I’m seeing Red

2011 Tomato crop

It is raining red at my house. Raining red tomatoes, that is, and amazingly it is all coming from this year’s sad water logged garden. You see, my garden has been under water more than once this summer, thanks to frequent and heavy rain storms and miraculously, my tomato plants are doing very well. They seem to have thrived in this glut of water and are producing a fair number of their vitamin rich fruits.

Bountiful tomatoes or not I am able to imbibe only sparingly. Yes, a little known fact is revealed, when tomatoes are at their zenith I can’t seem to eat very many. I can eat tomatoes year round but in the summer when they are fresh and lovely I must be parsimonious with my ingestion of them, so preservation is of utmost importance to me.

The only explanation I can offer for my malady is that I am, according to the Metabolic Type theory, a protein type and tomatoes are too acidic for the fast metabolizing protein type human. Generally that means I shouldn’t have them at all but I refuse to totally exclude something I am more than a little fond of and tomatoes fall in to that category of food. With that in mind this weekend began the yearly preserve and protect my garden bounty project and I wanted to share my three most popular methods that have proven year after year to be the most satisfactory for me: dehydration, freezing in jars, and most important of all, seed preservation.

Dehydration

I love sun dried tomatoes but I have a dehydrator so drying with electricity, while not cheaper, is easier and simpler. Dehydrating is my preferred way to save my Roma tomatoes  and I use my Excalibur dehydrator for this job. The method is perhaps not the least labor intense of the three but in the winter months I cannot tell you how yummy it is to rehydrate them, add oil and some basil (I have used my pistou which already has some olive oil) and make a sun dried tomato pesto which can be tossed with hot pasta or put atop sliced baguette that has been freshly grilled and rubbed with garlic.

First, I slice the Roma tomatoes in half, scoop out the juicy, seedy bits and any stem remnants. Place them cut side up on your dehydrator screen and dehydrate at the “living food” setting. I dry them to a point where there is no moisture left, basically no succulence, and then put them in a quart canning jar and place in the pantry where they will stay fabulous for many months if not years (I don’t know they are never around that long).

Freezing

My second winning way for tomatoes: freezing in quart jars. My methode du jour is to heat a large pan of water to boiling. Add any tomatoes that you want to freeze today and par boil. When you see the skin start to break remove them immediately and either cool in cold water or if you aren’t too fussy (I am not too fussy, well I am, but not about this) let them cool to handling temperature and strip the tomato of their now totally destroyed clothing.

As long as they are cool enough to handle you can then squeeze them very gently to remove most excess liquid and seeds and then stuff in a quart jar. Do not overfill the jar but  fill to around, not over, the 3 cup mark of a glass quart canning jar. Let the tomatoes cool completely, you could even refrigerate to make sure, and then place them in your freezer to be used when frost is on the windows and you are so in the mood for a good slow cooked beef stew.

When that much reviled and dreaded snow-covered day arrives (only kidding – you know we northerners love winter) thaw the jar of tomatoes completely and give it a good whirl in the processor. Last winter I used these tomatoes for a multitude of culinary extravaganzas, even a winter salsa (just a quick whirl) and a pizza sauce. For the pizza sauce I processed the tomatoes quickly and then reduced them by cooking slowly and gently with garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper  added at the end. The resultant sauce tasted of my summer bounty and we loved it served on a gluten free pizza crust by Namaste or Bob’s Red Mill. This method turned out to be my all time favorite and I used every jar in the freezer but they lasted through winter and in to spring.

Seed Preservation

When it comes to preserving tomatoes the best way to honor this year’s crop is saving your seeds. The tomatoes that reside in my garden this summer and have thrived were started inside my house late last winter. To do this you must grow heirloom, non-hybridized tomatoes. Hybrid seeds cannot be perpetuated, or if they can, it is rare. When the first healthy tomato ripens completely cut it open and extract the seeds. Remember this important point: Use the very first tomato that ripens as this will result in tomatoes that ripen as early as possible.

Tomato seeds saved for next year

After they have been plucked from the vine and cut open I spread the seeds in a long strip on a piece of paper towel, preferably unbleached, and let them dry thoroughly before storing. About 6 weeks from planting outside, take your strip of paper towel with seeds and lay it on top of some rich potting loam in a tray for growing seedlings. Cover lightly with more soil and moisten thoroughly. Cover with a domed plastic top if you own one, place on top of a heated mat and wait. As soon as the seedlings pop through the soil remove the dome and keep moist. Once the true leaves have formed you can transplant and put under grow lights. Voila! Preservation extraordinaire.

If you have been blessed with a plethora of luscious red tomatoes and you have roasted, and made all the pasta you can stand and it is still raining red try some of my ideas. This winter when the weather has you shivering (north or south winter can entertain you with cool days) you can rehydrate or thaw last summer’s bountiful harvest. It will conjure up that summer day when you sat on the deck with a glass of chilled Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc in your hand and you will feel your face warm with the summer sun. It might be below zero outside but in your heart it will be 72 degrees and yes, hope does spring eternal.

Succulent wishes to all,

Kris

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: