was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine.

Late blight spores are asexual and are spread by rain splash and wind currents.  One way to slow down this ugly fungus-like pathogen is to begin removing the infected leaves as soon as they appear.  I should have started that task around Tuesday, but alas, I had too much other stuff to tend to.  By the time I got into the garden Friday, it had spread through the first three rows of my tomatoes.  My Cream Sausage were the hardest hit.  Since they are a determinant variety, I will be pulling them after the harvest.  My Amish Paste, Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple and Green Zebras are all indeterminant varieties, so I will continue to clip off leaves and suckers well into the fall till our first hard frost.

And now, I shall take you on a 365 degree tour of the main garden!

Several of my sunflowers had what appeared to be powdery mildew, so I pulled them.  I’ve started new ones for transplant.  Two weeks ago, I pulled the sugar snap peas and rebuilt the trellis to accommodate my tiger melons, which I will be growing vertically.  My bush peas will most likely be pulled this weekend and replaced with winter squash.  Carrots were next to the bush peas, but I pulled them after the picture was taken.  The brassicas will most likely come out next week.  Some are forming heads and others I don’t believe ever will.  I will be planting carrots, beets, and beans in that space.

After the empty space on the left is celery, then Brussels sprouts.  They may or may not do anything.  Regardless, I am going to give them another go this Fall!  I love me some Brussels sprouts sautéed in an obnoxious amount of butter and garlic!!  And now begins the tomatoes.

L-R Cream Sausage, Amish Paste, Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple, and Green Zebra.  I think it took me a total of about 10 hours to cut out all the blight damaged leaves.  I also thinned out the suckers (stems that will never flower) and restaked everything!  You can now walk down each path; by thinning out leaves, I’ve increased air circulation, which will hopefully help in protecting against other tomato diseases!

Some of my tomato plants have reached a height of 6 feet, they are now taller than me! :)  I did some companion planting this year and placed a row of carrots between the Green Zebras and the Purple Tomatillos, they were shaded by the rapid growth of the plants flanking them.  After the leaf trimming, they are getting more light, but it will be a slow grow for them!  This is my first year for tomatillos and I did not realize just how big they got!  I did not stake them, but they are holding up well.  I may go in with supports later if they begin to look stressed.  To the very right of the picture are my ground cherries.   Only two made it and they are thriving; I’ve started two more that now have true leaves.

Beans, beets, beans, and cucumbers!  I’m going to seed more carrots next to the last planting of beans.  If I need to, I will trellis my cukes to keep them off the ground and away from my carrots, which is most likely the case.

And as we continue along the backside…

Zucchini and purslane are behind the tomatoes.  Yes, I eat purslane.  Yes, I know it is a weed.  I have more summer squash growing in the front garden, along with kale and onions…but this post is all about the main garden.

I ended up losing two Swiss chard earlier this year.  I’ve never had them bolt from the heat in their first year till now!  I’m going to start more for my cold frames, and hopefully extend my harvest well into the winter months.  Next to my chard are alternating rows of beets and carrots.  They will soon be ready for harvest.  In front of those are my newly seeded French breakfast radishes.  So far they are doing well!  Next are beets that I have slowly been pulling.

And finally, the remaining brassicas, peas, sunflowers and some empty growing space that will soon be covered with winter squash!

Well, that’s it.  You have now just circled my main garden.  Hope you enjoyed the tour! :)

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A Day of Firsts

First sunflower opened.

First black swallowtail caterpillar.

First summer harvest.

Today was a good day indeed.

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Garden Growth: Mid June

I’m having a hard time accepting the reality that summer is just a few short days away!  Um, pardon me, Father Time?  Would you mind slowing things down just a bit?  You see, I’d like to savor these last few days of Spring because once Summer rolls in my mind automatically jumps ahead to begin preparations for Fall.   And with these thoughts of Fall I’m painfully reminded that winter is right around the corner.  See, it’s not even Summer and already I’m thinking of Winter!  UGH!  Sometimes I really hate the way my brain works!

But enough about the neurotic workings of my cerebral cortex, lets focus on the task at hand: bringing you up to speed on the progress of this year’s garden(s)!  Last night I spent another 2 hours mulching the garden.  No, I’m still not done with that project.  But in my defense I’ve got a lot of ground to cover!  I’d say about 90% is done, I still have some planting to do and it is senseless to cover an area that I am just going to have to reopen for seeds.  Plus, I tend to get lost in thought; several times I caught myself standing there contemplating crop rotation, succession plantings, and trellis placement.  Forethought is essential to maximizing crop yields and pest prevention, especially when you grow organically!  Or at least that is my excuse for perpetual garden daydreaming! :)

You may want to stand back, for I shall now open the photo floodgate!

 Excuse my weeds, I have yet to properly mulch this end since I will be ripping out the peas and trellises over the next few days.  My sugar snaps are working on their grand finale, and after one more thorough sweep through the golden sweet peas I’ll pull them.

Towards the back you can see the golden sweet peas leaning into the bush peas.  After my third horizontal garden incident I gave up.  If it were earlier in the season I would have fixed it (again), but since I’m pulling them in a few days why bother.  The bush peas are still producing but I’m not sure for how much longer.  This was my first year growing this variety and honestly I’m just not all that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, they are yummy, but I think I prefer both the look and taste of trellised sugar snaps.

Next to the bush peas are two mini rows of carrots, behind that are a few heads of flame lettuce, other wise referred to as “clown head”.  :)  Then there are the brassicas.  So far I’ve harvested about 5 smallish crowns from the green sprouting broccoli.  The violetto cauliflower and romanesco broccoli have done nothing, and I’m assuming they probably won’t due to the rapid increase in temperature we experienced a few weeks back.  Brassicas hate the heat and it went from April to July during the end of May beginning of June.

After I harvest the crown I pull the plants.  If it were earlier in the season or Fall I’d keep them for the small offshoots, but I need the space since most of my cucurbits will be transplanted here.

You can see on the left side of the picture where I’ve begun pulling plants.  The dark areas were mulched last night.  Those four green spots towards the middle are celery and behind that are a few short rows of beets and carrots.  Next are Brussels sprouts, again not too hopeful on a harvest, and behind that is Swiss chard.  Then starts the tomatoes!

This is the same picture as above just taken from the other side.  One the left is the Swiss chard, the open patch is four rows of newly sown french breakfast radish seeds; I’m planning on pickling them.  Next are Detroit dark red beets; I started harvesting those and the cylinder beets (hidden in the pea rows) last Wednesday.  My mom and niece had stopped by that evening so I showed Cecelia how to pull beets and then sent a bunch home with my mom.

My first beet harvest of the season.

L-R Cream Sausage (the first to mature, I’ve harvested 4 so far) then it’s Amish paste, hillbilly, Cherokee purple and finally green zebra.  I’m hoping to have staggered them enough so that they are don’t mature at once, but I doubt it!

Hillbilly tomatoes

On the left are purple tomatillos, then ground/husk cherries (my first year growing both).  I’m planning on starting more ground cherries later today.  I knew they were small but had no idea they were tiny!  I’d like to can some and with just two plants I don’t think they will produce enough…especially since the ones that have ripened never make it out of the garden! hehehe  After the cherries is a row of red swan beans and beets (too small to see).

Purple Tomatillo

Red Swan Beans

I’ve decided to try things a little differently this year in hopes to not have everything ready for harvest/canning all at once.  Next week I will be calculating harvest dates and putting in my “canning” beans, carrots and beets.  Hopefully by the time they reach maturity I will have the bulk of my tomatoes canned, sauced and salsafied!

You can barely see them but at the bottom center are my Boston pickling cucumbers .  I’m hoping I got them into the ground late enough so I don’t have another attack of bacterial wilt like last year!  What a mess that turned out to be!!

Malbar spinach, although technically it’s not spinach, it is a tropical perennial that tastes just like spinach.  It is part of my edible landscaping, which will vine up the arbor next to my roses.

Chinese five color peppers.  Another new variety I’m growing this year.  I have a bed of peppers and eggplants but this is the only one doing anything worth photographing!

My front side yard where I ripped out the ivy to create more growing space.  I have two rows of onions, cipollini and red, alongside my Russian red and scotch blue curled kale.  Towards the back are patty pan squash.

I have more squash varieties and onions in another bed but the onions have not broken ground so I didn’t take any pictures.  I also have basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, cilantro and a few others scattered about the property.  I ended up running out of light so I’ll have to photograph them later.  However, I think this post is more than enough to tide you over till my next garden growth post! :)

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Tomato Butter Toast

Just a few short weeks ago I was drowning in beautiful sun-ripened tomatoes.  Now, not so much.  Tomatoes are one food that I refuse to eat when not in season, especially when dining out.  Call me what you will, but I’ve worked in restaurants and there is nothing more unappetizing than a flavorless tomato that has ripened on a truck while crossing the country.  Gross.

Knowing that my summer fling with tomatoes was nearing an end, I needed to find another way to preserve summer in a jar.  I had already “put up” several quarts of Amish Paste tomatoes as well as made sauce and salsa.  I began revisiting the tomato pages in my canning books and searching food blogs.  Finally it hit me, I’ll make tomato butter.  And so I did.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.  Then I figured out the perfect way to eat it and ended up consuming an entire jar in 3 days!  I’m left with 3 half pints and way too many winter months ahead of me!  I’ve decided to ration it out by hiding it in my closet and attempting to forget about it!  Let me tell you how well that is NOT working!

Honestly, I don’t recall if this is even the recipe I used.  I know, I suck!  Since it wasn’t love at first bite I ended up only making a small batch.  I’m talking a measly 5 half pints.  What a mistake that turned out to be!  Total palm to forehead moment folks!  I did however remember to write down the spices and their amounts since I was veering from a recipe.  (FYI, when canning you should NEVER change amounts in a recipe without first checking with your local extension office first!  I’ve learned that dried spices are okay but anything else is not, especially your ratio of acid to non-acid foods!)

Danielle’s Tomato Butter

5 lbs red tomatoes, skins and seeds removed
1 cup vinegar
3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Here is what I think I did. Again, I know, sorry, I suck. : /

Blanche tomatoes, remove core, skin and seeds. Place tomatoes in a food processor and puree, then transfer into a crock pot. Cook on the low heat setting for several hours. I’m pretty sure I did this in the wee hours of the morning and then went to work, so it probably cooked for about 8 hours…or maybe it was over night. When canning season is in full throttle life is an absolute blur! Regardless, I know I cooked it down for hours! Remember to vent your crock’s lid so the steam escapes and the mixture reduces. I lay a wooden spoon across one of the ends and then put the lid on. Add sugar, vinegar and spices, stir well. Continue cooking for several more hours, just before ladling into hot jars give it a  zip with an immersion blender so it achieves a creamy buttery texture. Process in a BWB for 10 minutes (or your recommended time for location altitude). Place jars on a wire rack and allow jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

Now you know how to make it, here is how you eat it. Place two pieces of bread on a baking sheet (trust me, one is not enough!). Set your oven to broil and carefully toast each side. Slather on tomato butter and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Place back into the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Oh My!

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