Monday, August 15, 2011

When you have 25 tomatoes

At this time of year, a gardener can end up with the happy misfortune of having 25 ripe tomatoes sitting on the kitchen counter. Or 40. Whatever -- same problem.

Sure, you can give them away to the neighbours. Or lob them at politicians. But ideally, you'd want to eat them.

Here are a few ideas for taking on the tomato pile.

1. Fresh pasta sauce

You'll need one or two cloves of garlic, some herbs (like parsley or basil), some sharp Italian cheese (like parmiggiano reggiano, asiago, grana padano, romano), and olive oil. If you want a complete protein, rinse a half-can of romano, cannellini, or kidney beans.

Dice up lots of tomatoes. Mince or press the garlic. Snip the herbs.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Stirfry the garlic till softened. Add the tomatoes and herbs and let it bubble till the mix reaches a consistency you like. (Less cooking time leaves more of the light, fresh tomato flavour and texture, but longer cooking time deepens the flavour and softens the texture.) Cover to prevent drying out. Add beans and some salt and pepper toward the end. If it starts drying out, add a few tablespoons of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta. Then pour the sauce on top and cover with grated cheese.

2. Canned tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is easy if don't bother peeling the tomatoes. That's what takes up all the time.

You'll need small or mid-sized mason jars, tongs, oven mitts, a jarring kettle OR a large potalong with a round grate that fits in the bottom (so that the jars don't sit directly on the element), a medium-sized pot for heating the tomatoes, a mason jar funnel, and a ladle.

Wash the jars in the dishwasher to sterilize them the night before. Have screwtops and fresh lids handy.

Wash the tomatoes. Cut off the woody tops. Cut extra large tomatoes in half. Meanwhile, fill the large pot with 5 inches of water and get it boiling. Sterilize the ladel and funnel by setting them in water as it boils.

Put the tomatoes in the mid-sized pot, add a dash of salt and (if you're Italian) some ripped basil leaves, and bring it all to a boil.

Immediately scoop it into the jars, pressing the tomatoes down and removing trapped bubbles. Put on the lids, screw to finger-tight (not super-tight), and place in the boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Remove the jars and let them cool rightside up.

When you go to use the tomatoes in a stew or chili, the skins will still be there. After a minute of cooking, they'll loosen and roll up. They're easy to see and grab with a fork if you want to remove them.

NB: Never try to jar yellow or orange tomatoes. They don't have enough acid.

3. Bruschetta in a Jar

If you'd like to make bruschetta, email me directly for the recipe nancy (at)

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