Thursday, March 22, 2012

Last of The Tomatoes

Harvesting Tomatoes 

Tomatoes should be harvested when they are fully ripened and just starting to soften. Once picked, store tomatoes in dark, warm conditions. DO NOT REFRIGERATE TOMATOES! Ever! Fresh tomatoes start to fall off the flavor wagon as soon as they go below 55°; you might as well buy those soulless, tasteless clones at the supermarket.You have three days to use a vine-ripened tomato; it is wise to observe the garden and make that crucial decision: Are there too many to eat and is today the day I make sauce, freeze or can? (Cooked sauce will freeze nicely and there are few greater winter joys than hauling out a container of sauce from the freezer and enjoying your tomatoes months later!) Don't let a single one go to waste.

This is one of my favorite soups.  Great with with a salad or sandwich in the winter and a great way to use up those canned tomatoes you put up.

Tomato Basil Soup

4 Tsp. Butter
1 small sweet onion diced very small
2 cups of chicken broth
3 cups of your canned tomatoes
2 cups of heavy cream or half and half if you wish to lighten it up
3 Tsp. of fresh chopped basil (I'll have a section on basil later)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a heavy sauce pan. Add onions and sautĂ© until tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth and reduce by 3/4. Add tomatoes and heavy cream, bring to a simmer and reduce by 1/2.  Puree soup in a food processor. Stir in 2 Tbsp chopped basil, salt and pepper.  Garnish with remaining fresh basil and tomatoes and serve.

If it is winter and you don't have fresh basil, you can use dried but dried has a more intense flavor so cut it down to 1 tablespoon of basil.  I will later talk about how I dry basil and my herbs from my herb garden.  

 Savory Tomato Bread Pudding

Here is another recipe to help you use your canned or frozen tomatoes.  You can make in small muffin cups and serve as an appetizer or serve as a side dish

1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cups drained canned tomatoes 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (1 Tsp. if dried)
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 (1 pound) loaf day-old bread, cubed
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.  In a small saucepan, combine the broth, brown sugar, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, basil and cayenne pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.  In a large skillet, melt butter. Toss the bread cubes in the butter to coat, then toss with Monterey Jack cheese, and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Pour the tomato mixture over the bread and let it sit for 30 minutes to absorb completely.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is nicely toasted.

Cherry Tomatoes with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Here is a great recipe for using those cherry tomatoes.

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes, or red grape tomatoes, or both
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (I only use Kosher salt in all my recipes.)

To prepare the dressing, place the blue cheese, buttermilk, and olive oil in a medium bowl and stir together with a fork, mashing a little to break up the cheese. Season with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chives. Set aside.

Wash the tomatoes, and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and season with a pinch of salt. Add the tomatoes to the dressing mixture and toss to combine then garnish with freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Tomato Catsup

1 peck (12 1/2 pounds) ripe tomatoes
2 medium onions
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs broken stick cinnamon
1 Tbs whole cloves
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 Tbs paprika
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp salt

Wash and slice tomatoes and boil until soft.  Into another kettle slice the onions.  Cover with a small quantity of water and cook until tender .  Run the cooked onions and tomatoes through a sieve.  Mix the onions and tomato pulp.  Add the cayenne pepper.    Boil this mixture rapidly until it has been reduced to about 1/2 the volume.

Place vinegar in an enamel pan or stainless steel (do not use aluminum pan); add a spice bag containing the cinnamon, cloves and garlic.  Allow this to simmer for about 30 minutes, then bring to boil.  Place cover on pan and remove from heat.  All this to stand in covered pan until ready to use. 

When tomato mixture has cooked down to 1/2 original volume, add vinegar mixture of which there should be 1 1/4 cups.  Add the paprika, sugar and salt and boil rapidly until thick.  This should  require about 10 minutes.  Pour while boiling into sterilized jars to within 1/2 top.  Put on cap, screw band firmly tight.  Process in boiling water bath 5 minutes.  Yield 6 pints. 

I got my funnel sieve with a wooden stirring tool at an auction but you can buy them easily during canning season.  It is a must and good investment if you want to can apples sauce or tomatoes.  

Creamed Tomatoes

1 lb canned or frozen tomatoes 
1/4 tsp soda
1 Tbs butter 
3 Tbs four
1 1/2 tsp sugar 
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt 
1 slice toasted bread

Combine tomatoes, butter, sugar and salt in medium saucepan; heat over medium heat.  Stir in soda.  Combine flour and milk; blend well and add to hot tomato mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly till mixture is thick and bubbly.  Break toasted bread in small pieces and add to hot tomato mixture.  Serve in sauce dish as a vegetable.  Serves 4.

Scalloped Tomatoes

2 cups cooked tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup soft bread cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion powder to taste
Garlic powder to taste

Mix melted butter, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder to the bread crumbs.

Fill an oiled or buttered baking dish with alternate layers of well cooked tomatoes and bread cubes. Last layer should be buttered bread crumbs. Bake in a 350° F. oven for 35 minutes.  Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves 6.

A variation might be to top with chopped bacon.  Everything is better with bacon.

Hope I've given you some ways to use up your fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes or frozen tomatoes.  I'll start sharing my rhubarb chapter tomorrow.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

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