Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Deal with the Tomatoes--14 Plants, 2 Weeks

Well, I said I wanted tomatoes this year. I certainly got my wish! They've been coming in by the bucket-full. Not too shabby for the tiny little space they are growing in. Pictured above is the harvest from one morning! Here are our overgrown, gangly, but beautiful tomato kids:

9 plants here (Amish Paste, heirloom)

5 plants here (from left to right behind Rylee--1 early girl hybrid, 2 beefsteak hybrid, 2 mystery plants from neighbor)

The Amish Paste (purchased from Baker Creek Seeds) have produced beyond our wildest dreams. The variety of shapes that have come from them has been a little surprising...from slim, typical looking Roma tomatoes (what I expected) to huge red balloons that somewhat resemble Romas, to perfectly round, unRoma looking little guys. It's okay, we will take them all, no matter what shape or size. Roma-type tomatoes are the very best tomatoes for preserving, because they contain much more flesh than they do seeds or juice.

We have had three tomato processing sessions, one per week in the month of August. While I have all the stuff for canning, I just don't have the guts to set it all up yet. I feel confident that we would be able to, after last fall's applesauce and this summer's jam, but for now I just feel more comfortable with freezing. We have plenty of freezer space in the garage right now, so it works out well.

Following are the picture stories of our three separate tomato processing sessions! We are getting quite a stash for winter!

Note: The food mill you see in our saucing pictures is one of the best contraptions ever. We used it to make applesauce last fall. It is a magical little machine that screens all the seeds and skin off the fruit, leaving you with sauce. The kids LOVE turning the crank and watching the slurpy, squirty demise of the tomatoes! It is one of my favorite preservation tools at the moment, and though it set me back about 40.00, I won't be without one from now on.

Week one: Sauce

Squish!! I can't emphasize enough how enjoyable this food press is for little hands to operate!

Beautiful, fresh tomato sauce...yum

Bennet the Knight, with his conquest

Week two: Sauce

The always-goofy brother and sister pair, Rylee and Brady!

The leftover guts are spilling into our big white bowl. We send the guts through again, sometimes even yet again after that, to get all the juice we possibly can.

Maggie joined in, she could not resist

We simmered our juicy sauce down for quite some time, until it was reduced by half. We wanted a nice, thick sauce.

Can't forget to feed the leftover seeds and skin to the compost!

Week three: Diced and Whole

Since I've skinned tomatoes before, I had a plan this time. It's so much easier if everything is set up in order; your tomatoes, a boiling pot, a compost pot for the skins, a bowl of ice water, cutting board, and large bowl for newly skinned tomatoes. A knife and slotted spoon are essential.

Make an X with your knife on the bottom of the tomato.

Put into the boiling water. I am way too distracted to time it...but usually a minute or so will do. The skin will start to peel as it boils, usually.

Take the tomato from the boiling water, dunk it into ice water...

...and the skin will peel right off.

Rylee helped make this a very quick, efficient job! I HIGHLY recommend that two people work together on tomato peeling. It is much quicker and less messy if you both have designated jobs.

Some of the tomatoes we left whole, and some we diced.

Rylee assured me that her mother was ok with her using a knife!

Dividing our skinless tomatoes up; whole and diced.

Justin came to check out the fun!

We used a scale to get about 15 ounces in each freezer container; the size we use most in recipes.

Near the end, Rylee snuck a lot of bites. How awesome is it that she became famished for tomatoes while skinning and chopping them?!

I like to use scotch tape for a label, with one side folded over so it's easy to remove later.

We will be enjoying these all winter! AND, we still are being bombarded by tomatoes, so we will be freezing even more--maybe even filling the whole top section of the freezer!

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