July 14, 2012

July 14, 2012

The second weekend of Tomatopalooza got underway with our usual Saturday morning errands: Farmer’s Market, breakfast with friends, and then we worked in the garden. Afterwards, I attended the funeral of a dear friend. When I returned home, I found 90 lbs of beautiful organic and heirloom tomatoes waiting for me.  It was like walking into a room lovingly filled with dozens of roses. I had prearranged to buy tomatoes from Hillyard Field Organics at the end of the market. Bless his heart, Vince understood that I would need a project to focus on when I came home from my friends’ funeral. I expected 40 lbs of tomatoes.  I didn’t anticipate 90 lbs! This is why I love him.

There were 24 quarts (64 lbs!) of large tomatoes for dicing.

Because we were getting started so late in the day, we tackled the 18 quarts (26 lbs!) of cherry tomatoes.  Two of the quarts were heirloom.  I decided to can them with dried herbs. We love using herbed tomatoes on pizzas.  The rest we oven-dried, as they were the perfect size for snacking.

A tray of oven dried cherry tomatoes.

Oven Dried Tomatoes – 26 lbs
***** Stars – Outstanding!
My beloved and I spent the next couple of hours halving and coring the tomatoes destined for oven drying.  We arranged them on five trays with a light coating of organic EVO.  Each tray received 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of fresh basil, 1T course sea salt, and a couple or three grinds of cracked black pepper.  We set the oven to 185 degrees — convection bake.  As I slid the first 5 trays onto the oven racks, I realized that they might come out of the oven at midnight.  At 2:00 AM, I finally turned off the oven and went to bed.  I woke up at 7:30 AM and turned them back on.  Unfortunately, I set the temp at 170 rather than 185. Then I went back to bed and slept for a few more hours. When I finally woke up, the tomatoes had reached a beautiful point in their drying.  I set the temperature back to 185 and got busy with a couple of quick pickling projects.

Now in their final hour, they are ready for the smallest bit of roasting .  I switched the oven over to convection roast at 200 degrees.  Our house smells amazing.  I have two more trays waiting to go in.  They’ll be ready in the morning. I can’t wait to have warm, oven-dried tomatoes for breakfast.

TIP: If you are going to make oven-dried tomatoes, remember to use parchment paper to line your baking pans.  I didn’t use parchment the first time.  I had no problems.  However with the second batch, the acid in the tomatoes damaged the pans.  

Herbed Cherry Tomatoes

Herbed Cherry Tomatoes– 2  1/2 pints
**** Stars – Thrilled to Bits!
After dinner, I separately scalded the quart of Roma tomatoes and the quart of heirloom cherry tomatoes.  Hoping that I might get 4 1/2 pints for my efforts, I was disappointed when I only got 2 1/2.  Scalding then peeling tiny tomatoes is a lot of work.  I could have skipped the scalding and simply cold-packed the jars, but I didn’t.  While the tomatoes were softly boiling for their five minutes, I mixed up an herb mixture of Italian Oregano, Thyme, and Sweet Basil.  I placed 2t of the mixed herbs in the 1/2 pint jars along with 1t lemon juice and a 1/4t of sea salt.  They are beautiful.  But too little result for so much effort.  Lesson learned – cold pack cherry tomatoes.

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