Holy tomato! From farm to table.

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The big basket of tomatoes . . . yes it was full when I bought it — 30 lbs!

One thing you should know about me is that I like to eat.  More than that, I like to eat good food.  I think that if you like to eat good food you had better know how to cook unless you can afford to have your own personal chef.  For me,  good food means real food, that has not been processed or otherwise adulterated.   You can recognize it for what it is, and you don’t have to read the label or look up the ingredients in a dictionary to figure out what’s going into your digestive tract.  Eating mostly real food also means that you generate very little trash, as real food does not come with wrappers or cellophane, or in a microwave tray.  While I have never successfully grown my own food, I have canned and frozen food from the farmer’s market.   This year with the move our normal summer rhythm was interrupted so we didn’t do any canning.

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Step one: wash the dirt off

The great thing about where I live is that you can find a farm stand just about anywhere.  We have one in the middle of town, across the street from our only supermarket and up the street from a plant nursery.  I stopped by on Friday and bought a big basket of tomatoes.   The tomato is a beautiful thing.  You can slice it and eat it with fresh mozzarella and basil.  You can put it atop a bagel with cream cheese and lox.  You use it as a base for pasta sauce or soups or toss it chopped into almost any kind of stew.  The tomato is one of my favorite foods.

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Next, start slicing.

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Dice into small pieces. I leave the skins on. More fiber! For a smoother sauce you can put it through a food mill when it’s done cooking.

Each summer we typically process 40-60 pounds of tomatoes.  We can them in halves and quarters, we stew them, and I make sauce and freeze it.  By late September we have shelves of these red tinted jars lined up waiting to be used during the fall and winter months when a decent tomato is not to be found.   While the tomatoes  are cooking they release a lot of liquid.   I strain off this “juice” and freeze it separately to use in soups and stews.    I imagine a thick minestrone with the tomato juice as a hearty base on a cold December day.   You get a lot of juice out of 60 pounds of tomatoes.   My husband likes to drink it chilled with salt and pepper and some Tabasco.

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This has already cooked down a bit. I ladle out the juice and freeze it separately for stock. The only seasonings I add are salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. That way I can use it for any type of cuisine and add spices later.

We also put up dill pickles, and jams, and jalapeños, a staple in our house.  We put sliced carrots in the jars and the pickled peppers come out hot and spicy, and we give them as gifts to our friends.  But tomatoes, they are like air, invigorating and essential.  When there isn’t a juicy tomato to be found we still get the fresh taste all winter long and into the spring.  If we are very careful we can make them last until the next summer crop.  We eat a lot of tomatoes.

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Containers of tomato “juice” cooling down before it goes in the freezer.

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