Monday, October 4, 2010

Tomato management

Oh the jewels of summer! I think now would be a good time to talk a bit about tomato wrangling.  Here at knife & fork I have set as a goal the preservation of excess product in the harvest months for use in the dark days of winter.  After having been through one particularly bleak winter here in the mountains I can tell you how rewarding it is to be able to put your perfect ripe tomatoes in a rich winter stew and feel all that sunshine from the summer warming your insides as you watch the snow fall.  Last summer and fall I canned 750 pounds of tomatoes and that lasted until new year's eve at the restaurant for all my needs.  This year the tomatoes have been more abundant than last and I have gotten a bit more aggressive.  My goal this year has been to put up 2000 pounds of tomatoes and i believe that I am almost there.  It has been my routine most mondays since july to spend a few hours here at the shop, on our one day that we are closed, and can one to two hundred pounds of tomatoes. 

 I used as many methods as possible to achieve as much as possible in the least time so that I could get home to put my feet up on the porch or maybe do a little grilling.  I would blanch and peel many of the paste tomatoes.  I had romas, san marzano, amish paste and ox hearts as the main varieties.  While I had my peeling operation going I would also have a pot on with a couple of onions lots of garlic and about forty pounds of tomatoes whole with skins and cores and all.  I would let this cook down a bit and then use a stick blender to puree the whole batch so that I could can sauce as well as whole tomatoes in their own juice.
 After all the blanching and shocking in ice water and peeling is done and the whole tomatoes are in the pressure canner I would combine the blanching water and the ice water and reduce this to one quarter of its original volume and have delectable tomato juice that could also go into jars.
 What was left was usually put into the dehydrator for easy dry storage in ziploc bags.  I found it easy enough to chip away at my goal for the summer in this way so that in three or four hours I had put up around 200 pounds of product with no standing around or waiting for a batch to come out of the canner. Then I experienced a bit of a quantum leap when I got a bunch of half gallon jars and a fifteen gallon pot that my parents found at a yard sale for $25!  Then i was able to can 9 half gallon jars and eight quarts at the same time.
 Another great breakthrough was the restoration of a great root cellar on my father in laws land.  It had be used to store gas and tillers and whatnot for fifteen or so years and we cleaned it out and insulated the ceiling, sealed the cinderblock walls inside and laid a concreete floor.  Then we added some shelving and all it needed then was jars!
 Here is the inside and the start of my tomato collection.
After all the snow that we received last year and all the fun of dragging supplies on sleds up the mountain when our subaru could not get up, I am excited to be so prepared should I be snowbound again this year. Bring it on winter!

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