Summer is winding down and the leaves have slowly started falling. It is still warm here in Kentucky but fall is not far away.
It has been another banner year for the garden. Every year we vow to stay ahead of the weeds but once again, as the growing season winds down, we are hunting through them for watermelons and cucumbers. The grandsons think it is a great treasure hunt. We harvest plenty of produce from the garden and do not worry about what we miss.
There have been a few furry neighbors that decided to help themselves to the harvest also so we kindly relocated them.
Because we grow such a large garden, there is a lot of produce to harvest. I have limited cabinet space so I only can jams, jellies and relishes. Most everything else I freeze. It is a lot of work and takes a fair bit of time but I enjoy it. There is something very satisfying about using what you put up from the garden during the cold months of winter. Between what we grow, hunt and harvest from the woods and the farm our diet is very local and the food tastes so much better than store bought.
Something to consider if you are just starting to garden – the bigger the garden the more time and work you will have to devote to storing the harvest.
We love chili, so I freeze quite a few gallon size bags of whole tomatoes. Core the tomatoes, blanch them for a minute or two in boiling water or until the skin splits, then plunge into a sink filled with a few inches of ice water. Once they are cool, the skin is easy to slip off and a quick squeeze to get rid of the seeds and into the freezer bag. Label, seal (push the air out!) and done. The tomatoes are also great as the base for vegetable soup.
As much as we love fresh produce, one can only eat so many tomato sandwiches! Along with blanching and freezing whole tomatoes, I like to prepare them in different ways so they are handier to use. That way I can get dinner on the table faster.
Roasted Balsamic Cherry Tomatoes
These are so good. I love them on a homemade pesto pizza with mushrooms, onions and mozzarella. I have put them in everything from Alfredo to salads to chili. They are also wonderful chopped into mayonnaise and used as a sandwich spread.
After roasting, I let them cool. Then it is a simple matter of scooping them up into quart size freezer bags, label and pop in the freezer.
- 2 pd. of whole cherry tomatoes, any variety, any color
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp. lemon juice
- sprinkle of herbs of your choice, optional
- Wash and halve tomatoes. Depending on ripeness, either squeeze out seeds or scrape out with knife. If the tomato has a large stem blemish I will trim it off, otherwise I let it be. Put tomatoes in large non-reactive bowl.
- Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over tomatoes. Stir well so the marinade gets in all the nooks and crannies.
- Cover bowl and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours stirring every 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 200 F.
- With a slotted spoon, place tomatoes on large rimmed cookie sheet on rack in middle of oven.
- At about the 3 hour mark start checking for desired dryness. Since I usually use mine for pizzas and pasta I like them on the juicier side.
- Remove from oven, let cool to room temp.
- Label quart size freezer bags, fill with roasted tomatoes. Try to push as much air out as possible, seal, pop in freezer.
Zesty Pizza Sauce
A rich and thick sauce. Also wonderful on omelets and pizza burgers.
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups tomato puree
- 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1½ tsp. dried basil
- 1½ tsp. dried oregano
- ½ tsp. fennel seed, crushed
- 1½ tsp. salt
- black pepper to taste
- Over medium low heat, heat oil and butter in saucepan. Add chopped onion, sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of sugar. Saute for approximately 15 minutes. Add garlic, saute for another 5 minutes.
- Add puree, paste, spices and remaining 1 tbsp. of sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer, put lid on and simmer 1 hour. Stir periodically.
- Set cover ajar for steam to escape (you might want to put splatter shield on saucepan and then reset cover to avoid splatters!) and gently simmer for another hour or until desired thickness.
- Cool. Label freezer bags or containers, spoon sauce into container.
- I use 8-oz. jelly jars (freezer safe) and fill to the neck line. I get enough sauce out of one jar to cover 2 pizzas.