Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pssst...Money can't buy you love or...homegrown tomatoes

In today's Sunday paper (I know, I'm showing my age by confessing that I read the newspaper), there was an article in the editorial section that waxed poetic over homegrown tomatoes.  Understandably so, there is nothing so sad as those pale, pathetic tomato wannabes that overrun the produce sections during the off season...which is most of the year.  Consequently, during tomato season, people go nuts for the vine ripened, blood red beauties that we have the good fortune to have in Oklahoma.  The newspaper article was about Arkansas tomatoes and I'm sure their growing season will be just as robust as ours but I'm sticking to Oklahoma 'maters, thanks very much.
A bumper crop is predicted for this season and I have no reason to think otherwise.  You will see from my pictures that the tomato garden is going crazy but I am also going to offer up some tomato close ups.  I have already harvested (and it continues) yellow and red cherries and the thick skinned and quite small Juliet Romas.  I made a wonderful tomato and Vidalia onion salad with white balsamic and olive oil to grace the top of a juicy grilled rib eye a few weekends ago.  There is nothing quite like the acid of that homegrown salad against the rich, fatty (fat is flavor, you know) beef of a rib eye.  You really should do it sometime AND only season your meat with salt and me on that one, try it and let me'll never use another marinade or dry seasoning mix again!
But back to our with a bumper crop, you will need to "put up", can , preserve, whatever you like to call it, this luscious bounty!  If you don't, they'll go bad and then you'll be sad!
Canning is not hard but it can be time consuming.  I promise this, you will be happy you took that time in the winter when you have jars of ripe, red tomatoes staring at you from your pantry shelves.  And, you don't have to can bushels and bushels of fruit.  Years ago, people did that because they didn't have grocery stores and the abundance of food that we have now.  So although we are very lucky to have the availability, it's the quality of the summer crops that we lose during the winter.
Canning can be as simple as pouring cooked sauces, jams or jellies into sterilized jars and sealing the lid; no water bath processing needed.  But if you are canning fresh fruits or vegetables, you will need to process them.  This can be done (and this is the time consuming part) in a very large pan with simmering water or you can use a pressure cooker which can shorten the processing time by two-thirds or better.  I'm not going to bore you with the intricacies of canning tomatoes because you can usually get a canning pamphlet along with a box of canning jars.  I still have the one my mother used from 1945!  I recommend canning your tomatoes fresh and then processing them.  That way, in the winter, you can have tomatoes for salads, sauces, just about anything.  And, in the winter, money cannot buy you homegrown tomatoes but you can sure have them waiting for you in the pantry and you will LOVE that!
Next week...the killer cucumber returns!  Be very afraid!!

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