It Happens to Everybody… SO MANY TOMATOES!!
You know this has happened to you. You bought a six-pack of tomato starts and planted them, excited about the harvest to come. Delicious thoughts of all things tomato raced through your mind and you anticipated the excitement of harvesting something you grew yourself. Oh, the potential!! As the summer warms up and the fruit begins to set the excitement grows. You prune, watch for bugs, tie the branches up, water and pour all of your love into your now sprawling tomato plants.
Then it happens… they begin to turn red and before you know it you have 10, 15, 20 pounds of tomatoes in your kitchen!!! All that excitement turns to panic! How am I ever going to use all of these tomatoes? Don´t worry, this is where the Yard to Table philosophy comes into play.
I use tomatoes as an example because it is the most common and easily relatable ingredient but, there are quite a few other garden items that can be tough to use as fast as they can grow. Herbs, cucumbers, grapes are just a few examples. Below we will look at some fun ways to tackle the sudden and abundant harvest a summer garden can provide.
Let’s just skip tomato sauce for this one. There is no shortage of decent sauce recipes out there so, instead, let´s do something less time consuming and more versatile. I like to preserve my tomatoes in oil. They make a great garnish to a charcuterie and cheese platter, in pasta, over fish, and the oil helps to elevate any vinaigrette recipe!
Recipe ingredients measured per 1, one 8-oz jar
Tomatoes (if small leave whole., Halve or quarter large varieties)
1 garlic clove, smashed
2-3 sprigs of your herb of choice (any will do, combine them for variety)
1 tsp peppercorns (any other dried spice can be used)
2tsp kosher salt
Oil of choice (this is a good recipe for high-quality olive oil) heated to 275 degrees F
Add you tomatoes and flavoring ingredients to sanitized jars and cover with hot oil. Cap and refrigerate.
Let’s start easy and make some quick pickles. If you have ever grown cucumbers then you know how many one vine can produce. It’s overwhelming at times. A quick pickle brine is an easy and efficient way to pack and preserve all of your cucumbers. Below is a recipe for basic dill pickles. You can swap out ingredients and play with the recipe. Try different kinds of vinegar, sugars, dried spices, and herbs to change things up. The brine recipe is a larger recipe so that you may make a large batch of brine once to have ready all summer.
Dill Pickle Recipe
Brine (large batch):
10 Cups water
5 Cups white vinegar
5 Tbsp sugar
Combine in a pot and simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add all flavoring ingredients to sterilized jars and cover with simmering brine.
Flavorants: These ingredients are measured out per one 8-oz jar
1 garlic clove, smashed
½ tsp dill seed
½ tsp mustard seed
1 small dill frond
Cucumber spears/slices (as many as you can fit)
Fill jar/s with simmering brine and cap and refrigerate. Feel free to add fresh herbs from your garden, different spices (curry is fun), or swap out the cucumbers for any of your favorite garden goodies!
Herbs can become prolific when established and provide much more than we can use. If you could see my rosemary, lavender and lemon verbena right now… anyway, how do we preserve all of this amazing, fragrant flavor?? My answer again is oil. And butter, of course! Infusing oils is one of the easiest ways to save those garden herbs and create delicious gifts for friends and family. Here are a couple of easy methods.
Wash the herbs and strip off any hard, woody stems.
Fill your blender with one or more herbs. I like to infuse my oils individually and combine them when I want to, but you can use any combination of herbs, garlic, spices in yours.
Add 1 tsp of salt per 2 cups of oil.
Fill blender halfway with oil and cover.
Begin on low speed and slowly ramp up the speed until you reach full speed. A blender will handle this better. Let it rip at full speed until the blender carafe begins to heat and you see steam rising from the oil. This is blanching your herbs and setting the color. If it doesn’t heat enough, it will turn black in a few days. You can also heat your blended oil in a pot, but that’s just more dishes to wash.
Strain oil over a bowl, in a basket strainer lined with either cheesecloth or a coffee filter overnight.
1 lb unsalted butter, softened
Any garden herbs, washed, stripped and chopped
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp cracked pepper
Any other ingredients you fancy (garlic, dried spices, chopped nuts, smoked salmon, anything!)
In a stand mixer or mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Line a small dish or container with parchment and place softened butter inside. Refrigerate and serve with your next garden-inspired meal!
I hope this helps to inspire your culinary creativity and gives you a few new outlets for your garden goodies. Happy Gardening and Bon Appetit!!!