Monday, August 20, 2007

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes (and peppers!)

Just went to the garden after a weekend away, and I came away with a cloth bag 2/3 full of romas again. I counted my jars of sauce today - I think I have around 54 (they're not all pint jars, but a few are bigger and a few are smaller, so I think they balance each other out). I think that's enough tomato sauce for one year. Luckily, the last time I made sauce, after straining it through a T-shirt to try to get rid of excess water, I found that at a certain point it just wouldn't strain anymore and I ended up using a hand-held strainer to scoop out the tomato flesh and dump it into my anti-seed-and-skin machine. What I was left with looked like tomato juice, so, being the tireless kitchen taster that I am, I tried it. It tasted like tomato juice, too, except better and with a lot less salt. Yum! So that's what I'm going to do with the last of my tomatoes before I leave for Italy in something like 5 days.

A note on preserving basil. I have made TONS of pesto. More than we will ever use (well, maybe not). But anyway, I wanted to preserve some basil as just basil, and not a paste with olive oil, and salt, and garlic. So I looked up info online and in my various cook books and garden books and herb books (yes, I have books just about herbs), and consulted with my food-snob Italian husband, and decided to freeze it. I stripped the leaves from the stems, blanched them in boiling water for about 8-10 seconds, patted them as dry as possible, and packed them in a thin layer in a freezer bag and stuck them in the freezer. I haven't tried them yet (I still have way too much fresh basil), but it seems to have worked well. So today I'm doing a ton more basil, a bit of purple basil, and some parsley. I guess we'll see this winter.

And the peppers are coming! The peppers are coming! They're all turning beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow, in spite of their burned spots. A few of them unfortunately rotted, but I am getting quite a few. Right before I leave, of course. I think we'll make peperonata today (still need to post that recipe), and at the end of the week I'll roast whatever's left and preserve them under oil or vinegar or something. I guess we'll see.

Our last two melons (out of five) came off the vine today. It's possible there are more I haven't noticed, but I'm not sure the melons were worth growing. They only cost 50 cents to a dollar to buy them, and they take up a lot of space in the garden. But they are really good. I'll have to think about it for next year.

A last note - I decided to check on one of my butternut squashes that is close to the sprinkler, to make sure it wasn't rotting from sitting in a wet spot. I lifted it up and twisted it a bit to check underneath and snap! Off it came. So it's my first experiment in curing winter squash. I think I'll stick it outside in the yard in the sunny end where the sprinklers don't reach, and see what happens in 5 days or so when I have to pick all the rest right before I leave. If I can say anything, it's that we won't starve this winter with all that tomato sauce and butternut squash!

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