Sunday, September 28, 2008

Seasonal spoils!

It's been a pretty busy week. Between dealing with preserving the tomatoes from my garden and taking advantage of cheap produce at the farmer's market, I've been donning my invisible apron more often than usual. The nights have been getting more and more chilly over the past few weeks, so after harvesting some straggler-veggies early one evening, a good old frost warning led me to pick all of the rest of my tomatoes. (The photo of the tomatoes is after my having indulged in tabouli and / or tomato salad over 2-3 days.)
My first project with the tomatoes was to try oven-drying some for the first time earlier this week. I never did get around to building a solar dryer (a project for this winter, maybe?) and the days are cool and my vacation days have run out, so regular old sun drying (something else I've yet to try) seemed as if it would be a bit tricky to attempt. After Googling a few times, I realized that the simplest thing to do would be to slice the plum tomatoes lengthwise and set them on a tray with the cut side facing up, then heat them at the lowest oven setting (140 F) until they seemed about right -- sort of leathery. Various websites stated they'd take 8-9 hours. Some of the tomatoes were a bit large (next time I'll use more common sense and choose tomatoes of the same size), so the whole thing actually took 9-10 hours. They supposedly keep really well if you cover them in a high quality olive oil in clean jars. I just stuck mine in a baggy and tossed them in the fridge. I figured they wouldn't last very long and was right -- I'm now around halfway through them! They're delicious, but I figure that considering the energy used to dry them in the oven that I won't repeat this experiment. If I dry any next season, it'll be without gobbling up that much electricity. All sustainability issues aside, there's also the more practical point that it would probably cost me less to buy the sun-dried organic tomatoes one of my local health food sells than run my oven at 140 F for 9-10 hours. I've also been doing a bit of canning. I pickled (and froze) around 10 lbs of beets, made around 3-1/2 quarts of Lady Ashburn Pickles and pickled a small bunch of zucchini using my mom's friend's recipe. This week, I plan to pickle and freeze another 5 lbs of beets and deal with the rest of my tomatoes -- maybe make salsa.


J said...

Those are some lovely pictures of booty from your garden. And my have you been busy!

I too had wondered about the energy of oven drying tomatoes. Though I bet they are delicious.

That is a lot of beets M, wow, you must have had a pretty successful gardening season.

M said...

The beets came from the farmer's market. :)