tomato harvesting + preserving + cooking, without a kitchen

For us, Labor Day was exactly what the holiday sounds like:  a day of actual labor and hard work.  I hope yours was much more relaxing; although, working hard is rewarding and satisfying in its own rite.  Today’s post might contain a lot more photos than usual, but posting them gives proof that gardening, harvesting, preserving, and cooking, again, is not dependent upon yard space or kitchen space.  Even though we are still existing without a finished kitchen, the garden continues to proliferate and demand our daily attention.  It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, challenging harvest season, but we’ve made it work…

Freezing Tomatoes:

  1. Select ripe, unblemished tomatoes.
  2. Thoroughly wash and remove stems and any bruised spots.
  3. Place tomatoes in the blender.  If tomatoes are large, slice in half for ease in the blender.  Blend away.
  4. Measure and pour the tomato mixture into freezer bags.  I measure out two cups per bag, so I can know exact amounts for a recipe.
  5. Remove the air from the bag {I use a straw here – #ghettostyle}, label with a Sharpie marker, and lay flat, horizontally in the freezer.  Once the bags have frozen, you can stand them up vertically, like a “filing system” in the freezer.

Tips for Freezing Tomatoes:

  • Freezing is fast and requires very little equipment – basically, a blender, a knife, freezer bags, and a Sharpie.
  • Preserving, in this method, keeps your kitchen heat-free, a bonus in the summer.
  • Use the thawed, puréed tomatoes in stews, soups, or sauces.  Don’t try substituting puréed, formerly frozen tomatoes, for a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes, or else you’ll end up with mushy tomatoes.  Gross.
  • Try to use the frozen, puréed tomatoes within four to six months, for optimal flavor.  If you are ever in doubt that something in your freezer or pantry has expired, check out StillTasty, a great resource for determining the shelf lives of many foods.
  • Instead of taking the time to de-seed and de-skin beforehand, we choose to purée and freeze the entire tomato. The gel surrounding the seeds actually imparts more flavor than the flesh of the tomato.  The skins impart even more anti-oxidant properties.  Why limit your taste and your nutritional impact?  Read more about retaining the seeds and skins of the tomato here, via the Kitchn.

For today’s post, I am reflecting on the cue, suggested by You Grow Girl‘s “Grow-Write-Guild-Prompt-Eleven.”  I am joining the party a little over ten posts too late, but I am still on board with their concept of writing about your garden, capturing what is happening right now, and sharing mishaps, successes, recipes, and must-to-dos, along the way.

What was happening last year both in the garden and in the kitchen?  Well, like this summer, the tomatoes were pumping, and I had a kitchen, for one…  Without the ability to seriously can, this year, I am relegated to quick-pickling and freezing most of my produce.  I am almost ready to purchase another freezer; room is running out.  Black Krims always do well, but I have noticed that my early fertilizing has hindered my tomatoes’ fruit output later in the season.  I have learned, this year, to fertilize after the initial flowers have shown, and to prune large, unnecessary leaves, so that the plant can direct its energy to producing quality, limited tomatoes.  The key is to concentrate the plant’s energy to the task it has at hand.  I have also learned to plant vegetables with different vegetables; in other words, no monocultures.  Why?  Fewer diseases, better plant cohabitation, more efficient water usage, and better quality fruit production.

Crisp, toasted bagels, with sliced Black Krim tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil…this is my most favorite summer decadency.

How have I best used my abundance of heirloom tomatoes in my garden this summer?  By simply cutting them off the vine, washing them, slicing them up, and serving them alongside a chiffonade of basil, some crumbled Avalanche goat cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil.  I serve this on top of toasted “everything” bagels, and they are a memorable capture of summer’s bounty.  So easy…

And after a brief argument on where to plant the cool season crops and whether or not to include tomato seeds in the pasta sauce, we took a break to enjoy a shot of whiskey and a “pickle-back.”  The rich, savory component of the whiskey is accentuated by the briny, sharp, acidic pickle brine.  You may have some pickling brine left over, if you made some “quickles” last week.  Make this decadent and unique treat; you won’t be under-stimulated.  You might possibly be disappointed {I doubt it}, but it won’t be boring…at the very least, try something new, for once!

Next step in the garden, that afternoon:  snipping ripe basil and parsley leaves, washing them, and placing them into the dehydrator.  This was Steve’s job today.  My job was to collect the appropriate lighting necessary to capture the herb’s verdant nature and the energy in the moment.

With respect to herbs:  pick appropriately, wash, spin, dry, store, and repeat.  I absolutely love my very cheaply purchased dehydrator from Bed Bath & Beyond.  I have two of these, and I want two more.

Freshly picked Japanese “fairy tale” eggplant, ready to be de-stemmed and washed.

Washing our vegetables outside in the stockpot. Despite our lack of running water, we are able to wash our produce and preserve it.

We take all of our leftover water that was used for washing, boiling, and cooking, and we use it to water our newly planted drought-tolerant grasses and vegetables. #reduce #reuse #recycle …in that order!

Carrot top greens, onion skins, spinach stalks, used as stock components.

Making stock on the back porch, using a crock pot.

Purple cabbage head forming…ready in a couple of weeks.

Multi-colored heirloom carrots, pulled from the ground today.

Half-ripe cantaloupe…ready in about two weeks. This was a “happy accident” that we planted. When the school’s community garden received donated plants, this was one of the “left-overs” or the “not-planted.” There is only one fruit on the vine. Planting will be worth it, even if this is the only melon harvested.

Heirlooms from the garden plot:  Brandywines, Black Krims, German Johnsons…
#tomatobag

Community-supported flowers: water, cultivate, and pick appropriately.

Cosmos, sunflower, dill, marigolds…

9 thoughts on “tomato harvesting + preserving + cooking, without a kitchen

  1. jayme marie Post author

    Thank you, Maria, for your comment… It has been an abundant summer in the garden, and we’re grateful for it. It has been a lot of hard work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am ready for fall and a little more peace! :-)

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  2. Aimee

    Hi Jayme. Is it possible for one to have a garden muse? If so, you are mine, officially. This blog is crazy great, girl!!! I will reference this often, as I have SO much to learn. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. jayme marie Post author

      Aimee, yes, only if you will be my fashion muse! Compliment taken, and compliment given! :-) …I have got to get out of my jeans and bandanas! I am envisioning a “fashionable gardening” line!

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  3. TheGirl

    In our garden the cucumbers grow fast, literally every other day we picked one, and we had a few red bell peppers, and now we’re waiting on the tomatoes ourselves. We waited all summer for the tomatoes and they look like they’re coming! Gardening can really be exciting and rewarding!

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  4. stevesteese

    Looking at these photos when there is snow on the ground right now almost makes me want to cry! I so love the late harvest season, and the light is always so beautiful! Great photos!

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