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Slow-Roasting Tomatoes

August 25th, 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a tomato recipe I haven’t liked, but there are some that I love more than others. One of my favorite ways to enjoy summer tomatoes is by slow-roasting them in the oven. You can throw these on pizza, on salads, eat them plain or my favorite, on top of some toast with an egg. When you slow roast tomatoes it deepens the flavor and concentrates the sugars. As a result you’re left with delicious jammy little puddles of tomato goodness, and making them couldn’t be simpler! This is even a great way to deal with so-so tomatoes that you buy from the store or the end of the season tomatoes that are ripened indoors and lack the sun-ripened flavor.

You can use any kind of tomato, from cherries to beefsteaks, just keep in mind that the larger the tomato the longer it will take to roast. Roma types that are dry roast quicker so check them earlier, but beefsteaks are more concentrated when roasted so they taste better. If you’re going to roast a batch, you may as well do an entire oven full to save energy and I guarantee you’ll always want more!

All you need to do it is cut the tomatoes in half, lay skin side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (the parchment helps get them up later). If you want to, drizzle with olive oil and some freshly chopped herbs and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or simply roast as is, it’s up to you, I do both. Roast in a 225 degree oven for 4-8 hours or until reduced in size and slightly moist, cooking time depends on size of tomatoes and your oven. You can try raising oven temp to 250, but you may get some dark spots on the tomatoes, it depends on your oven. I like to put mine in the oven before I go to bed and set the timer for 6 hours. The next morning I check the tomatoes, remove any that are finished and continue roasting any tomatoes that aren’t quite done. You can taste one after 3-4 hours and you’ll be able to tell if it’s done or not. It should taste like concentrated tomato with a slightly sweet tang. If it’s still acidic and sour, roast for a while longer.

These will need to be frozen to preserve them. I usually freeze on the cookie sheets, then store in a large bag. That way can I get one or twenty depending on what I’m making. I like to use slow-roasted tomatoes in my homemade ketchup, I find it adds a wonderful rich flavor and reduces the cooking time. I don’t roast them quite as long as when I do this since it’s much easier to extract the peels and seeds when they’re not quite as dry.

Have you ever slow roasted tomatoes?

Tips for Freezing Fruits and Vegetables

June 30th, 2010

I like to freeze fruits and some vegetables to preserve them for winter eating. I especially like freezing all varieties of berries and peas, most other fruits and vegetables are better if canned.

Since freezer space is at a premium, I have to make sure I store things in the most efficient way possible. Generally I don’t like using plastic around my food, but when it comes to freezing large quantities of things, zippered bags are so convenient. Some things still get stored in glass mason jars, but the berries and peas are in zippered bags (although I’m considering half gallon jars for the future).

Of course you could measure out specific amounts and freeze in small bags, but I prefer freezing things on a cookie sheet so they’re frozen individually. This allows me to put them in larger bags and simply measure out what I need from the large bag. (remember to blanch peas & veggies before freezing).

Do you have any tips for freezing fruits and vegetables?

Using Canning Jars in the Freezer

March 6th, 2010

I like to use wide mouth canning jars for freezing vegetables, soups and stocks. Wide mouth canning jars are much cheaper than the glass containers you buy for freezing and food storage. Generally you can get them for less than a dollar a piece, which makes them an economical option if you’re wanting to move away from plastic when it comes to food storage because of BPA and chemicals leeching into food. It can be a bit pricey to replace all your plastic with pyrex, but at about $10/dozen, canning jars are a less expensive option.

You may worry about freezing in glass because of the possibility of breakage, but there are a few things you can do to minimize this chance. Do not fill jars all the way, most wide-mouth canning jars have a “freeze fill line” marked on the side of the jar. Using smaller jars also helps, with less liquid you don’t have to worry as much about expansion and the possibility of breaking the jar. The larger the jar the more expansion room you’ll need to allow. I freeze in jars often and have only had a broken jar once, it was my fault for filling it too full and not allowing enough expansion room. (another note, make sure the stock or veggies are cold before putting into freezer)

I prefer using half-pint and pint jars since they’re small and for a family of 2 they’re the perfect size. When I freeze chicken stock I reduce the stock to double strength and freeze in pints, this means each pint of stock is actually a quart, I simply add an extra pint of water to the recipe. This helps saves on freezer space and allows me to use the smaller pint jars.

Another reason I like using canning jars is because I can save my used lids and give them second life. I hate one-use items, it feels to wasteful so throwing them away. I have a box in the basement with canning lids that didn’t get too bent during opening. By doing this I don’t have to have tons of the plastic one piece lids around either, which can be expensive and they take up more space. Using glass jars also keeps me from using plastic zipper bags for items like corn & beans. Every time I can use a reusable glass jar instead of plastic is happy day for me.

What’s your container of choice when it comes to the freezer? Have you ever used canning jars for freezing?

Freezing Wild Black Raspberries

July 9th, 2009

My mom has a nice area in her back yard where a lot of wild black raspberries grow. She’s had a bumper crop this year, so she invited me over to pick the extra berries she didn’t want.
I went over several days last week and one day this week and I spent about an hour each time. So far I’ve been able to pick 10.5 pounds of wild black raspberries for our freezer! I’m heading over again today so I should be able to add another 2-3 pounds to that total. That means I won’t have to go to the local blueberry farm to buy blueberries this year since I have so many raspberries.
I freeze the berries on a cookie sheet so that they don’t freeze together in the bags. When they’re frozen, I scoop them up and put them in a freezer bag.
This way I can easily measure out what I need for a recipe from the bags and I don’t have to pre-measure into smaller freezer bags. I prefer freezing my berries and dealing with them later when I have more time and when the weather’s cooler outside.
I’m looking forward to making some jam this winter and perhaps some cobbler or some black raspberry scones.

How do you preserve berries for those long winter months?

When Life Gives You a Wind Storm

September 18th, 2008

When life gives you a wind storm, build a fire with the fallen branches. Chiot’s Run is surrounded on 3 sides by mature woods with towering trees.

When strong winds blow, sticks litter our yard. On Sunday evening, we were hoping just sticks would be littering our yard and not whole trees. We did lose a huge branch from an old oak tree, fortunately the wind was coming from a different direction than normal, so it fell into the woods and not on our garage!

On Monday morning, we went out and picked up sticks all around the yard. We decided since it was cool, it would be the perfect day for a campfire.

I remembered all those poblano peppers I bought at the farmer’s market. I was going to grill them but I decided fire roasting them would be much tastier.

We found 2 old cinderblocks and an old grill grate and fashioned a grill over the fire. The peppers were neatly lined up shoulder to shoulder over the fire.

I grilled several batches (I bought 4 quarts of them at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday). Poblano peppers have a great flavor to begin with and when grilled they’re fantastic. These peppers fire roasted will add that perfect smoky flavor to anything we put them in.

After grilling, I trimmed them and they were neatly stowed away in freezer containers. I can hardly wait to make up a pizza or a batch of chili.

What kinds of veggies do you grill with success?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.