The main haul of tomatoes from our garden at the cottage
Tomato harvest day at the cottage came on September 19. All summer we have taken what we needed as we needed it from the garden but with the passing of the halfway mark in September frost is a possibility and the determinate tomatoes are ripe and a couple are showing possible signs of blight. It has been easy to find delicious uses for the six to ten tomatoes we have gleaned over the past few weekends but this time I brought home about sixteen pounds of tomatoes. Roughly a third of this haul was not quite as ripe as I’d like so they’ve been wrapped in newspaper and stashed in a warm, dark room to ripen. The other two thirds needed to be preserved before they spoiled.
Last summer I made a simple tomato sauce with the extra garden tomatoes and froze it. This was a good sauce and it made for a meal in February (with some homemade pasta) that did an excellent job of reminding us of summer. The downside was that while we kept a large brick (about the size of medium-size cookbook) of tomato sauce in our freezer for months we only got to enjoy it with one meal. This year I wanted to find a way to spread the flavours of August over more time. Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand–a well-respected cookbook that along with the works of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Michael Ruhlman are often referenced on my favourite food blogs–has an extensive tomato section that includes a recipe for tomato conserva. It is tough to describe the difference between tomato paste and conserva–they can be used in much the same way to enrich tomato or meat dishes–except to say that they deserve their individual names. Tomato paste tastes like something that should be called “paste” while conserva earns its more exotic Italian name. (more…)
Canned applesauce with a pink hue that comes from cooking the apples with their skins
Anybody who has visited this space regularly over the past month knows that I like apples. I have posted stories about: discovering a wild apple tree; a recipe for skillet apple pie; the deep-fried apple beignets I made for Labour Day; and a spiced apple preserve made from apples picked with Not Far From the Tree. Well, the apples on another tree belonging to one of our neighbours at the cottage have ripened and they offered to let me have some so I decided to make apple sauce.
A bag of great yellow-red apples collected from a neighbour's (unsprayed) tree at the cottage
Spicy Apricot Chutney
Update: I have been informed that what I thought were apricots were actually nectarines. I guess fruit identification is not my forte. Nectarines are basically a variety of peaches that have hairless skin. The recipe works great with nectarines and because they don’t have any fuzz they don’t have to be peeled. I have made changes throughout the post in parentheses to correct my error.
Chutney is a condiment that I never seem to have when I want it. Curry is a great way to use leftovers (or frozen shrimp) and obviously needs a bunch of spices but these are already in the cupboard so it doesn’t seem reasonable to go shopping just for the supporting actor. Last year I made an enjoyable peach jam that was great for breakfast but chutney seems like an even more interesting way to preserve stone fruit.
Apricots (actually they're nectarines), peaches, limes, and onions. I think a pluot snuck into the picture but was quickly removed.
At the beginning of September there was a collection of mainly apricots (nope, they were nectarines) and a few peaches ripening on the kitchen counter that needed to be preserved before they spoiled. One of the best secondary benefits of using apricots for a preserve is that, unlike peaches, they don’t need to be peeled. Most chutney recipes (this one included) call for unripe or under-ripe fruit that adds more texture and acid flavour. I compensated for the ripeness of this fruit by adding more lime juice and reducing the sugar slightly. (more…)
Ripe Canabec Rose tomatoes doing very well on the vine
At the end of my third full summer of vegetable gardening I decided that it is time to take the plunge and try saving my own seeds for the first time. Tomatoes were the obvious choice on the grounds of utility and ease. This summer and last I grew from the Canadian Heritage Mix sold by Salt Spring Seeds and had a great deal of success. Even with the rainy summer of 2009 our tomato plants produced a bigger crop than we could eat fresh and best of all the tomatoes taste better than anything available in a grocery store. Based on what I had read (and now on experience) tomato seeds are fairly easy to save because the seed is ready at the same time as the edible crop–unlike most other plants (beets, lettuce, greens, radishes, etc.) which take longer to go to seed and by then are inedible. Off the top of my head the only two categories of vegetables that I can think of whose seeds would be easier to save are the autumn/winter squashes (think pumpkin seeds) and beans that are grown for dry storage (the seed is the food crop).
The "wild" tomatoes that germinated and grew on their own in the garden
I was further motivated to save tomato seeds this year because amazingly they started growing wild in the garden. Tomatoes are native to south and central America and supposedly need to be started indoors in February or March here in Canada in order to bear ripe fruit before the first autumn frosts. I have seen tomato plants grow out of composters here but the ones that popped up in our garden where the tomatoes were last year actually bore ripe fruit. I imagine the fact that last year’s tomatoes were grown from seeds (these are either from Pollock or Manitoba varieties) specifically bred to do well in Canadian conditions helped a lot. The “wild” tomatoes were quite delicious and hopefully if started indoors next year they’ll be even more productive.
The outside of Joey Don Mills (credit: Jonathan Cooper)
Tonight’s media launch party at Joey Don Mills was my first restaurant opening as a food blogger. It was a full house that got an opportunity to sample a wide variety of the appetizers that will be on the restaurant’s menu when it opens to the public this week. My friend, Jonathan Cooper was along for the fun and to take much better photos than I can (his flickr site).