Archive | June, 2011

Preserving Summer Tomatoes

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One of my favorite things about summer are juicy, sweet perfectly ripe tomatoes straight from the farm.  I love to eat them sliced, sprinkled with just a bit of salt. I take great joy in making the first caprese salad of the season, whipping up a batch of gazpacho and creating countless dishes that bring out the best of these summer treasures.

Maybe it’s a bit greedy, but I want to capture that taste of summer and be able to savor that freshness all year round.  Several of the local farms are currently offering tomato specials.  You can buy large boxes of tomatoes for a discounted price.  I recently bought a 20 lb box of Valley Girl tomatoes from Johnson’s Backyard Garden and they were kind enough to also give me a 10 lb box of heirloom tomatoes because of the work we do together throughout the year.

As I stared at my 30 lbs of tomatoes, I quickly realized I needed a strategy for managing these beauties. I have very limited pantry space, but plenty of freezer space, and opted for freezing my tomatoes to save them.  I put some of my fresh tomatoes through the food mill, making a puree, and froze them in plastic bags.  I also froze a batch of tomato sauce, seasoned with garlic, basil and oregano.  Finally, at the suggestion of Suzanne Santos market director for the Sustainable Food Center, I froze some tomatoes whole.  Suzanne suggest this method so that you can then thaw and cook them using whatever method you prefer on that day.

Canning is another option for saving those precious tomatoes.  My grandmother and great aunts canned regularly, but this skill was somewhat lost on my parents’ generation who could easily buy canned tomatoes at the store. But, oh, those tomatoes are not the same.    I’m committed to learning how to can this summer (I have a larger pantry in my near future) so that I can preserve my favorite produce to enjoy all year round.  I’m going to use the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking for my challenge, but if you’d prefer to learn in a class room environment, Johnson’s Backyard Garden is offering a tomato workshop this Sunday, June 26th with Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due who will teach how to can and preserve tomatoes.  For $30, you get 10 lbs of tomatoes, recipes and instruction o how to safely can tomatoes at home. (Details below.)

What are your favorite recipes featuring tomatoes?  Are you preserving any and, if so, how?

Johnson’s Backyard Garden Tomato Workshop
Sunday, June 26th 10:00am – 12:00pm
JBG River Rd Farm. Cedar Creek, Texas

The Tomato Workshop will focus on canning:
  • Prepping tomatoes for canning
  • Discussion of which types of tomatoes are best for canning
  • Canning safety and basics
  • Equipment for home canning
  • Recipes and demonstration for tomato sauce (with garlic, oregano and basil), charred tomato salsa (with jalapeno and lime) and ketchup

10 pounds of tomatoes, tomato tasting and recipes
Class is size is limited.
$30 per person.

Click here to reserve a seat in the workshop.

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Celebrating summer’s bounty with a pin, a pie and a monumental market

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Summer is in full swing and there are plenty of ways for you to celebrate the bounty of the season.  Many of the farmers markets are hosting special events and this is the perfect time to get out there and buy some local produce.   I bought a 25 lb box of tomatoes at last week’s market as part of Johnson’s Backyard Garden tomato sale.  Expect to see a slew of tomato posts in the near future.

When I checked in at the market on Saturday using the Gowalla app, I was delighted to see that I had earned the “Eating Fresh for Save the Children” pin.  I don’t usually pay much attention to the pins, but this one is special.  Frigidaire is donating $1 to Save the Children for each day you share details about your local farmer’s market or check in at a farmers market between 6/9/11 and 9/20/11.  How cool is that?  You are also entered for a chance to win a French Door Refrigerator from Frigidaire.  If you are a Gowalla user, please remember to check in when you visit the farmers markets through the summer.  Your effort will go a long way to helping Save the Children expand their nutrition programs.

And, when you come to the market, don’t forget to bring a little pie with you.  Dai Due at the SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market is hosting a Summer Pie Contest.  Bring a slice of your pie (made with Dai Due lard and locally grown fruit) to their booth for judging by the Dai Due staff between Saturday, June 11th and Saturday, July 2nd. The best slice of pie will win a case of lard (12 jars), a Dai Due apron and a big shout out in the newsletter. Please submit your name, contact information, pie type (i.e. peach), date and pie (big slice please) at the booth. Winner will be announced on the Tuesday, July 5th mailout!  (Yes, this is probably a ploy for the Dai Due team to get to eat more pie, but they are nice people so who cares.)

To round out the local fun this weekend, Monument Market, the new all Texas market companion by the Monument Cafe team, is hosting an Open House on Saturday, June 18th, from 1:00-6:00 pm.  I had a chance to tour the market last week and it is a terrific place to stock up on local produce, meats, fish, dairy and dry goods and is open seven days a week.   On Saturday, you’ll have a chance to meet the farmers who supply the store and take a tour of the store and gardens.  I was very impressed with all the effort they have put into the project. The market is open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm daily and is located at 500 S. Austin Ave. Georgetown TX.

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