Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Tomatoes Are Still Going Strong

This week at the farm we continued with the unlimited availability of peppers, tomatoes, kale and herbs. I heard there were also green beans but I never did find them. Regardless, after the success with the pizza sauce last week I thought I'd try tomato sauce again. I picked enough plum tomatoes to make 20 cups of tomato purée so I made a larger batch of the "Italian-Style Tomato Sauce" in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The one change I made was that since I didn't have celery I used a bulb of fennel instead. After cooking everything down, I ended up with just under 7 pints of sauce. I vaguely remember making this recipe before, and it isn't really spaghetti sauce, but I suppose I could use it as a base and add meat.

There are four more weeks of the farm share and then the season will be over. I have started to accumulate a lot of squash and onions which should last for at least a month after the distribution ends for the year.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Week Summary

Currently, I have a batch of pizza sauce in the canner. This is another thing I've not made before but since the farm share keeps offering unlimited produce I felt like it was a thing to try. I brought home just over 9 pounds of plum tomatoes yesterday, just enough to make a batch, using the recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 366. For this, I used the 12 ounce jars, since I feel that we often open a jar of pizza sauce and then only use half of it. Maybe this is still too much in a jar but we'll just have to commit to using more of it.

Also this week I turned in all my canning entries so I'm done making canned goods for the fair. I'm not done making things for the fair, though, but now we've turned to the baking part. In an experiment, I made my usual bread with a few changes in technique. First of all, I made the bread with all bread flour and a whole lot more water: 16 ounces starter (Legion), 38 ounces bread flour, 4 T. sugar, roughly 22-24 ounces water, 2 T. salt. Then I turned the dough into an oiled bowl and used the pinch and turn technique I used most recently for the baguettes a few weeks ago. This dough is much stiffer and difficult to do this way but I wanted to see what happened. What did happen was we got a nice, spongy crumb with a few extra air pockets in it. Not what I expected but still very good. I might try a few more tweaks before I have to make a batch for the fair.

Lastly, I made a cheesecake using the honey cheesecake recipe that won last year in the baking with honey division. I'd never actually tried it again so had no idea how it was. Well, it may now be my go-to cheesecake. It was the smoothest cheesecake I've ever made, and it didn't crack, either! My trick there was to turn the oven off just before I though it was done and then leave it in the oven to cool down more slowly. And so easy: 2 pounds of cream cheese, 2/3 cup honey, 4 eggs and some vanilla, poured over a graham cracker crust and baked at 300˚F for about an hour.

I'm still trying to decide what to bake for the fair in general. It depends on which day I can go on that first weekend as there are different categories competing on different days. I won't really know which day I can go until much closer to the actual weekend. It's also Parents' Weekend for the youngerchild's school and I'm starting a new job that week as well!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tomato Jam

One thing I have never been particularly convinced of was tomato jam. Every time I received a jar via my mom's neighbors it was a solid gelatinous lump of tomato, not particularly spreadable. But I try to keep an open mind and, since I have so many tomatoes from the farm, thought it might be time to make this and see for myself.

A little online research and I found this recipe, with fresh ginger and not requiring me to peel the tomatoes. I had 4.5 pounds of tomatoes so scaled up the recipe and got it simmering. After about an hour and a half (maybe the hotplate was too high...) it had cooked down into the right texture. Not gelatinous, much more spreadable. It tastes like spicy ketchup and it's really, really good.

As a good rough estimate, 1 pound of tomatoes equals one cup of jam at the end. Everything just came out of the canner now and I can't wait to use it as a spread!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

...and Tomatillos

One thing I like about making salsa - it's quick! Because I roast the tomatillos or tomatoes, onions, garlic and serrano peppers under the broiler and then blend them to a fine salsa, I find it easy to make a batch whenever I have enough of all the ingredients. Today's farm share had unlimited tomatillos so it was time to make more salsa verde. Just in the last hour I was able to make 5 half-pints. 

Lots More Tomatoes

This is just what isn't already in the fridge, in the canner, or on the counter!
Since last week I canned tomatoes whole and was reminded how easy it was, I grabbed a whole bunch more salad tomatoes (the uniform sized ones) and canned them in pints and quarts. I also added fresh basil to the jars. I am hoping to enter these in the fair instead of last week's batch because I managed to get one more tomato into each jar and I didn't use any salt in the hopes that they won't float as much. We shall see.

All told, this was what I brought home today:
2 cantaloupes, 1 yellow watermelon, 2 pounds of golden beets, 1 spaghetti squash, 1 kabocha squash, 1 black futsu squash, a lot of potatoes, 1 pound carrots, 2 shallots, 3 sweet onions, 3 yellow onions, 2 eggplant, 4 peppers, 1 head of cabbage, 1 large handful each of braising mix (greens) and arugula, 3 heirloom tomatoes, 4 regular tomatoes, 10 pints worth of salad tomatoes, 2.5 pounds of tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, basil, 5 serrano peppers, 9 sweet "lunchbox peppers," about a dozen leaves of kale, 1 quart of sungold cherry tomatoes, 1 bunch Hakurei turnips, and 2 heads of broccoli.

Here's what I skipped: dill, other herbs, flowers, blackberries, other hot peppers, husk cherries, green beans, plum tomatoes, and "slicing" tomatoes (likely something like beefsteak).

I think I need a root cellar. This is a bad time of year for my share-mate to be out of town for 2 weeks in a row!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Late Summer Fruits

Yesterday's farm share was full of tomatoes. In fact, there was a sign saying they thought the season would be short so we should get whatever we could. I picked a whole lot of "salad tomatoes" and brought them home. What I like about them is that they are all exactly the same size. A little bigger than the Jolly tomato the farm used to plant, and not as pink. They look more like the Campari tomatoes you see in the store. Regardless, they're great to can whole and I had enough to make six pints of canned whole tomatoes.

Then I dealt with the last of the peaches. I'll admit I'm not sure why, but I wanted to make a batch of jam without pectin. I haven't ever really done that so it seemed like I ought to try. Peaches are low pectin fruits but I cooked them for a very long time and it seems to have worked. Basically, I diced the last six pounds of peaches, mixed them with lemon juice and three cups of sugar, and let everything sit for a few hours. Then I cooked them slowly until most of the liquid was gone and the gel test demonstrated the right consistency. This made six and a half cups of jam. And I think the flavor is more intense than when the jam is made with added pectin. It certainly uses less sugar! This batch will get entered in the fair. I had thought about entering the tomatoes, and I still might, but they do shrink during canning and seeing them float with at least an inch of water at the bottom of the jar isn't very attractive. I have 14 entries set aside so far so maybe I don't have to.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Peach Salsa

One of the things I wanted to try with all those peaches I got this season was a peach salsa. I found a recipe that uses honey as the sweetener which is also appealing to me. I used a recipe I found online but increased the jalapeños because I had more that I wanted to use up. Here's my tweaked recipe: 

12 large ripe peaches, peeled and diced
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup honey
1 large red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro


Mix all the ingredients except for the peaches and set aside in a bowl. As the peaches are chopped, add to the bowl, stirring to coat the peaches. Ladle into jars, leaving a half-inch headspace, and process for 25 minutes in boiling water. On taste-testing the salsa before it went into the canner I found it very garlicky but I suspect it will mellow with the processing.