State of the Freezer: Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

State of the Freezer: Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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Can’t imagine a prettier color filling…

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I must say I’m a teeny bit disappointed.  Disappointed because not a single one of you asked about my rhubarb beet tart from St. Patrick’s Day.

Now I really, really need to know; did you not ask because you didn’t notice, or because it didn’t sound like anything you’d want to make?

In case your head has been under a rock, guess what? It’s spring.  Ready or not here it comes it seems. Grass is growing, trees are blooming, and new rhubarb is pushing its way up. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but I’m not being ungrateful or anything.

The fruit is macerated, the juice is strained, reduced & added to filling after baking

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Obviously I’d better get a move on and empty the freezer of the remains of last summer’s stash so I’ll be ready for the new stuff soon to come. Some of my stash?

One pound of rhubarb nicely chopped & ready to go.  My plan was to make my favorite rhubarb tarts, but I find I’m 8 ounces short of rhubarb.  Conveniently, I have exactly 8 ounces of grated beets. Coincidence? I think not.

While the pies bake, the strained liquid is reduced to a thickened sauce

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I followed the rhubarb tart recipe exactly except for the substitution of 8 ounces of beets for 8 ounces of rhubarb.  Then, instead of the vanilla, I used the zest from one orange.  The cinnamon I could go either way on – I added it this time, next time I think I’ll pass. But the orange was perfect.

the open crust allows the thickened sauce to be easily spooned in & i like the rustic look

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It was a unique and serendipitous hit if I do say so myself; I highly recommend pie as a way to clean out that freezer. I have high hopes about this years’ garden… and the squash and pumpkin still waiting in the freezer.  With a little luck that freezer will be emptied & restocked in no time…

Are you getting excited for summer food projects?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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It’s time. Time for the springtime rituals of Easter baskets & hard-boiled eggs. Like chocolate bunnies, those eggs are everywhere and you can only eat so many egg-y things before either they or you go bad.

So, rather than avoiding waste by being stingy with the single healthy, natural thing in the standard-issue Easter basket, after the day is over, pickle the excess. Pickled eggs will keep for months, make sure none go to waste and add a powerful new culinary staple to your pantry.

I’ve gone through plenty of recipes seeking the perfect blend of simplicity and yumminess and what follows is my favorite. For now.  It’s a forgiving recipe though, so feel free to nip and tuck to suit yourself.

Like all simple recipes, the deliciousness is proportionate to the quality of the ingredients.  The number one most important step is this: start with great eggs. 

I am a believer in the power of the farm fresh, pastured egg. Of course, I’m lucky because my neighbor keeps a big flock of free ranging hens and is a generous sharer. Kind of like healthy mother culture, he gives me three dozen eggs, I return a pint of pickled eggs and my emptied egg cartons and the circle of life continues.  Don’t have a chicken-farming friend? You can find one here.

Since your whole reason for this glut of hard-boiled eggs is probably for the fun of dying the eggs with your kids, you should know it is not necessary to buy white eggs to make pretty dyed eggs. The brown shells will dye to softer shades, although yellows may be a little disappointing. Since most farm-fresh eggs are brown, this is a public service announcement designed to save you from the white battery hen eggs in the supermarket.

Once you have your awesome eggs, please pay extra special attention to the process of hard boiling the eggs. With a little extra care, your pickled eggs will be radiantly beautiful. Like pure sunshine, really.

Neglecting your eggs will create that icky green ring around the outside of the yolk which is a real downer for me.   Of course it makes no difference in the taste, and I’ll still gobble them up, but a beautiful ring-free yolk makes me really happy.

The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs:

You may or may not know that freshly laid hard-boiled eggs are difficult to peel. They are – I kid you not. Try to store the eggs in the refrigerator for at least a week before boiling.  If you find that eggs you have already boiled just won’t peel nicely, store the cooked eggs in the refrigerator for a few days and they should become easier to peel.

Or, you may try steaming instead of boiling – this quickie from the always entertaining and informative Alton Brown brings up a few good pointers.  Note: Alton Brown is referring to store-bought eggs, so his advice about the freshness of the eggs is a little off for laid-today eggs from the farm. His tip about centering the yolks is right-on and one I learned the hard way.

I don’t steam my eggs because I really don’t have a good steamer, and I’m about to do three dozen, not four.  So, this is how I do it:

  1. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator for about an hour before starting.  To center the yolks, secure carton lids (a rubber band works well) and place the cartons on their sides. Otherwise, yolks may be too near the egg wall, causing you to break them when you peel the egg – not so good for pickled eggs, but no problem for egg salad.
  2. Use as many large pots as necessary to place eggs in a single layer and cover by at least an inch or two of cold water. Starting with cold water and bringing the eggs to a boil gently will help avoid shocking the eggs into cracking.
  3. I add a teaspoon of white vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt to each pot.
  4. On high heat, bring to a boil and as soon as your water boils, cover pot and turn off the heat. (I have an electric stove. If you have gas, once the water reaches a boil, remove pot from flame. Turn down to low, return pot to burner and simmer for one minute.
  5. After the minute, remove from burner, cover and let sit for 12 minutes.
  6. While the eggs are resting, prepare an ice water bath large enough to accommodate all your eggs at once. You can use a large bowl, pot or even the sink if necessary.
  7. Remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and submerge in the ice bath to cool.

Peeling your eggs:

  1. Allow your eggs plenty of time to cool.
  2. Set up a bowl of clean, cold water and a container or bowl to store your peeled eggs
  3. I start by gently cracking the egg all over and starting at the wide end. If you’re lucky, the shell will gently peel away from the egg, leaving a smooth shiny surface. Rinse in the water & place in the storage container. Repeat.
  4. If you’re not lucky, the shell will cling to the egg and tear the flesh of the egg leaving a knobby messy looking egg. Still tastes good, but not quite so beautiful. If this is the case, after creating the opening, dip into the water as needed to keep everything moist & slippery. Try sliding a spoon gently under the shell and carefully lifting the shell away from the egg.  Be patient and gentle and you should be successful.
  5. Occasionally, your best efforts will fail. Try tucking the cooked eggs back into the fridge for a few more days and you should have better luck. Or, if you just want to eat the eggs and can live with their funky look, do your best and soldier on.

Pickling your eggs:

I’ve tried lots of different recipes and this is my favorite for both flavor and ease.  I am a huge fan of the pickled vegetables you get in restaurants in Mexico so like to add some carrots, chiles and garlic to my eggs. The pickled carrots are a tender-crisp treat and a colorful addition to whatever I end up making with the pickled eggs.

Click here for a printable recipe

Storing your eggs safely:

I am the first to admit I may be a little too fearless when it comes to food safety. I have been making pickled eggs for some time and had been storing them on a shelf in my basement.   But apparently the National Center for Home Preservation doesn’t share my confidence in non-refrigerated storage. If you’re new to preserving, check out their website and this page on pickled eggs – it’s an invaluable free resource.

Eating your pickled eggs & carrots:

xPickled Egg Sandwichxxxpaired with Green Beansxxand vinaigrette slaw

My favorite ways to eat pickled eggs:

  • Pickled Egg Sandwich: slather a slice of good, toasted white bread with mayonnaise (gold stars for homemade bread AND mayo), slice a pickled egg on top, toss a few of the carrots & chile on top and season with a good grind of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Sliced or crumbled over salads & grains: any green salad can benefit from some nice slices of pickled egg. Or, crumble some pickled egg on top of rice,  pasta or cooked vegetable dishes.
  • Egg salad:  try making your favorite egg salad dish with pickled eggs instead of plain hard-cooked for a zingy change
  • Topper: Chopped pickled egg on top of potato, tuna or chicken salads, veggie dishes and dips
  • Sandwich topper: Slice a pickled egg onto a meat sandwich. Really kick it up a notch and top it all with crunchy vinaigrette slaw.

All Right-ey. Now that you know you can cook your eggs all at once and store them ready to eat for months, there’s no reason to hold back!  Dye all the eggs you want and enjoy this handy way to amp up the flavor and protein content of your meals.

What’s your favorite way to eat pickled eggs?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

in which we lament: don’t hate us because we’re (not) beautiful!

in which we lament: don’t hate us because we’re (not) beautiful!

A continuation of my series about  foraging at the farm and what I’ve done with my bounty.  Haw berries first, today the apples and you’ll have to stay tuned for the black walnuts. Includes links to the recipes.

Apples from  one of my favorite trees – crisp, tart and spicy.  But, wild as can be, not so waxed and polished.

Face it, we Americans are harsh when it comes to our demand for physical perfection.

Oh sure,  we all know the do-good-character-building salvos like “Beauty is skin deep”, and “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but we all know too it’s not really that simple.

We also know we should not be blinded by mere physical beauty and should instead value those precious inner beauties which are more rare. Of course knowing that doesn’t mean we don’t all lose our hearts and good sense to selfish, cruel yet beautiful loves who use us callously before tossing us aside from time to time.

I have to also, in a fit of indecision contradiction, acknowledge the kernel of truth in this one from Ralph Waldo Emerson; “Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.”

Who among us doesn’t have a single physical blemish? My knobby little apples are juicy with inner beauty…

Who among us doesn’t have a single physical blemish? Come on, admit it’s true! But no matter, I’m not talking about love today; I’ve got apples on my mind. My apples are blessed with more than a few wormholes and scabs but the Ladies and I don’t mind. Our apples are juicy with inner beauty.

I love what Terra Brockman has to say about imperfect peaches in The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm:

“I confess that I have a soft spot for soft spots. Just as they reveal genuine, sensitive human beings, they are a reliable way of showing that a fruit has not been sprayed with poisons, and that it is at its peak of ripeness, of flavor and nutrition, of juiciness and pleasure. The quest for cosmetically perfect fruit has resulted in the loss of vibrant tastes – the sharpness and depths that make great fruit great. Fruits in the supermarket are glossy and perfect on the outside, but insipid on the inside – watery, at best, and permeated with the stale taste of long-refrigerated storage, at worst.”

I’ve enjoyed sampling apples from all over our new pastures and am thrilled with the diversity and flavors. It will take a long time before I am able to identify the varieties, but I already know where to find my favorites.

Because these apples have grown wild and unappreciated by anyone with fewer than 4 legs for a long time, they are as organic as apples can be. Which means they are not beautiful in our modern retail-jaded eyes.

But, they are beautiful to me. And to the Ladies (and Men – yes, you’re right; they don’t get enough mention around here).

I was determined that my spiced apples would be rings. And so they are…

To make the most festive use of the apples I harvested from my favorite little tree, I made a holiday relish tray favorite of mine, spiced apple rings. I love spiced apple rings but have never had any other than the commercial ones. And sometimes, they’re hard to find.  And forget local and organic.

I adapted my recipe from the Apple Wedges in Cinnamon Red Hot Syrup in the cheap and ever-useful Ball Blue Book of Preserving. Of course, I made some changes to sass it up a bit and make it more versatile, but I guess the name gives away the secret weapon – cinnamon red hots.  Have I mentioned how much I love cinnamon red hots?

The not-so secret weapon – Cinnamon Red Hots. You wouldn’t guess it eating the finished spiced apples, but your spiced apple rings wouldn’t be the same without them…. have I mentioned how much I LOVE cinnamon red hots?

I’ve been eating these spiced rings all week with cheddar cheese & grainy mustard, in risotto, on chicken and even chopped some with celery, garlic and onion in a relish (I’m more than a little excited about that relish).

I’m not tired of them yet and I’m not really an apple-y sort.  The recipe calls for peeled apple wedges, but I was determined that mine would be rings. With the skin on. And so they are.  Click here for a link to the full recipe.

I’m beaming with motherly pride over my knobby little apples all dressed up – you wouldn’t let a scab or knob here or there scare you away from some tasty, nourishing, spicy-syrupy red fruit would you?

Bling wants me to tell you that  the apple situation is getting desperate here.  She’s hoping maybe you’ll send her some.  They have mostly been eaten, are rotten or are high up in the trees beyond grasping tongues and tree shaking farmers.  There’s begging, hiding, running, fighting and growling (I didn’t know cows would growl – it’s really something to see) over the last of the apples.  Not pretty and sometimes a little scary if you find yourself standing between two cows holding one apple…

 

What’s your secret apple-enhancing weapon?

In which we trot out that old chestnut (jam) once again…

In which we trot out that old chestnut (jam) once again…

 

Sometimes Nature wraps her treasures in tricky packaging.  Wrapped like this,  she must think pretty highly of chestnuts…

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One thing I’m accepting as I learn more about turn of the century food ways is that I can’t expect to whiz in at the last minute, open a can of this and a jar of that and whip up a throwback masterpiece.

Well, not fully true; if I have the foresight to plan ahead and make sure the cans and jars have been put up well in advance, the last-minute slam dunk is still possible. That’s why I’m doing my farm-ly duty by reminding you that September is winding down, October means Halloween is just a few short weeks away and Thanksgiving is hot on its heels.

I say that not to make you hyperventilate in a state of overwhelm, but to inspire you to deliberately avoid said state of overwhelm and plan to enjoy a slower, more purposeful holiday season.

There’s no denying it; the leaves are beginning to turn and that unmistakable spicy smell of fall is in the air. In our area, it’s time for apples, crab apples, black walnuts, hickory nuts, grapes and chestnuts. All exciting and good, but it’s the chestnuts that are on my mind today.

Soon enough, the smell of roasting chestnuts will be teasing from city streets, those glossy nuts in their prickly coats will hit the ground and squirrels will be in a tail flicking frenzy of gathering and burying. Visions of varnished turkeys bursting with chestnut stuffing will be served in magazines across the land. But, did you know that the chestnuts you’ll be eating this holiday will not be from the mighty American Chestnut trees once so abundant, but instead from Oriental or European varieties and hybrids?

The Venerable American Chestnut today….

Today, we consider the Oak to be the outstanding example of great North American trees, but the American Chestnut once was mightier. Before 1904, when a horrible air-borne blight arrived from the Orient in a shipment of plants, the American chestnut was treasured for both its excellent hardwood timber and nut production.

These valuable trees grew huge and wild and made up nearly half of the national forests between Maine and Georgia. In addition, there were also large commercial chestnut orchards dedicated to growing highly valued “tree corn”. Sadly, after the arrival of the infested Oriental plants, the defenseless American chestnuts all died with devastating effect to already strapped Appalachian homesteaders. They were reliant on the chestnut’s starchy sustenance; chestnuts make a good flour, are excellent roasted and make yummy candy and sweets.

Last year, I took on the chestnut challenge. And yes, it is a challenge. Sometimes Nature wraps her treasures in tricky packaging and all I can say is that chestnuts must be pretty valuable to Her. Of course, my chestnuts were the free kind, gathered from a friend’s yard. I have aspirations for Marrons Glace (fancy for candied chestnuts) this year and will confess to thinking springing for these already peeled babies from Chestnut Growers, Inc. is a pretty fine idea.

Chestnut Jam is an impressive, unique and deliciously sweet spread. While it is very good served simply on crusty bread, I enjoyed it most combined with a tiny bit of chocolate in dessert-y ways like over vanilla ice cream (with fudge sauce), as filling for tarts, chocolate cake or on meringue topped with whipped cream. This recipe is once again from one of my favorites, Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No 2.; Pam Corbin’s contribution to the excellent River Cottage Handbooks series. Have I mentioned how much I love Pam Corbin? I don’t actually know Pam but all the same….

The printable recipe is here in our archives.

And so, such is the sad tale of the once grand American Chestnut. A very real example of the results of our human need to rearrange the universe’s furniture, not being satisfied until we eventually jam up the works. If you’d like to learn more, this is a surprisingly enjoyable read by Susan Freinkel: American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree.

And to give due respect to the deceased, why not make this the fall you show the chestnuts the love they deserve? I promise, once you’ve got a chestnut habit, there’s no going back…

Curiously addictive and unique: Chestnut Jam

 

Update: A couple of you have expressed concern about the photo of the “chestnut” at the top. It is clip art, and since I do not have chestnut trees I was not sensitive to the nuances of look-alikes. Renee’s comment ‘splains it best:

“I just wanted point out that the first chesnut pictured is actually a Horse Chestnut, and it is toxic. You can tell because the pod is not hairy/prickly. They have a terrible bitterness about them, but they taste fine for the first 30 seconds of chewing…that’s the dangerous part, by the time they taste toxic, most people have already swallowed some. If swallowed, one will not die, but they will experience some pretty painful GI distress and vomiting.”

Okay friends, be sure to practice safe chestnut, K?

In which it’s so quirky it has to be great

In which it’s so quirky it has to be great

Pickled home-grown concord grapes!

I don’t know about you, but I have to give that Molly Wizenberg a big ball of credit for her ability to make me feel like what I’m about to share with you is something a friend told me at lunch instead of something I just read in a book.

Her blog Orangette is a warm and funny favorite and never fails to turn me on to something funky and fresh that I had either forgotten to look into or had never heard of at all. And, she links it all up so nicely, I don’t have to do a thing to get right to the good stuff.

A HomeMade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Molly’s book  A HomeMade Life  was one of my favorite reads this summer.  In the book, Molly tells the story of the pickles she and her husband made for their wedding and shares the recipes. All the pickles sound pretty great, but pickled grapes? That one had my full attention.

You really should read the book, but if you can’t wait that long, the printable recipe and a link to an excerpt from Molly’s book is here in our recipe archive.

I was pretty amused by Molly’s husband Brandon’s vinegar habit and charmed by the special and personal touch the pickles added to their wedding. I mean the man has 30 different kinds of vinegar! I don’t have 30 different kinds of anything except cows.

The great thing about pickle recipes is that they are forgiving as long as you don’t mess with the acidity. I followed the recipe as best I could without having the luxury of 30 different vinegar options and having to make do with a faded old jar of mustard seed left over from some pre-loaded decorative spice rack my mother got as a gift about 20 years ago.

My grapes still have their seeds - next time I'll definitely take the time to cut the navel and remove the seeds. For this batch, you have two choices; swallow or spit.

My grapes were home-grown Pennsylvania Concords gleaned from a friend’s yard. The flavor of the grapes was pretty exciting and rich – but the skins are a bit more rubbery than supermarket grapes which I actually think added a little extra oomph. It was my first time tasting home-grown grapes like this and I admit I was a little excited. You won’t find grapes with rich Concord-y flavor like these at your supermarket.

Following the recipe, it would have been going the extra mile to seed them and cut the navel out as Molly does, but going the extra mile last night would have meant never starting the first one, especially since my grapes have seeds. So, when you try my grapes, you have two choices: swallow or spit. I’m glad I threw perfection out the window and was extremely satisfied with good enough. Having never made them, I wasn’t sure they warranted the effort of all that seeding and navelling prep work. Next time, I’ll do it happily; they’re absolutely worth it. These grapes have officially been added to my list of pantry must haves. Now I just have to figure out how to grow my own Pennsylvania grapes, preferably the seedless kind.

Now that these pickles have my full attention, I’m inspired to assemble the perfect bite. They paired well with last night’s chicken and are addictive with a thin slice of crystal-ly aged cheese like Parmesan Reggiano or super sharp cheddar. These grapes could bump a sandwich into a whole new galaxy.

But most fascinating so far has been pairing my pickled grapes with deep, dark, rich and heavy chocolate things like flourless chocolate cake, ganache, dark chocolate fudge, that sort of thing.  How do I know this??

Purely by accident, my spoon happened to brush against dark chocolate frosting before dipping into my grapes. The mixture of the dense, fudgy frosting and the vinegary, grapey liquid was really pretty amazing. Where I’m headed with this I have no idea. Truffles? Double chocolate individual flourless cakes served on a puddle of pickled grape juice?  Homemade dark chocolate cordials with a pickled grape and plenty of  juicy goop inside? Or maybe just a spoonful of said chocolate frosting out of the fridge with a pickled grape perched on top and drizzled with plenty of juice…..

Pr-ETTY addictive. How would you eat a pickled grape?

In which we stockpile Hope

In which we stockpile Hope

Organic tomatoes straight from the backyard. What to make to preserve their summery essence to enjoy this winter?

I’m in over my head, I admit it. Those old school farm wives; how did they get it all done? I suppose it helps to be free of distraction from Blackberries (I don’t mean the tasty kind), cable and high-speed internet and maybe having a workforce of hard-working children helped a little too.

Anyway, being the farmer and the wife may just be more than I can handle. Something’s got to give… and so it will. For this year, it will have to be preserves. I just don’t have time for the many consuming preserving projects I managed last year.  Instead, I’ve got fences to build, pastures to clear, trees to remove and roofs to mend. Next year we’ll be back in the preserving saddle with produce harvested from our own land – very exciting.

But today a welcome rainy Sunday gave me the perfect excuse to catch up with the guilt-inducing tomato stockpile on my porch. Since fancy extras like ketchup and sauce are out, I have to be really selective and spend my time making the one tomato-y thing that will make me the happiest. What might that be?? I’m a girl who likes possibilities, so picking just one of anything is a painful prospect.

So, I think back to the darkest days of frigid winter and try to remember what quick, simple home-grown tomato dish gave me the greatest surge of Hope when I really needed it.

A fresh batch of Hope draining away

Hope  with a capital H that soon enough the dark, frozen nights will turn gentle, soft and dewy and my porch will once again be filled with buckets of tomatoes, still warm from the garden.

Well, that kind of thinking made my decision easy; so easy in fact, no decision-making was necessary.   So, here it is, my recipe for Hope.

Before beginning, I’d like to make this one plea: Resist the urge to chef this one up until you’ve made it once exactly as it is. Yes, it’s a VERY simple, plain recipe, but therein lies the charm. The simplicity allows the special summertime quality of the tomatoes to shine which is exactly why I love it so much. Oh, and this sauce is beautiful with fresh mozzarella…

After rinsing and weighing the tomatoes, cut an x in the bottom of each with a sharp knife and toss into a pot of boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins.

With a slotted spoon, fish tomatoes out of boiling water and drop into cold water. You don’t want to cook the tomatoes, just loosen the skin.

The split skins will peel right away – then toss into your food mill. I use a Roma and run the tomatoes through two or three times to extract every last drop… If you don’t have a food mill, just do your best to skin, seed and chop as finely as you can. The texture won’t be exactly the same, but don’t let that stop you – it’s still going to be awesome.

The tomatoes after processing. Add kosher salt and ladle into your cheesecloth lined colander.

Maybe you’re not like me with large pieces of cheesecloth lying around. Not to worry, you can use a simple cotton dish towel or pillow case but be prepared for it to be forever stained. I toss my clean cheesecloth into the boiling water for a few minutes before using. Line a colander with the cheesecloth and you’re ready to pour in your tomato mixture. Place the colander over a large bowl or bucket and drain for at least a couple of hours or overnight.

The finished sauce. I freeze this in one cup portions in small freezer bags to use all winter. Thaw it in the bag and gently spoon over cooked pasta tossed with olive oil or butter. If you must heat the sauce, simply warm a little olive oil in a sauce pan and stir in the sauce until just warmed.

Home made pasta, uncooked fresh tomato sauce frozen from last summer’s harvest and some good quality parmesan or pecorino – perfection in its simplicity!

This recipe makes four servings to be eaten right away but is also very simple to repeat as many times as you like ( I just figure out how many pounds of tomatoes I have and work it backwards), throw the milled batches together into one large colander, drain over a large bucket then freeze the concentrated sauce in single serving portions.

I  store one cup portions in freezer bags. This size will feed the two of us dinner with plenty of  leftovers for the next few days.  Looking at the chicken scratch I wrote on my recipe, apparently I used 24 pounds of tomatoes last year and today I know it was not nearly enough. A word of warning: a little of this sauce goes a long way. I use 2 or 3 Tablespoons to dress a serving of pasta. Really.

Because you are straining away most of the water, the volume will be greatly reduced.  I started with a nearly full 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, and ended up with about 5 cups of sauce. This will vary based on the water content of the tomatoes and the amount of time you leave them drain.

Tomato water, tomato essence, plasma – it’s all in the name. This tasty cast off from our sauce is a treasure too!

What a treat to whip a container of this out of the freezer for a quick, fresh pasta, pizza or bruschetta that tastes like the tomatoes were literally just picked warm from the summer sun. The only thing that can improve it is home-made pasta and a really good Parmesan or pecorino.  Eating a steaming bowl while looking at a foot of snow on the ground outside is guaranteed to give you the encouragement you need to make it through ’till next tomato season, I promise!

When you’ve finished making this sauce, especially if you made a bunch for freezing, you’ll have lots of nutritious tomato essence (the water left after straining the tomato solids for the sauce) left.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know it’s a thrill for me when the throwaway from one dish can advance to star in another.  For example I’m currently smitten with the idea of heirloom tomatoes suspended in tomato water essence from Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand. My relationship with this dish is limited to the mind opening, jaw dropping awe I felt just reading about it in black and white and then, a couple of weeks later the total crush I have on this post with full color photo from Jake when he made it for his inspiring and entertaining blog, Leave Me the Oink.

Jake from Leave Me the Oink made these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes suspended in tomato water aspic – WOW!  Tell me you’re not impressed! 

How often will you have all this fresh tomato essence just lying around begging to become an epic dish like Jake’s aspic? Come on, you can do it!  Ok, I admit the aspic may be a little ambitious.  How about one of these easier but still great summery uses from Sue Veed at SeriousEats.com then?

* As a base for Bloody Marys

* As an added flavoring for beer or vodka

* As a base for gazpacho or cocktail sauce

* As a poaching liquid for shrimp, calamari or lobster

* As a dressing for fresh oysters

* As a marinade for white fish

* As a vinaigrette mix-in

* As a rice seasoner

* Chilled and over ice, with basil

Or, simply use it in place of any liquid next time you make stock, bread, rice, bulgur, barley or risotto. These are kitchen basics you know you’re going to do anyway, so why not add a little free oomph? But, whatever you do, please, please don’t let me find out you poured all that great home-grown organic tomato water down the drain!

An icy glass of tomato essence…. yummy and refreshing straight up, and so many great uses in coctails…