Monday, July 15, 2013

Red Alert- Tomato Emergency!

I planted extra tomatoes this year with canning in mind.  I've always made sauce and frozen it, but last year I also canned pints and quarts and they turned out so well and didn't take up freezer space so I decided I wanted to do more canning this season.  When I made that decision I didn't know it would be the wettest summer on record.  In case you didn't know, tomatoes don't really like humidity and wet weather.  What was one of the best looking tomato patches we've had in a long time; healthy, lush plants loaded with green fruit, has been turned, in the course of three very wet weeks, into this.
This batch of Red Agate romas have lost almost all of their leaves. Not pictured are the Marianna hybrid which are doing a little better but the fruit is only beginning to ripen.  Granted, the fruit set is fantastic as you can see, but the tomatoes are starting to rot before they fully ripen due to too much moisture.  So today I picked everything that was remotely red and brought it into the kitchen. I dried off and left on the counter all that looked like they would make it a few days to get redder. Look close to see the little spots that in a few days turn into black rot.
The rest I washed and processed for sauce.  I have a method that is probably not the most efficient but I like the result so I labor away.  First I remove any spots and the cores from the tomatoes, cut in chunks and put them in a big pot with some salt and cook until soft, 20 or 30 minutes.  Then I put that mixture through the food mill to remove skins and most of the seeds.  In addition, because I like my sauce to be a bit chunky, I peel and seed some of the better looking ones and chop those up.  So the result is two batches, one of chopped and one of puree.
I heat some fruity olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot, cook chopped onions and garlic until starting to soften, then add both batches of tomatoes along with about a cup of chopped fresh basil, marjoram and oregano and a bay leaf and let the whole thing simmer for at least an hour to meld the flavors and cook away some of the water. This yields a rich, thick sauce that I can freeze in baggies for winter pizza's and pasta.
The final product, burbling away
I was at this for three hours this morning between the picking, sorting, peeling, chopping, not to mention washing the dishes that mount in a process like this, but it will be worthwhile in the end.  I hope the remaining tomatoes in the garden are going to ripen up before the plants go down completely so I can actually get some into jars as I had planned.  The weather is finally turning hot and dry this week, with 90+ degree days  forecast every day  I am not looking forward to that very much, but at least we are already half way through July.

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