Tomato time in Arkansas

August 17, 2018

NOTE: This was written last night, but not posted, because the computer was being recalcitrant and refused to upload photos, and I didn’t have the energy to screw with it. So pretend it’s yesterday. Or, no, wait; don’t. Because, Friday.

First canner’s worth of tomato relish and juice.

Because, well, I couldn’t let a summer go by without a tomatothon.

And, damn, I’d forgotten how much work it is to put up 25 pounds of tomatoes. But we have tomato relish, tomato sauce, and tomato juice, yes, we do.

I nearly went into a panic a couple of weeks ago because I went looking for a jar of tomato relish to go with the purple hulled peas for Sunday dinner, and I couldn’t find one. Further excavation proved there were two or three jars left, and folks, two or three jars is not going to get me through a winter. Another 15 jars may, and that’s about how many I have simmering on the stove right now. I will have to dredge out more jars and wash them.  Plus about half a dozen or so half-pints of tomato sauce, plus about two quarts of tomato juice.

All that out of 25 pounds of tomatoes, for which I paid 20 bucks at the veggie stand. They were canning tomatoes, which means they’re smaller than the premiums. Which also means they take twice as long to peel. On the flip side, peels generate tomato sauce, so that’s a Good Thing.

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Puttin’ up…or not

July 11, 2018

Pickles. Got to have pickles.

Here it is the middle of July and I haven’t been putting up much.

By this time last year, I’d frozen peas and corn and peaches, canned pickles, kraut, blackberry jam, blueberry sauce, and was starting to put up tomatoes.

This year, I’ve done no corn, only two or three packages of peas, and no kraut, jams or jellies. I’ve made pickles, and I’m drying tomatoes, and so far, that’s about it.

Truth be told, I overdid it last year. I still have tomatoes (I will can some, but not nearly as many as I did last year). I have plenty of jams and jellies, and I’ll be adding to that stash this fall when scuppernongs ripen and when pears come in. I still have corn, and I still have peas; again, I may put up a little, but not as much as last year. And I’ll freeze some peaches. I’d like to make a big batch of blue-Q blueberry barbecue sauce and can that.  And we’ll call it done.

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Ahhhhh, spring. Tomatoes. Other fresh veggies. Bountiful.

And how did it get to be 10 days since I’ve posted?

Well, I was on the road for four of ’em. And poorly with a stomach bug for two or three more. But I have finally gotten the notion back to be in the kitchen, inspired in large part by this haul from the Farmers’ Market this morning.

There will be BLTs, yes, there will. And can I just tell you, I am contemplating getting in the kitchen Right Now and sauteeing up that yellow squash with some onions? And I may yet do that for dinner. Squash and sliced tomato. Who needs anything else? Yes, it’ll be fresh veggie time for a few days.

There were no exceptional road food meals. Pizza one night. A music festival cheeseburger (cold) one night. An eminently forgettable dinner at a meeting in Memphis one night. I think I had pork tenderloin and something.

I’ve cooked a good deal of asparagus the past two or three weeks. Made a very tasty slaw with blanched, cut spears, raw sugar snaps, sliced up, and slivered carrots; dressing was oil, vinegar and sugar. Plain, simple, good. Added some corn kernels to it the next day and that was pretty good, too. I got what may likely be the last asparagus of the season today at the market, and I’m thinking I may reprise that salad, putting corn kernels in from the get-go this time. It lasts, and it’s always good to have around, and it’d just be primo on some of those sliced ripe tomatoes.

Cucumbers are going to get marinated up as cucumber, onion and tomato salad. I may go with an Asian flavor profile for that dressing — rice vinegar, soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, a little mirin, some ginger, maybe a little honey (or maybe not).

Next weekend, I am cooking for a pot-luck picnic with my high school graduating class. I’m thinking a smoked pork loin, using some of those new potatoes for a salad with thyme, olive oil and vinegar dressing, and some cut-up boiled eggs. Some of the strawberries are going in a strawberry cheesecake, which will go in the freezer. Also on that menu may be some jail slaw, as I have a head of cabbage lounging around that wants to be used.

Today, I’ve cooked for the soup kitchen — three 10-pound hams, which were decimated. Three gallons of green beans. Two vats (about two gallons each, I’d guess) of mac and cheese. A big bowl of pasta salad. Always wears me out, but doggone, it’s a good tired. Especially when I look at the 40-plus people who got a good meal, many of whom took a carryout home with them so they’ll have another one tomorrow.

If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have big plans for the holiday weekend, let me know about ’em. And be careful on the highways.

 

I have gardened!

May 3, 2018

These are the herbs that overwintered/reseeded themselves, along with a few pots of new ones from this year.

And, oh, God, am I going to pay for it tomorrow. I’m already so sore and achy I can barely move. Damn this getting old stuff.

But, in the books for this year, so far:

Six pots of herbs, plus a significant bit of weeding and rearranging in the herb bed.

  • Fourteen tomato plants (should have been 15, but I miscounted when I was buying, so I’ll pick up another one tomorrow). I have four Better Boys, an Arkansas Traveler, a Brandywine, and I’ll pick up a Cherokee Purple tomorrow, a yellow cherry, a red cherry, and six Romas.
  • Six pepper plants. Two Cubanelles, two pimientos, a poblano/ancho (he will be an ancho, because I won’t pick him until he’s red), and a Thai hot.
  • The seed garden, which includes pole beans, lima beans, cucumbers (two kinds), carrots, cabbage, radishes, squash, and I think something else but I forgot what it was. Guess we’ll see when it comes up.

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Waste not, want not

August 10, 2017

Tomato sauce, made from skins and cores most people would have thrown away.

And other things your mama told you. Like the starving children in China, and “Your face will freeze like that.”

Anyway. I am experimenting on just how much one can get out of two 30-pound boxes of tomatoes. To update the previous post, the final tally was:

  • 11 quarts of tomatoes
  • 17 pints of tomatoes
  • 5 quarts and two pints of tomato juice
  • and 16 half-pints of tomato sauce made from the skins and cores
  • Plus the 4 half-pints of roasted tomato-garlic sauce that was from the gallon or so of cherry tomatoes I had, and did all at the same time.

Well, I’m almost finished. I’m trying one more experiment. More on that later.

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To-by-God-matoes!

August 9, 2017

Final tally: 11 quarts, 17 pints. Five quarts, two pint of juice. Four pints roasted tomato garlic sauce. Plain sauce coming today.

Note: This was written last night, as I was processing the last of the tomatoes through the water bath. I finished up about 10:30 p.m., but for the sauce I’ll make today from skins and cores. And I didn’t download the pix until today.

I commenced canning tomatoes somewhere around 11 a.m. today. It is 10:22 p.m., and I’m not done.

But I’m close.

So far, in the “done” column, I have 17 pints and 8 quarts of tomatoes, cooling on a bath towel on my counter. In the water bath I have seven more quart of tomatoes, because I ran out of pint jars. Still to process, I have six quarts and two pints of tomato juice, and four pints of roasted cherry tomato garlic sauce.

We will have no scurvy up in here this winter, I am here to tell you. And we will have all the spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes and vegetable beef soup and chili we want, because, you know what? We’ve damn-sho got home-canned tomatoes with which to make them all.

I feel pretty satisfied. Tired as all hell, but satisfied. I’d feel more satisfied if I could get this damn canner to boil more quickly and I could process this batch and the one waiting behind it. One of these days, I will have a REAL stove. One on which I can set TWO water bath canners, if I am so inclined. One which will put out some real heat.

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Summertime pies

June 4, 2017

tomato corn pie 0604

Tomato and street corn pie. One of the greatest justifications for summer.

Yes, I am aware that according to the calendar, it is not yet summer. However, I am getting good tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market (and will get good ones out of my garden soon, as my plants are laden with green ones).

And the market had blackberries yesterday. And the grocery had decent looking sweet corn for Memorial Day last weekend.

That, of course, means only one thing. Well, only two things. Pie.

Pie times 2.25, to be precise, because I overprepared the filling for one of ’em. Not to be defeated, I cooked a little crustless version of it, along with its big brother and its sweet cousin.

And I am having, as soon as they cool down enough to eat, tomato and street corn pie, with blackberry cobbler and ice cream for dessert.

Don’t you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em wish you were eating with me? Well, it’s going to take these sweethearts about 20 minutes to cool. The house looks like hell, but y’all come on!

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