Life in the Garden Part 33: Preserving the harvest

So far I've been eating tomatoes straight off my plants, or harvesting just enough to tightly pack a ziploc bag. Suddenly mass quantities finished ripening this weekend, and I had to do a mass harvest. I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but if I left them on the plants any longer they were just going to rot.

I figured I'd get 50 or so tomatoes. I was not prepared for this:

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A pot, a box, and a bowl of tomatoes. I spread them out so they wouldn't crush each other and to let the gasses escape.

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That's what 390 tomatoes looks like. Yes, I counted them.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around those quantities. Nearly 400 of them. I figured I would get 150 for the whole season if I got lucky. Not 400 at once.

On top of that, I threw out 75-100 additional tomatoes because they were going bad on the vines and tended to explode if touched too roughly. Or spoken about too snarkily.

And there's probably another 200 on the vines getting ready for harvest.

So I've been eating a lot of tomatoes and have the pulp stained laundry to prove it.

Each time I walk past the kitchen, I grab one, bite off a small piece to get to the pulp, add salt, and eat it over the sink, so the tomato juice and seeds have someplace to go once they ricochet off my shirt. Then I go change my shirt and the cycle starts all over again.

Since I own only so many shirts, I needed to come up with another solution. I brought out my canning/preserving books. This makes the GF nervous because I am again encroaching on her kitchen realm. And that's how I roped her into this process.

She came up with Alton Brown's Tomato Sauce recipe, and we got to work. We made a 3x or 4x quantity of the recipe, and spent over an hour splitting and seeding tomatoes. She prepped the herbs and related products and once we'd filled all the available baking dishes, we had this:

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Here's a closer look (my new wallpaper, BTW):

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And here is an underexposed image of the same dish, corrected by the "Auto Adjust" button in Windows Photo Gallery. The picture was nearly black before I did this, but I really like how the effect came out.

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All those dishes went in the oven. I was supposed to leave them there for about 2 hours, but based on the comments people made about the recipe, I checked on them a couple times and pulled them at about 1:45. I probably should have pulled them at about 1:35. Some at the edges were starting to burn, but I got it before it became a problem.

I ran the tomatoes through a food mill, added a couple cups of Viognier, cooked them for five more minutes on the stove and tasted. There was a little bitterness and the wine was just short of overpowering. The GF suggested a teaspoon of salt sugar and half a can of chicken stock (sorry, it's no longer vegetarian) and now it tastes great. I have the containers labeled and in the freezer, waiting for that cold, wet, winter weekend when a garden reminder will make all the difference in the world.

For all that time and effort, I must have gallons of sauce, right? Yeah. It doesn't quite work like that. It all cooked down pretty far.

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That's about 3.8 pints.

I still have a bunch of tomatoes left. The GF took a lot to work, and now I am apparently, the most awesome guy her coworkers have never met. I'm eating a lot of tomatoes with salt, planning some neat sandwiches, and looking forward to my next tomato project over the weekend.

And while I do get overwhelmed at times with the volume of fruit, I remain grateful for this fantastic harvest.


Unknown said...

That is one large pile of tomatoes. My mouth waters as I write this...


Moms Musings said...

It's amazing, all that from a rooftop garden. Imagine what you would get from a few acres.

THE GUYS said...

Great idea. Tomatoes have been out of control this year!


Mike said...

Nice harvest... Thanks for sharing and by the way what is GF - grumpy female?

The GF said...

I'm thankful for the harvest too, even when I complain about standing there for over an hour slicing and seeding tomatoes. How lucky we are that everything in the garden produced so much for us to enjoy!

I was LOL btw at the thought of tomato juice and seeds ricocheting off your shirt. I'm sure most of it gets to the sink, but I bet it's time to mop the floor again. ;)

One minor correction: You added a teaspoon of sugar at the end, not salt, to cut the bitterness a little.

Clara said...

That's a lot of tomatoes! And the sauce looks very good. Your GF is lucky to have you.

brokenteepee said...

If you can and have zucchini....you can put some olive oil in a pan add some garlic and onions. Roughly chop the tomatoes and zucchini and add them to the pan. Cook 'til the zucchini are just soft. Add to hot pint or quart jars and pressure can.

Are you above 3000ft? If you really care to do this I can give you times and pressures. Or you can just cook up this sauce it is really tasty. I can about 24 quarts of it a year and we love it.

zizzybob said...

Time to invest in a seal a meal and extra freezer.

tx sweetie said...

veryyyyyyyy pretyy tomatoes! wow you are lucky!

The Fitness Diva said...

That's actually pretty damned amazing, all of it!
Enjoy your sauce! ;)

One Creative Queen said...

That, my dear, is a honkin' bunch of tomatoes. I don't think I've ever seen so many tomatoes at once - even at the grocery store. Wow!

Now I wish I had planted tomatoes. I don't need 390 of them at once - but now I'm craving tomatoes. Homegrown, yummy, taste-different-than-grocery-store tomatoes. That sounds so good. I'm jealous.

It's good you found something to do with that many tomatoes. Most people would have just pretended they lived in Spain and had their own Tomato Throwing Festival. (What a waste of such a good fruit!)

Hitesh Rawat said...

man....which part of the world do you live in.......so much of tomato's.....???

and greatly managed........

woo hoo......\,,,/

Blueberry Junkie said...

Wow...so many tomatoes. I just harvested some of mine...but nothing like this.
There is nothing like tomatoes fresh from your own garden.