Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tomato Time

This Orb Weaver, aka Garden Spider, has set up shop
in the Sun Gold tomatoes. I work around her.
In spite of the heat, the tomatoes have overflowed my expectations. On Monday, I picked 58 pounds of tomatoes. That brings the total so far to 148 pounds of tomatoes.
Abraham Lincoln was the first red tomato to ripen, producing many small, orange-red fruit. Not "large" as the propaganda would have me believe, but the plants are very productive. The two plants have produced more than 32 pounds so far.

The next red to ripen was the early-season Black Krim. A poor producer during the past two or three years, it has redeemed itself, giving me 39 pounds so far from four plants. Black Krim fruit are prone to cracking, but the dry, hot weather (I presume) has kept most of them from rotting and allowed the cracks to seal when left on the vine.
Boxcar Willie made its debut in my garden this year. Unremarkable production, but pretty, uncracked fruit.

Amish Paste, in a return performance, shows its variability in size and shape. The major flush of ripened fruit is now appearing. On Monday I picked 33 pounds of this sauce tomato, compared to the mere 5 pounds I had harvested until then.
The long-season Brandywines, which are tops in flavor in my book, had yet to ripen when I shot this. On Monday, however, I picked several mostly ripe fruit, which should be ready to eat today or tomorrow.
The perfect, cherry-size Sun Golds are always the first to ripen and have never disappointed me. I give boxes of them away even when the other tomatoes are doing poorly. Even people who don't like tomatoes love these.
Just part of this year's canning.
So far I have canned nearly as many quarts of tomato sauce as I did in all of last year, and all of Monday's harvest (except for what I gave away) is still waiting to be processed.
Canning sauce isn't quite the chore it has been in the past. During a party last month, someone told me about roasting tomatoes. Core the tomatoes and cut off spots, then put them whole or halved in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Roast them in a 200-degree F oven overnight (I do it for 10 hours).
You can put garlic, olive oil and seasonings in at the start. But I roast them plain and put them in bowls in the refrigerator until I have enough to warrant firing up the canner. With the pace the tomatoes are turning, that is just a few days.
I put the cold tomatoes in a large pot, use that wonderful invention the stick blender (or you can use a food processor or other method) to puree the tomatoes, heat them to boiling, then put them in sterilized jars and process. I leave the peels on, but if you don't want the peels, they slip off easily after roasting.
This gives me a thicker sauce than cooking them down in a pot and I don't have to watch and stir a pot on the stove top for hours.
Clockwise from top: Boxcar Willie, Black Krim, Abraham Lincoln, Amish Paste
TASTE TEST: I started with Amish Paste. I have grown it for several years but had not yet assessed its raw flavor. It is sweet, with no tangy overtones, a little bland. However, the raw flavor asserts that it will be quite fine when condensed into sauce. Not a slicer, a saucer.
Next I tried Abraham Lincoln. Not as sweet as Amish Paste, but very "bright," sort of tangy but not tart. Classic tomato flavor. Just what you would expect from an orange-red tomato.
Then Boxcar Willie was on my fork. Also a classic tomato flavor, but not quite as "bright." A little deeper. I prefer this one to Abe Lincoln.
Black Krim was last. No tanginess in this tomato. Much subtler flavor, not quite the classic flavor of the orange red varieties. Still quite good, but I think I have to put Boxcar Willie at the head of my list today.


Andrea said...

Hi Sandra,those tomatoes sure look good and i love idea of the roasting/bottling sauce.I live on the otherside of the globe in central Victoria,Australia we are in the last weeks of winter but spring is upon us with almond trees in blossom and beautiful native wildflowers brightening the bushland around our farm. I to am a keen gardener and look forward to following your posts.Happy Gardening!!!

Sandra M. Siebert said...

Thanks for your comments, Andrea. In the midst of this intense heat wave we have had, the beginning of spring sounds just wonderful!