Enough about tomatoes and blight. I’m tired about hearing and talking about it at this point. Though we had quite a disaster, roughly 15 of our 109 plants continue to stand and though most of them are stripped down and won’t be able to continue producing much more, what we did harvest early starting in mid July, has fully ripened. I remember canning and freezing my tomatoes last year at the end of September but it is the 2nd week of August and I am nearly done with all the tomato jams and variations on marinara leaving us with enough tomatoes, sauces and jams to last us well through the winter. What I found extremely useful for my winter cooking is to use whole frozen tomatoes. This can be done with currant, cherry and medium sized tomatoes and come in quite handy when you need to cook with them. Don’t count on using them raw but if they are going into a sauce, stew or soup these are the next best thing to fresh.
Follow these simple steps:
Place tomatoes in a single layer on a baking tray. Place them in the freezer for 1-3 hours (depending on their size).
Remove tomatoes when they are quite solid, place them all in a freezer bag or container and store away.
To thaw: just remove the tomatoes you need, keep them out in room temperture for 10 minutes and use accordingly. To remove the skin, just run them under some warm water and they slip right off.
For sauces, I have tried a variety of different methods with different tomatoes. Usually, most recipes call for plum tomatoes since they have less water and seeds than regular tomatoes. I’ve played around with a few. Most of them require either peeling/seeding or a run through a food mill.
First try was a simple heirloom tomato marinara with basil which was coarsely chopped and simply cooked down for about an hour, run through the food mill, then simmered on the stove for a few hours leaving me with just a quart of sauce. I played around with the addition of different herbs, onions and garlic. Very nice and simple but definitely time consuming.
Second trial used roasted plum tomatoes. We grew the famed San Marzanos which grew beautifully and showed some blight resistance. I added the sweet Walla Walla onions we grew (1 medium, sliced) and added a few sprigs of thyme and marjoram, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. I baked these gorgeous guys at 375F for 45-60 minutes. After cooling, they were blended in the food processor. This was definitely easier (no peeling, seeding or food milling) and the result was very tasty.
The winner, however, turned out the be a grilled tomato sauce with basil and garlic. This was a winner in taste and in ease. Plus, I didn’t have to generate any heat in the house as we are trying to conserve energy as much as possible without torturing ourselves. I used all the Black from Tula Russian heirlooms to make this sauce but any variety should do. By the way, black tomatoes aren't really black, they are a beautiful light port color.
Recipe: Grilled Tomato and Basil Sauce
Makes 2 quarts
- 4-5 lbs of market fresh tomatoes
- 11 Tbs olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups of loosely packed basil
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- Salt, Pepper (and sugar if necessary)
- Balsamic vinegar to taste
- Grill tomatoes gradually turning them so the entire skin blisters and chars slightly. Pull of any pieces that have blackened but leave everything else.
- Roughly puree in a blender or food processor leaving some texture.
- Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in pot and gently cook onion until it's soft and translucent.
- Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat until thickened. About 20-30 minutes.
- Taste and season with salt. If tomatoes are tart, add a pinch or two of sugar to correct the acidity.
- Meanwhile in a food processor or blender, add 8 Tbs of olive oil (less is OK if you want to reduce the fat content) add half the basil until it is well blended and gradually add the rest along with the garlic until it is fairly smooth but still with some texture. Add this to the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in 1 tsp of sea salt and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and vinegar.
Adapted from The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison
Farmer Pam, MD