Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Tomatoes!

Our tomato crop is abundant. While others around us have had diminished yields because of blight and drought, our garden has never been better. And it has never been better tended. My son dug new beds this year, added plenty of compost and manure, and tested and balanced the soil nutrients and pH. He watered faithfully till the plants started to fruit. It all paid off.

A few of the rosy-blushed, yellow pineapple tomatoes have weighed in at more than 2 pounds. And they're virtually seedless. What an amazing tomato!

We have Black Cherries, Red Currant tomatoes, Sungolds, and Super-Sweet 100s. We have Yellow Taxies and Purple Cherokees, Indigo Rose, Nyagous, Roma, Black Krim, and Amish Paste. And we have plenty of Anaheim chiles. Obviously, it is time to make salsa.

And more salsa.

But back to those tomatoes: Here’s a partial report:

As always, the cherries were earliest and continue to produce. The Black Cherries have a very interesting, very rich flavor — very umami, one might say. They are big: a two-bite cherry. Sungolds and Super-Sweet 100s: classic, super-sweet, great snacking tomatoes, very prolific. Red Currants: need to be fully ripe for full flavor; really pretty in some salads but just not worth the labor to harvest, though amazingly prolific.

Yellow Taxi was early. That is the strongest praise I can give this otherwise low-acid, low-flavor tomato.

Can’t tell the Amish Paste from the Romas. A paste is a paste is a paste — but always good, especially for cooking and canning.

The Nyagous, another “black tomato,” also has that umami, that mysterious rich flavor. The Indigo Rose tomato did not win my heart; it is fully black when unripe, then goes to green, then red. It spends too much effort on changing color, not enough on developing flavor. We won’t plant it again.

There comes a point in the tomato harvest when we are doing less tasting and comparing of varieties and more thinking about how and when to preserve. That’s where I am right now. Since I am doing a lot of demos and classes on making pickles, mostly I am throwing the tomatoes into bags and freezing — to be cooked into salsas and sauces when I have the time.

Here’s a favorite canned salsa recipe. It’s from The Pickled Pantry, and I’ll be taking it to some of my tastings and demos. It has been a house favorite for years! I made more today.

Chipotle Salsa
Yield: 4 to 6 pints

Chipotle chiles (smoke-dried jalapeรฑos) add a lick of fire to this otherwise simple salsa.

24 cups quartered ripe tomatoes
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 to 4 chipotle chiles
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 onions, finely minced1 cup finely minced fresh green chiles
1 cup finely minced sweet bell pepper

  1. Combine the tomatoes, white vinegar, garlic, and chipotles in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. 
  2. Process the tomato mixture through a food mill, discarding the seeds and skins. 
  3. Return the strained mixture to the saucepan, and add the onions, fresh chiles, and bell pepper. Boil gently until the salsa has reduced to a nice thick sauce, 1 to 2 hours. Season to taste with salt. 
  4. Ladle the hot salsa into clean hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, and seal. 
  5. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, according to the directions for canning on page 31 of The Pickled Pantry . Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool dry place. 

Kitchen Notes
  • For a milder salsa remove the seeds of the chipotle and fresh chiles before adding to the salsa. 
  • Your yield will vary depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Plum tomatoes tend to yield more than salad tomatoes because they have a higher flesh-to-juice ratio. 

Adapted from The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman © 2012.
All rights reserved

The digital editions of Andrea’s The Pickled Pantry and Recipes from the Root Cellar are on sale for $2.99 or less for the entire month of September. Go to Workman’s Blue Plate Special page for these deals and to download your free digital edition of Serving Up the Harvest.

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