This week we got: a big fluffy lettuce (butter, maybe?), a large white onion, red potatoes, a garlic, kale, two broccolis, white turnips with greens, and beets with greens. There were several departures from our weekly Email, which predicted a Napa cabbage and an eggplant but not the beets. We get the Email on Saturday afternoons; perhaps the previous Saturday night’s astonishing all-night-long downpour affected which plants were in shape for the boxes.
Wednesday I just wanted quick and light food, so I had yogurt (with last week’s pear sauce mixed in) and chopped some vegetables for salads to bring to work for the rest of the week. Normally a salad is just not going to get me through a workday, but I cooked a turkey breast and bought some avocadoes to turn the salads into meals, which was indeed filling with last-of-the-season peaches for dessert.
Friday I worked late and wanted easy and comforting food, so I roasted potato wedges and broccoli florets with spicy seasoning while tidying up my apartment for Saturday‘s planned Tomato Time.
After our last canstravaganza, we’d been talking about canning local tomatoes while they are plentiful and relatively cheap; we all cook with tomatoes fairly often during the year, and while it’s simply not practical to make and preserve tomatoes for all of those meals when perfectly serviceable tinned tomatoes are available, we all wanted to keep a little taste of that summer tomato bounty for a little longer. This weekend was the first we could schedule; it’s almost quite the end of the tomato season, but there were still some beautiful ones coming in at the markets, so our canning friend bought something like thirty pounds of gorgeous heirlooms in a big cardboard box. My neighbor had some green tomatoes from her family’s yard and we both had some tomato babies left over from last week. So Saturday we blanched, peeled, chopped, and canned tomatoes to our hearts’ content.
We made two large batches of simply packed tomatoes, one seasoned (with garlic, oregano, and thyme) and one plain. You have to be careful with canning tomatoes for shelf storage since they have surprisingly low acidity for a tart fruit, but we followed a recipe (I think from Ball’s Blue Book) to ensure that we had the appropriate amount of vinegar in. These will be used mainly as bases for tomato sauces or other tomatoey dishes. However, as we peeled and chopped we ended up having a lot of extra pulp and juice, so we packed up a few quarts of “tomato stock” for the freezer as well; that’ll be good for soup bases too.
For a few fancier tomato uses, we turned to Food in Jars (by fellow Table Matters contributor Marisa McClellan). The green tomatoes were packed and processed in brine after this recipe, and about five pounds of the heirlooms were simmered with sugar and vinegar for a spicy tomato jam from the book that I can’t locate on the site. We picked a recipe that reminded us of the tomato chutney we’d made a few weeks earlier, but that was safe to store for awhile.
Even after all that, we still had the babies left uncooked, so we stuck them in the oven on low–less than 200 degrees–to let them dehydrate slowly into tomato candy. I let them stay in the oven overnight but with the heat off; some were still a little moist in the morning, but all were addictively tart and sweet.
Of course, all of this was a full days’ work and we had to eat, too; fortunately our canning friend had brought us a package of local kielbasa and we sauteed it with onions and every leafy green we had except lettuce: kale, beet tops, turnip tops, last week’s chard and a few stray dandelion greens. We also roasted potatoes and turnips (with some of the rosemary oil I made ages ago) and, separately, beets with a little balsamic. A fine and filling dinner, with enough for all three of us to take home leftovers.
After all that, I wouldn’t have minded abandoning the kitchen for a few days, but Sunday is a good day for baking muffins, so I adapted this recipe to the pear puree I had on hand. (The muffins grew enormous until their tops bumped into each other and became square. I think this is due to the traces of vinegar interacting with the baking powder, but I hardly mind the result in any case.) My gentleman friend came over for a writing session and we made some lovely filling salads with the rest of my lettuce, and then used some of his CSA for a dinner of fried rice with egg, zucchini, and cabbage.
On the theme of tomatoes–remember my weird little sprouts that had been growing inside of two ripe tomatoes? I planted them, but they did not survive outside of their dark, wet hosts. However, each sprout had gotten a little nugget of tomato meat and seeds tangled in its roots, and some of the planted seeds did thrive in soil. I now have two healthy and fragrant plantlings, which I keep in an IKEA greenhouse so that my cats don’t gnaw on them. (I had a third volunteer, but it lost a Darwinian battle with its sibling before I could repot it.)
What will happen to them? I’m not much of a gardener, but I don’t think September is any time to be planting tomatoes. Will the greenhouse keep them warm and happy all winter long? Or will the shortened daylight hours cause them to falter and wilt? Until next time. . . tune in to Tomato Theater!