Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

It doesn’t get any fresher than this!

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Preparing Tomatoes

This is before all the water drains out.

This is before all the water drains out.

I have had a few people ask me how to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.  Actually, the best tomato for sauce is the Roma tomato.  However, I like my deep red, juicy, sweet Rutgers tomatoes.  So there is then a dilemna.  Juicy tomatoes make runny, watery sauces.

That means a bit more preparation.  I core and remove all blemishes from tomatoes, and toss into my pot of choice.  A good rule of thumb is that ugly tomatoes make wonderful sauce.  You can get rid of the ones that won’t make good slicing or salad tomatoes, and the taste is still the same.  Cover the pot with water and bring to a poach, which is just below a boil.  The tomatoes will literally split their skins. I then drain out the water and place them in the large bowl from the last post. Then I leave them alone for a night or a few hours.  When you get back to them, they will be covered in water, and the water is released liquid from the tomatoes.

At this point, if you wanted to make stewed tomatoes for freezing, you can cut them up and toss into containers.  If you want to make sauce, there are a few more steps.  You can see that this is not a quick process.  Cut the tomatoes in half and then in half again.  Each piece should have a little fold where the seeds reside.  Take a knife and slide it along so the seeds will be able to drain out.  Take tomato pieces and place in colander in your sink while the seeds are draining.  There will be a great deal more water released from the tomatoes as well.  Tomatoes are 94% water! Again, I am referring to a “real” tomato and not the hot house variety, which taste like 94% cardboard.  Again, let them alone to drain; do something else for a bit, as this is a process.

Pick out the pieces of tomato for your sauce.  Discard the seeds remaining in your colander.  You may ask, “why not use the seeds?”  For the stewed tomatoes, you can, as they don’t have a long cooking process. However for a good rich tomato sauce, it simmers for a long time, and that would bring out the bitter taste of the seeds and it would leach into the sauces. 

The next part of this is going to be how to make sauce, so stayed tuned.  However, if a few of you are following this (and I had a few people ask me about it), and were curious how to get the tomatoes prepared.  I boiled 5 gallons of tomatoes, and wound up with 1 1/2 gallons of sauce.  That 94% water is what would make the sauce runny, so preparation is important.

Enjoy!

Daily Prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land

I, of course, really do think that the best part of travel is the food. However, Martha has a wonderful perspective in this blog, and it is worth reblogging. I hope you enjoy.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

 

What’s your favorite part about visiting a new place — the food? The architecture? The people watching?

 

What a thought-provoking topic!  My immediate reaction was, quite likely, not what most would expect.    You see, my life, my lifestyle, my home, my finances, my vocation, my faith, and ultimately my heart has changed greatly in the fairly recent past.  Change is good.  Change is growth.  Change can be scary, especially when one no longer fits the mold of familiarity that friends and family have grown accustomed to.  Suddenly, this land I’ve been in for so long has become a strange land.  Suddenly, I am a stranger to myself . . . or expressed more clearly, I have become my true self.  What do I like best?  Well, the food . . . I’m eating a mostly vegetarian diet and that’s good.  People watching is fun but sometimes frustrating.  People…

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Life in Tomato Land

Huge bowl of cooked tomatoes.

Huge bowl of cooked tomatoes.

All of the tomatoes could not fit in the picture, nor on the counter.

All of the tomatoes could not fit in the picture, nor on the counter.

Just a few of today's pick.

Just a few of today’s pick.

Chucnky fresh tomato sauce.  I need to break up the chunks and it will be ready to eat!

Chucnky fresh tomato sauce. I need to break up the chunks and it will be ready to eat!

One thing that people don’t think of or remember is that once you pick the veggies, you have to do something with essentially is a very perishable product.  A fresh homegrown tomato is on top of the perishable list.  Now a hot house tomato, there was an NPR piece last year about them bouncing out of the truck and being entirely intact.  Now MY sweet bursting with flavor Rutger tomatoes may self destruct if I pile them up in a sack to bring into the house.  Therefore, I have a project ahead of me.  It’s time to make things tomato,  Sauce, soup, gazpacho, salsa, BLT’s, tomato/fresh mozzarella salads, salads, etc.  Here are a few pictures of the tomato madness currently at my home.

Kale, Sausage & Potato Soup

Kale, Sausage & Potato SoupKale is an interesting vegetable. When it is tiny, it is a tender green, and you can put it in with a salad for additional flavor and texture. Once it becomes a mature plant, it is a sturdy green like a turnip or collard green. Hence it makes amazing soups. This is an easy recipe that is nourishing and soothing.

I was lucky enough to have the potatoes for this dish to be just picked. Fresh potatoes are NOTHING like a store bought potato, and they became the stars of this dish–stole the show right away from the kale. I scrubbed 6 small potatoes, and cut them into stew sized chucks. Cut up one large Vidalia onion into chop size. Cut thick vein out of kale and discard. Chop the rest into 2″ chucks (stew size), and use enough to fill a gallon bag. Saute a sage sausage–I like the Jimmy Dean brand, and drain fat on paper towels. I make a battuto (ground mix of fresh herbs, favoring, additional sage, fresh parsley, majoram, fresh thyme (at least a teaspoon of each), or add other fresh spices that you enjoy. Grind all up in coffee grinder, You now have everything prepared to make your soup.
Saute the onion until wilted, add 2 minced cloves of garlic, and then toss in your prepared kale. It will fill the pot (for a brief moment), and will begin to wilt down. Add stock (vegetable or chicken) to cover the kale. add the ground spices. Stir and let flavors marry. This will smell delicious at this point. Then add the potatoes, and simmer. If you don’t have enough stock add more at this time. Let this all simmer until the potatoes are cooked, and then add the sausage. Stir and let flavors marry again. (I must have marry on the brain..wedding is coming up!!mmmm:) Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed. Bon Appetit!

Gardening Through the Years–The Year of the Tomato-2013

The Year of the TomatoI just read through my blog posts from last summer. My, my, what a different year this is from last year. Last year at this same time, I could not get the tiller in the ground because it was like cement. We had already gone over 100 degrees many times, and it was the hottest I ever remember it being in my life. Many plants had given up the ghost, and I was hoping to replant them once the rains came. I also quote myself that I was “picking eggplant like they were weeds”. This year, I’ve got teeny tiny eggplants, and only the Oriental variety have produced a few fruits. The European ones have a few blooms, but the plants are tiny. Last year I had to cage them to keep them from toppling over with the weight of the fruit. This year, I still had sticks up to mark where they are.
The cucumbers have gone insane, as they love water–being made up of mostly water themselves. They are growing into and onto the basil plants. Okra is usually 7 feet tall by now, and I am getting a few, but they are only a few feet tall. The peppers are miserable, and I have only had two, and they were tiny. However, I still can’t get the tiller in the ground–or it would SINK in the MUD!
This is the year of the tomato. I would have to say that last year, 2012, was the Year of The Pepper. I was filling grocery sacks daily. It was galling to me to have to go buy a pepper today. The organic ones were $3.49 each, and the non-organic ones were $0.99 each. I got the less expensive one, and remembered last year. Sacks and sacks of peppers, and I made stuffed peppers, stir fried peppers, pepper everything.
This year it is tomato everything. Eric and I picked about 100 pounds today alone, and there are as many just about ready to pick tomorrow or Tuesday. What a difference a year makes.