Archive | October, 2012

Putting up more tomatoes

17 Oct

My last post provided details on canning whole/half tomatoes to replace the nasty tinned kind.  The next level of domestication is making tomato sauce. I don’t have the same disgust with commercially available sauces like Classico or Molisana.  They’re decent bases for a quick sauce.  If I was making spaghetti on a weekend, I’d likely reach for the canned whole tomatoes, but on a weeknight it’s nice to have the sauce.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Use the best tomatoes you can find.  San Marzano’s will add a good robust texture to the sauce.


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Canning Tomatoes: Fear Not!

12 Oct

Canning: Home grown tomatoes

I think commercially tinned tomatoes are disgusting.  It’s just my opinion, but there’s something about the watery taste and mealy texture that even the gourmet brands can’t avoid.  I still buy them occasionally, but mostly because they are on sale and might be good to have in the pantry in case of emergency (the Act-of-God type, not the bolognese type).

My canned tomato snobbery is simply managed once a year with a bushel of lovely ripe tomatoes, a bottle of wine, and the company of a good friend.  Lucky for me, all three happened to collide this week.

Canning tomatoes

Tomatoes get a bad rap in modern preservation lore.  Fortunately preservation literature provides fact and science to combat the crazy aunt that thinks you’re about to permanently cripple her with your chicken cacciatore.

The basic issue is that your product needs to be acidic in order to safely can it in a home kitchen.  Tomatoes sit right on the pH fence between acidity and alkalinity.  Nasty microorganisms like botulism can survive or grow in certain pH levels, and really ruin your day.  The simple addition of acid will push that tomato off its fence and into the safe acidity zone. That’s it.  Now you’re informed and can safely proceed.

In this recipe I’ve used bottled (i.e. commercially tested and verified for 5% acidity) lemon juice.  You can add a little sugar to offset the sharpness.  I’m going to try citric acid next time (stay tuned).

Canning Whole Tomatoes

As far as canning goes, this is a pretty quick and easy process.  The total time is 2 hours, but 40 minutes of that is totally inactive, so it’s easily a work night project.  We’ve had a pretty great September/October so our growing season went a little longer than normal.  Mid September is an ideal time to be putting up your tomatoes.

Remember to buy good quality tomatoes.  If you wouldn’t happily eat your tomatoes with a little salt and pepper, then why the heck would you want to bother saving them?! 

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Spiced Plum Butter…ridiculously easy and impulsivly delicious

5 Oct

I have a plum tree that up until this year has been the site of a five year aphid battle.  This year – despite the massive caterpillar problem – we actually won the war.  The result was a September harvest about 100 kilos of delicious purple plums.  In the absence of a proper orchard tree identification, I’ve decided that they are Italian Prune Plums.  (It does match the botanical description, but it also sounds fancy and makes sense given the other Mediterranean Fig tree we have).

Thanks to my obsessive/industrious ninety year old Nana, the plums were quickly halved, pitted, and vacuum sealed for freezing.  (Applesauce and Green Tomato Mincemeat took priority). A site I frequent, Food In Jars, shared a recipe for Plum Butter from the book, My Berlin Kitchen.  With the necessary inspiration, I defrosted 4 kilos of plums.

Freezing Plums

With a new found confidence, thanks to my recent completion of the University of Georgia’s Home Preservation Self Study program, I adapted the original recipe for my quantities.

Spiced Plum Butter

I’ll be completely honest: this is the first time I’ve ever made a fruit jam and been so impressed with the consistency.  The pectin from the plum skins really thickens this fruit mixture in a lovely way.  Before I took it out of the oven, I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t set; it looked too runny.  I actually considered running to the store for a box of pectin.  But after pureeing the plums, I was thrilled with the result.  Especially because it had a relatively low sugar content.

All that aside, the flavor of this Spiced Plum Butter is incredible.  The cinnamon really hits you at first, then the jammy plum follows and lingers.  There wasn’t a single piece of bread in the house, so I was forced to whip up a batch of scones simply to slather with jammy goodness.  (And yes, that is Spiced Plum Butter AND Butter…aka a double-double).

Scones with Spiced Plum Butter

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