Endless Summer: Preserving the Harvest

September 2nd, 2014 § Comments Off on Endless Summer: Preserving the Harvest § permalink

Sun-Dried-Tomatoes-in-Olive-Oil-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGESun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil – Summertime Red and Gold, Preserved for a Winter’s Day. Click Here for a Simple How-To

New England is well-known for long cold winters and short, hot summers. So gardeners here tend to know a thing or two about preserving the harvest for those freezing months ahead. August and September are prime-time in the vegetable garden. Heirloom tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumbers, onions, herbs and pretty much everything else in the summertime potager is at its peak. Often fruits and vegetables ripen so quickly, that we can not consume them all and produce begins to pile up all over the kitchen.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to put food by. Click on any photo or link and travel back to past-posts on freezing, drying, pickling, braiding and otherwise storing your summertime favorites. Preserving fruits and vegetables need not be time-consuming or tedious, and in many cases, it can both save money and prevent the waste of extra produce that sometimes gets tossed in the compost bin.

Herb-Oil-Cubes ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com1 Fresh-Frozen Herbs in Olive Oil, Butter, Broth, Water or Juice – Enjoy Garden Fresh Cuttings in the Dead of Winter. Cubes Pictured Here were Frozen in Egg Holders with Light Olive Oil, Click Here for the Original & Popular Post on Freezing Herbs in Oil/Butter/Broth and Beyond.

Frozen Heirloom Tomatoes ⓒ michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Tired of Spending Hot Summer Weekends Over a Stove? Start Freezing Tomatoes Whole, with Skin-On. Thaw and Can Them Later or Use Them as You Would, Cooked  in Pasta Sauce, Soup, Stew and Beyond. Click Here for a Few Simple Tips on This Process.

Drying-Herbs-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGE Dried Bundles of Herbs from the Garden, Saved for Savory Soups, Stocks, Tea and Infusions. Click Here for Some Helpful Tips on How to Successfully Dry and Store Herbs.

It’s hard to imagine cold weather on this humid, eighty-degree summer day, but winter is just three and a half months away. Savor these golden days of fresh-from-the-garden produce and as you are cutting up those fruits and veggies, remember to set some aside. When winter winds howl and snow banks reach the windowsills, you’ll feel snug and smug as you cozy up in your favorite chair with fresh tomato soup and herb focaccia. Yum.

Dilly Beans ll - Jennifer Audette - thegardenerseden.com Dilly Bean Delight! Bring on the Polar Vortex Picnic Basket to Shake-Off the Mid-Winter Blues. Click Here for Jennifer Audette’s Intro to Canning Post & Dilly Bean Recipe.

Sun-Dried-Tomatoes-on-the-Terrace-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGE Sun-Dried Tomatoes Can Also be Stored in Baggies or Storage Containers and Frozen or Kept in a Cool, Dark Space. So Good in Pasta or with Roasted Chicken. Click Here for Process.

Sun-Dried-Tomatoes-Tomatoes-on-Screen-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGE No Dehydrator? No Problem. Place Tomato or Other Fruit Slices —Such as Apple or Pear— Out in the Sun on Screen Mesh. Leave Out by Day and Bring in at Night. Cover with a Second Screen if You Want to Protect Fruit from Insects. Click Here for More.

Braided Sweet Onions ⓒ Michaela at TGE Braided Garlic and Onions are Pretty and Practical. Learn the Simple Process by Clicking Here.

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The Sweetness of Summer, Saved in a Jar: Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil…

October 5th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Sun Dried Tomatoes on the Terrace

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs in Olive Oil in My Pantry

Hillside in Autumn Rain…

Beautiful, misty mountain tops and grey, moody skies greeted me when I awoke this morning. It seems that the wet, unsettled weather has returned to New England this week, and I —for one— welcome it wholeheartedly. With such a dry summer and early autumn, the fields and forests need all of the rain we can get. But it’s more than that, really. I actually have a thing for fog and mist. Maybe that’s why I like New England. A bit of gloom can be rather appealing, I think. I lived in the San Francisco area for awhile, and I loved watching the damp fog move like a thick blanket across the landscape.

But what about the sunshine? Well, I suppose I must be one of those ‘absence make the heart grow fonder’ types. I find that when the sun goes into hiding —and then finally makes an appearance after three or four days of rain— I tend to appreciate it more. Ever notice how wonderful home feels, after you’ve been traveling for awhile? That is how I feel when the sun comes out after a stretch of overcast days. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the glowing, golden orb. Oh, quite the contrary. I do miss the warm sunlight on cold, cloudy afternoons. In fact, that’s when I usually end up cooking something with orange colored winter squash, bold, yellow bell peppers or better yet – red tomatoes! Oh my, sun dried tomatoes… Of course! Sun dried tomatoes are the perfect way to bring a bit of warmth and color to the table on a cloudy day!

Fresh Tomatoes From My Garden

Tomatoes Drying on a Screen in the Sun

During the long stretch of hot, sunny weather in August and September, I decided to make sun dried tomatoes the old-fashioned way: in the sun! If you live in a hot, dry climate, sun drying fruits and vegetables is easy. But if you live in the northern reaches of the world, regular periods of sunny weather are very unusual, and can be a bit hard to predict. I took full advantage of our unusual hot-spell to dry as many tomatoes as possible in the sun. But tomatoes can also be dried in other ways —in an oven, a dehydrator or even on shelves above a hot, wood stove— with excellent results.

The process is really quite simple. I made both my seeded and seedless sun dried tomatoes the Mediterranean way. Leaving the skins on, I cored and sliced the tomatoes in half lengthwise (I cut in quarters for thinner strips, and remove seeds from those strips, as shown above), sprinkled them with sea salt, sandwiched them between two screens and placed them out on my sunny terrace to dry (I brought the trays in each night to thwart critters). One week later: presto, sun dried, leathery goodness! I put all of the dried tomatoes up in ziplock storage bags and set them in the pantry to enjoy in pasta, on pizza and in appetizers. I also enjoy sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. To make them, I just put a handful in a canning jar, add herbs like dried basil and oregano, and fill the jar to the top with good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Then, I place them in the refrigerator to use as needed. You can add garlic too, but it’s important to always store these mixes in the refrigerator for safety, and use them within a week or so.

Sun Dried Tomatoes are Great Eaten As-Is, and They Add Intense Tomato-Flavor to Appetizers, Pasta, Pizza and Many Other Dishes…

If you would like to make sun dried tomatoes, but can’t get a break in the weather, try drying them in your oven instead. They taste just as good and the process is much faster (you can also buy or borrow a dehydrator). Preheat an oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit (approximately 93.33 celsius) and prepare the tomatoes as described above. Roma tomatoes do work well, but you can use any kind, including heirloom and cherry tomatoes. If you like, you can remove the seeds, or leave them in (I prepare them both ways, depending on how I am going to use the dried tomatoes). Spread the salted tomatoes out on wire-mesh racks if you have them (or on cookie sheets if you don’t). Be sure they aren’t touching. Roast them in the oven at 200 degrees fahrenheit (or around 93.33 celsius) for about 6 hours, maybe longer if the tomatoes are extra juicy (if the tomatoes are super wet, I usually remove most of the seeds and pulp and/or cut them into wedges). Check the tomatoes frequently toward the end of roasting time. The strips should be completely dry and leathery, but not crisp. Remove the tomatoes to cool, and then seal them in ziplock bags, or store them as described above in olive oil (be sure to refrigerate to prevent botulism).

This Small Plate of Sun Dried Tomatoes Represents Approximately 6 Large Roma Tomatoes After Drying for One Week in The Sun. The Pretty Plate is by California Artist, Aletha Soule.

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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