Monday, September 26, 2016

Preserving Summer: Tomato Overload

I've reached total tomato overload.

It happens every year: I get to the point where I can't look at one more tomato without cringing. Though I have to admit it's usually after processing well over a hundred pounds of them, packing them away in my freezer in quart ziplock bags.

When tomato season first begins, I'm driven by the knowledge that sometime around March of next year, after profligate use of them in the soups, braises, risottos and pasta dishes that fuel my family during the winter months, I'll realize that…oh no!…there are just a few precious packages left. So I start laying out my battle plan, determined that this year, by gum, I'll have enough to last us until next tomato season starts up again.

Last year Dave and I basically picked and brought home 140 pounds of Astiana tomatoes from Ayers Creek Farm, not realizing that meant that they'd all need to be processed within a few days. Which led to five days of full-time, head-down tomato roasting, with the oven blasting in the kitchen and the grill blazing away on the patio. The good part is that we got it done in one fell swoop—I can't even write that without hearing my father saying "one swell foop"—the downside being that there was a major case of burnout for days afterward.

I've heard a similar story from other ants living the real-life version of this ant-and-grasshopper fable. One woman told me that she went cucumber crazy one year in her garden, and when she came to she found herself sitting on top of 140 jars of pickles. Or the guy who asked a few too many of his friends to send over any extra fruit they had. By the time he dug his way out of that one, he had made enough jam to last several lifetimes.

This year I took a more moderate path, bringing home a couple of 20-pound lugs of tomatoes at a time, which required a few hours to process, after which I'd squirrel away those precious bags, each time estimating how many more it would take to feel satisfied we'd somehow make it through the winter. Well, my friends, I'm here to tell you that I finally chopped, roasted and bagged my last quart of tomatoes, tossing it (carefully) onto the pile with 39 of its brethren.

I'm feeling pretty rich right now, and ready for the tomatoey free-for-all to come. Just as long as I don't have to (shudder) face processing any more. I'll keep you posted on how long they last (and what I make with them).

Check out my technique for roasting tomatoes!

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