I still can’t quite believe it.
(And if you wonder why there are no pictures… Ms. Wertheimer made it clear that anyone taking her photo IN SHORTS was destined for the death penalty. I totally get that.)
This is how it happened – out of the blue, I had a call from a producer at NPR wondering if I was interested in doing a segment on canning for Morning Edition. We exchanged a few emails, I provided some recipe ideas, and we settled on four recipes – Crushed Tomatoes, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Peach Salsa and Fig, Honey, Lemon Confitures. (I’ll be posting all the recipes this week.)
|setting up for the day|
It was a great morning. Linda and I spent about four hours together. She’s as engaging and charming and totally brilliant as you might imagine. Dennis, who was sitting quietly in the other room, said he kept thinking “That’s a familiar voice in the kitchen.” And he wasn’t talking about mine!
Beyond the canning, because I just can’t help myself (doing what Dennis calls a “full-Cathy”) I cooked some scrambled eggs for Linda and her production assistant, Leah, as the perfect foil to taste the salsa.
|gorgeous cheeses and some fig confitures|
I offered three spectacular cheeses from Stoneyman Gourmet Farmer – a fromage blanc, aged, washed rind goat cheese, and the magnificent Greyson Reserve, an aged cheese that’s just a teeny bit stinky, all ready to be spread on a nice baguette from Marvelous Market. (I actually got up at 5am to make a fresh baguette and managed to burn it when I was in the shower…)
And at the end of our canning, I made petite bahn mi sandwiches, to show how I use pickled jalapenos.
|I practiced all weekend to be ready for NPR – lots of tomatoes were canned|
It took all of the three and a half hours to cook up the recipes, starting with blanching about 25 lbs of tomatoes. Big beautiful Brandywines were dipped in boiling water, then shocked in a sink of ice water, before slipping off the skins, squeezing all the juice out, and plopping the pulp into a big stockpot.
It was a great morning in the kitchen. The time flew by for me. I was in some sort of panicked, nervous haze and, of course, can barely remember the experience. Dennis reported that I did not say UM or YOU KNOW or otherwise sound like a teenager. At the end of it all, there was a mountain of dishes. It was all just wonderful fun and very, very exciting.
Next week, when the segment airs, we’ll see just how it all worked out. But in the meantime, it’s time to talk about putting up tomatoes – you’ll want that fresh taste of summer to last.
It’s the height of tomato season and every farmer’s market and farm stand is bursting with the beautiful red fruits. I start to get a little canning anxiety at this time of year, wondering how I will find the time to get enough fresh, local tomatoes into jars before the frost.
There is nothing in the canning cupboard more useful than canned tomatoes. I’ve made sauce, salsa and soup, and while all those are great to have, the fact is, with jars of simple crushed tomatoes on the shelf, you can make sauce and salsa and soup during the year. I probably use two jars a week during the winter.
In the last few days, in preparation for NPR, I purchased “seconds” – boxes of slightly bruised and very ripe – tomatoes from three farmers. One gave me mostly heirloom tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Mr. Stripey and some Oxheart. One gave me mostly Oxheart and Brandywine. And the third gave me all Brandywine. I’ve decided I like canning Brandywine tomatoes best. That is, until the Romas, San Marzanos and other plum tomatoes show up.
Here’s the low down on crushed tomatoes. Think about whether you will use pints (16oz) or quarts (32oz). Do you currently buy cans of tomatoes for certain recipes? Always have some of the can leftover? You might be happier with pints. Use three or four cans at a time for your Nonna’s Gravy? Put up quarts, for sure. Determine whether you have a stockpot large enough to accomodate a rack, the jars and 2″ of water over the top of the jars. My 12 qt stockpot will hold pints, and is just barely large enough for quarts.
If you can get some friends to help you, there is no reason you can’t process 100# of tomatoes, or more, in a day. Make it fun. Chill some wine. Put on good music. And dive right in.
|practice jars (and some tuna I canned, too)|
Crushed Tomatoes in a Jar
Quart or Pint Jars with lids and rings – sterilize these in the dishwasher and leave them in there to stay warm
Bottled Lemon Juice (Do not substitute fresh squeezed lemon juice. Use the best quality bottled lemon juice you can find – I use ReaLemon – this is what standardizes the acidity in each jar. Regardless of the type tomato you are using and will keep the tomatoes safe)
Kosher or canning salt
Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then plunge into a large bowl filled with ice water. I use my sink or a cooler.
Once all the tomatoes have been blanched, begin peeling and crushing them with your hands. Cut out the core and any soft spots, then cut an X in the base of the tomato and slip off the peel.
Squeeze the tomato in your hands, releasing the juice and most of the seeds, then either chop further or just place the crushed pulp in a deep, non-reactive stockpot. Continue to peel and crush until all the tomatoes are in the stockpot.
Bring the tomatoes to a hard boil and boil well for 5 minutes.
Put 2 T lemon juice and 1 t salt in each quart jar. (For pints, use 1 T lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.)
Fill the jar with hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe the rims, place the lid and ring, and finger tighten.
Process in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes (quarts) or 40 minutes (pints.)
Turn off the stove, remove the lid, and allow the jars to rest in the hot water for five minutes, then remove them to a towel on the counter. Leave them, undisturbed, for 24 hours.
After a day, test the seals, wipe the jars clean, and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
If you’re wondering what to do with those crushed tomatoes, here’s one of our favorite vegetarian casseroles. It’s a riff on a classic Mexican dish using leftover corn tortillas. Freezes like a dream. In fact, I made two, and one has come to the beach with us, ready to be popped into the oven for a happy do-nothing dinner.
Mexican Style Vegetarian Casserole
1 T olive oil
1 large bunch kale, leaves stripped from the stem and chopped
1 extra firm tofu block, drained
12 corn tortillas, dried at room temperature for about half an hour
1-1/2 c grated Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
6 oz queso fresco, crumbled
1 quart crushed tomatoes
1 onion, chopped coarsely
2 garlic cloves
1-2 jalapenos, seeded
3 T olive oil
In a skillet, heat about 1/4″ of oil, and quickly fry the tortillas one at a time, turning them once, until they are soft – just 20 seconds or so. Transfer the cooked tortillas to paper towels to drain.
In a blender, puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves and jalapenos.
|Mexican tomato sauce ingredients|
In the same skillet, with the remaining oil, add the pureed tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Set aside.
In the skillet, wilt the kale in a little olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut the tofu into cubes. Set aside.
Now, in a 12 x 9 baking dish, compose your casserole – a little sauce on the bottom, a layer of tortillas (about four,) tofu, kale, one-third of the cheeses, some sauce, another layer of tortillas, and so on. Finish with cheese.
Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and cook another 5 minutes, until everything is bubbly.