Valley Bounty, August 3: Tomatoes
Do you like them small and sweet? Or big and juicy? Do you favor red tomatoes, or venture into the multi-colored territory of Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, or Yellow Perfection? Whatever your fancy, Valley tomatoes can fulfill it in August.
Tomato-Mozzarella Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust—I can vouch for this recipe, it’s delicious, and you’ll find it on the Kitchen Garden’s website underneath a great description of the many varieties of tomatoes, and a good introduction to canning tomatoes.
White Bean and Tomato Salad from Mountain View Farm—I’m going to try this with fresh local shell beans, blanched, and some goat cheese.
I’m teaching an introduction to food preservation workshop at the Sunderland Library on August 28th if you would like some in-person instruction, or an opportunity to swap ideas and techniques with fellow enthusiasts.
Whatever preserving method works for you works for tomatoes, too. They can be dried, frozen, or canned, depending on how you want to eat them, what equipment you have, and what you find easy to do. Here are some tips for each method.
Dried tomatoes are delicious, and provide the added satisfaction of creating something that’s pricy. Tomatoes can be dried in an oven turned to its lowest setting, but you’ll have to experiment with whether your oven goes low enough to dry them without roasting them, and how long it takes. Solar or electric dehydrators make the job easy. Solar dehydrators do a great job on sunny days, with a minimum of energy (from you or the grid). Kits and plans to build your own are available online – for inspiration, see a list of solar food drying resources here.
I like to dry small, meaty tomatoes, like Juliets or Principe Borgheses. I used to think that cherry tomatoes would shrink to nothing when dried, but instead they produce bite-sized tomato gems. Full-sized paste tomatoes also work fine. Cut them in half, sprinkle with salt if you like, and put in the dehydrator. They are done when they are leathery but not crisp. Store in oil in the refrigerator (the leftover oil is delicious), or loose in jars or bags on the shelf if they are fully dry, or in the freezer for extra insurance. I like to dry some only half way—they are really good on a winter cheese sandwich, but are not shelf-stable and should be stored in the freezer.
Tomato sauce is easy to freeze. Make a double batch of your favorite sauce, and throw the extra in the freezer, and you’ll have dinner made for some winter day. You can add any vegetables or meat that you like to a frozen sauce. I made a delicious roasted vegetable sauce that food activist and nutritionist Joan Dye Gussow called “Tomato Glut Sauce” in her book This Organic Life.
If you don’t have enough freezer space for all the tomato products you want to eat in the winter, you can turn to canning. See the Kitchen Garden’s canned tomato instructions, or use the instructions found in any basic canning book. I like the University of Wisconsin publication, Tomatoes Tart and Tasty, and it’s available on-line. We eat the recipe they call “tomato-vegetable juice blend” as soup all winter.
Of course, there are lots of other tomato products worth preserving: ketchup, barbecue sauce, chile sauce, tomato soup, green tomato pickles! Browse our food preservation resources, the internet or your local library for information and inspiration.