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Tomato Tasting and Pantry Planning – Guideline 52

August 5, 2013

The tomatoes have been coming on fast, and we have been enjoying the different flavors and keeping production notes to see how the different varieties perform in our growing conditions.  On all varieties except the cherry tomatoes, I cut off the weekiy watering this first week of August, and start topping the plants to direct energy to ripening the fruit already set.  We’re on the downhill side of the light now, and with the days getting shorter, any tomatoes set today would not ripen until October and they just never have the taste that the August/September fruits do, so lopping is in order.

EOS_2595
We love the fresh tomatoes, but the bulk of what we grow is for cooking down into sauce, paste, soup and canned whole tomatoes for eating throughout the winter.  Nothing brightens up a winter beef stew like a pint of farmstead ratatouille mix, or whatever is at the glut stage in the garden.  Remember pressure canners – if you make a mix like that, process the jar at the time recommended for the vegetable that has the longest processing time.  Confused?  For instance tomatoes take less time than corn so if your mix contained corn, you would process your jars for the time recommended for corn.  Or you can freeze a mix like this too if you have the space.

EOS_2598
Clockwise from the top of the platter:  Pantano Romanesco, BobcatF1, Costoluto Genovese – Cook’s, Costoluto Genovese – Seeds of Change, JasperF1, SunSugarF1, JulietF1, Bellstar, New Girl F1, and Japanese Black Trifele.

All these are good?  What fresh tomato is really bad?  None, but some do taste better than others.

Here are our notes:

♥ Pantano Romanesco – I tried this one on a whim, and while its big size is attractive, it really excels when roasted with herbs and milled into soup.  Cooking this baby brings out the flavor, otherwise it’s just a vehicle for bacon and mayo!

♥  BobcatF1 – meh, if you want big healthy determinate plants that pump out uniform tomatoes, then Bobcat is pretty good.  Last year it ripened earlier, so we had big slicers for sandwiches, but this year it is following the pack.  The plants and fruit are gorgeous though.

♥  Costoluto Genovese – I actually have three sets of this variety going this year.  My perennial favorite is the one from Cook’s, but my gardening partner in crime still wants to trial these every year.  She like Seeds of Change, and we also tried Salt Springs Seeds.  Next year I will only grow the Cook’s variety though, I still like the flavor best, and the plants are healthier looking.  I use this one almost exclusively for salsa and then sauce once the salsa shelf is full.  Good out of hand too!

♥  Jasper F1 – in my search for a red cherry that doesn’t crack, I bit on Johnny’s glowing description.  I don’t care for it at all, it isn’t cracking though…but from now on I’ll just stick with my SunSugar for my cherry tomato fix.  Jasper is pretty slow to ripen for a cherry, and isn’t very prolific.  Maybe others will have better luck with it.

♥  SunSugarF1 – I love this cherry tomato, it’s prolific, early and late, and it adds a little sweetness to the roasting pan when we are finally done stuffing our faces with fresh tomatoes for the year.  It doesn’t crack either, which was the main reason I started growing it.

♥  JulietF1 – a nice little plum tomato that is setting heavy, ripening fast and is great for snacking.  I haven’t cooked any yet, but I suspect the flavor will only improve when cooked.

♥  Bellstar – our old standby determinate paste tomato, I don’t care for the taste out of hand, but the sauce is  very good, and the deepest red I have ever made.   It also makes great tomato paste if you have the patience.  I like it because it is a no-fuss determinate plant that yields good-sized pickings large enough for processing.

♥  New GirlF1 – Eliot Coleman recommends this in The Winter Harvest Handbook, and it is delicious, and prolific.  The skin is a little tough if you’re sensitive to stuff like that, but the flavor is exactly what I like in a tomato, tart and tangy.  The tomato I go looking for when I go past the greenhouse, and decide to go inside and graze.

♥  Japanese Black Trifele – a friend shared this one, and I love it.  Heavy producing and the flavor is wonderful fresh or cooked, and you can’t beat the color when you serve this tomato fresh, it’s beautiful!

roasted tomato sauce

roasted tomato sauce

I can’t say I’m a true seasonal eater, because I grow many foods just for preserving.  We eat fresh foods in season, like tomatoes, but when they’re gone, we don’t eat fresh tomatoes from the store.  Something is in season somewhere, we just choose not to participate in that and instead fill our pantry by preserving local food when it is bountiful.

I’m not a menu planner, but I still have a loose plan on how I want to stock my pantry.  Lists and charts don’t work for me either, since we are growing most of our food, I can’t just say I will harvest X amount of potatoes, or can so many quarts of soup.  Crops fail for one reason or another, while a different crop may exceed expectations.  For that reason, I try not to be too restrictive in my preservation planning.  I stock bare essentials, instead of making mixes.  If you have meats, vegetables fruits, and herbs in their most truest form in your pantry, you have the basis for any kind of scratch meal you want to throw together.  I have friend who buys her quarter beef, and then proceeds to fry up all their ground beef with taco seasoning, italian seasoning, etc., and then freeze those meats in individual containers to pull out later for meals.  I don’t roll like that.  I would rather have my ground beef stash in ground beef form, and then I can season any way I like.  Lately I have been on this kick of ground beef breakfast patties seasoned with hot curry powder, grated Walla Walla onion and copious amounts of chopped cilantro.  But alas, soon my Walla Wallas will be gone, so I’ll move on.  Cilantro will be a dim memory this winter too, except in pesto, which keeps the herb flavor fresh, and reminds us a little of summer, only different… .

I try not to overwhelm my family with my canning efforts, namely chutneys, jams and other odd condiment type things just sit on the shelf.  And don’t fool yourself into thinking a couple of pigs will get you out of your canning bind.  Pigs don’t like pickles, or any other odd concoctions much so you better have a compost pile if you’re into experimenting with canning.  But I digress here – mostly I keep the number 52 in the back of my mind to tell me to quit preserving something.  52?  Fifty two weeks is a good starting point for preservation planning.  Will you eat a canned cherries or jam each week or even meat for that matter?  Of course you have to keep quantities in mind too.  I don’t eat 52 cows a year, but I can go through 52 chickens in a year.  We won’t eat 52 quarts of pickles either, but maybe 52 pints or 25 quarts?  We also eat a lot of fresh food in season, I like canned green beans, but not more than once a week, so if I can 52 quarts of green beans, that will leave some wiggle room because right now we are eating fresh haricot verts, so many weeks I don’t open a jar out of winter stores.  Surprises come up too, I canned carrots last year for the first time in my life, and to tell the truth, they have been very useful for adding a pint to stew or other soups.  We have fresh carrots year round, but you know, company shows up, no carrots dug out of the snowbank, and you need to add another bean to the pot.  Or actually a pint of canned carrots.  That is true convenience food.

I can’t give you a hard and fast set of rules how to stock your pantry with your preserved goods, but I can give you food for thought as we head into the preserving season.  Remember what Captain Barbossa said, the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.  I’ll just call it Guideline 52.  Happy preserving!

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2013 1:14 pm

    Your tomatoes are beautiful!

    Could post about how you deal with pests in the garden. I’ve been swamped with squash bugs and they seem to love the tomatoes. I read they do best in covered soil, but around here it rarely freezes and never long enough to actually freeze the ground. And I need to keep my garden well mulched to keep down weeds (they are prolific! And the grasses, aggressive!). Anyhoo, it might be you don’t have these issues (I’m guessing your green houses might?), but if you have any ideas, or strategies, I’d love to hear them.

    • August 5, 2013 1:37 pm

      Mama Rachael, Thank you!

      I hate to say we don’t have too many pests, and we are lucky we don’t have squash bugs here or I would be up a creek. Our biggest pest are cabbage moth, and root maggots which you can either block out with row cover or in the case of cabbage moth use Bt. Maybe some of the readers will chime in for you, because I know squash bugs are a huge problem in quite a few home gardens.

    • Sandy permalink
      August 9, 2013 4:54 pm

      No garden for a few years, so I can’t say this WILL work, but Organic Gardening Mag/Rodale Press used to recommend (and possibly still do, but my books are a couple decades out of date . . . ) interplanting with nasturtium and/or tansy. Apparently the bugs are repelled and/or confused by the strong scent. Best of luck!

  2. August 5, 2013 1:22 pm

    I can with that same kind of thinking, how many weeks in a year and how often will we eat this? You never know when a crop will fail or exceed expectations and I use that as my excuse to can more than I think we will use in a year. I’m also big on drying tomatoes and freezing them when I get burned out on canning.

    • August 5, 2013 1:31 pm

      he he, I agree, a two year supply isn’t a bad thing, just in case the canner gets taken out :p We dried 5 gallons of prunes last year and we have a pint left! The prune trees are getting nervous with us peering at them all the time too 🙂

      • August 5, 2013 4:48 pm

        LOL what’s that about a watched pot never boils 😉 Gota love those prunes! If I can get off my bum this evening, I need to make a batch of plum leather. I like prunes better but I never turn away free fruit!

  3. August 5, 2013 1:47 pm

    I think this is my favorite post ever. The pictures of the tomatoes and the sauce are lovely; all the “putting-by” talk is so much fun to read; and I like your lack of enthusiasm for lists and menu plans and so forth, since I’m the same way. The only thing this post lacks, Matron, is a quick recipe for that gorgeous sauce. Any chance you could share that with us? Oh! Also: instructions for canning carrots? I’d never thought of such a thing, actually, but I’ve got a LOT of big carrots that I need to do SOMETHING with. We can only eat so many fresh.

    • August 5, 2013 2:31 pm

      Amy, thanks 🙂 I roast all my tomatoes, cut in half, skin side up one layer thick in large roasting pans, I usually add basil, oregano, garlic or garlic scapes, onions and maybe peppers and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until the skins are almost black and a lot of the juice has evaporated. Then I run this mix through a food mill and cook down to the the desired consistency in a crock pot. This is kind of an ongoing process, roast, mill, cook down, and while the crock pots are going I am usually roasting more tomatoes. I usually add a 1/4 teaspoon citric acid to each pint or a 1/2 teaspoon to each quart just to insure adequate acidity because I have added other vegetables. I process most of my canned goods in a pressure canner, so on this you need to follow the time listed for stewed tomatoes.

      A food mill like this really makes the process go smoothly:
      http://www.amazon.com/Victorio-VKP250-Model-Strainer-Sauce/dp/B001I7FP54/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1375741772&sr=8-5&keywords=food+mill

      As for the carrots, the Ball Blue Book has instructions for that, wash, slice, add water, salt optional and pressure can according to the recipe. I had to get rid of one entire bed of carrots last year, and I didn’t want to store them since we had rows of carrots for fresh eating. It was so easy I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner in my canning life!

      • August 6, 2013 6:00 pm

        Thanks so much for all this information. I’m going to look into getting that food strainer. It looks like fun! And I’m going to make some sauce like that–maybe tomorrow. It sounds so delicious.

  4. August 5, 2013 2:34 pm

    I too loved the pictures and descriptions of the tomatoes. Last year here in the northeast was a bumper crop but this year not so good so far. I am lucky though, I have canned and some frozen still stored. I have found that a bleak crop often follows the high yields and my pickles and jams may cover 2 years so now with our family down to two people plus lots of family stopping by I am slowing down on quantities that I “put by”.

    Johanne

  5. August 5, 2013 2:34 pm

    The 52 week number is an excellent guide and it is likely that you won’t use all 52 leaving a little carryover. Which is a good idea. We live in fear of having a disastrous crop in the coming year and so with tomatoes we preserve a small percentage extra as a precaution. This did work out well two years ago when the wet Summer reduced the crop dramatically.

  6. Nicky permalink
    August 5, 2013 7:27 pm

    Hi I have also been over run with squash bugs in the last few years. Tried handpicking like crazy. My kids got very good at squashing bugs. This year I tried something new. As soon as I noticed the little “blighters” in the squash flowers, I bought diatamatious earth ( spelling, can never remember how to spell that word) I sprinkled it liberally and I mean “caked” it around the base of the zuccinni and cucumbers. No more squash beetles. The beetles lay their eggs at the base of the plants so emerging babies came into contact with the earth as soon as they emerged. Diatamatious earth, or how ever you spell it, is a organic, fossilized product that is very sharp to insects and when they crawl over it, it slices their little bodys up and they die. Wonderful stuff…food grade too, just dont breath it in.
    Question for matron..I notice that some of your tomato seed is F1. I am surprised that you would grow genetically modinfied tomatoes. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks Nicky

    • August 5, 2013 7:56 pm

      Nicky, thanks for the info for Rachael and anyone else with squash bugs 🙂

      F1 means hybrid, which is a cross between two parents, and if you saved the seed you might get the same plant or a copy of one parent or another. Kinda like my kid, she’s a cross between me and my husband. OP or open pollinated means I can save the seed from a tomato and theoretically it would be true to type. GMO is a whole ‘nother ballgame, introducing different things like bacteria into plants to make them more pest-resistant , instead of breeding plants to plants for vigor etc.

      I grow a mix of hybrids and open pollinated varieties, and I save seed, so for me in my garden and on my land, saving seed for every single thing I grow is not possible unless I wanted to turn over even more land, (each cabbage variety, I grow, 6 this year, would require 200 plants of each just for seed, and it’s biennial so that’s two growing seasons)so I go for the middle of the road approach, with the exception of GMO seeds. Plus,I don’t know of any (I may be wrong)GMO seeds available to home or market gardeners. Those are reserved for the big guys.

      • Nicky permalink
        August 6, 2013 6:47 am

        Hi matron. I Really have to apologise. I cannot understand how on earth my brain jumped to GMO tomatoes. I feel like such a fool!!I know the difference between F1 and GMO. Holly cow, I have only been growing tomatoes for 20 years! All I can say is since menopause hit me like a ton of bricks 6 months ago, my brain has turned to mush. Your garden is amazing and for me to question you is completely out of line. Very sorry, wont happen again.Thank you Nicky

  7. August 5, 2013 10:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Fresh Food Gardener and commented:
    My tomatoes are running me back and forth. I pick a basketful one day and then more the next day. No, I’m not complaining. I enjoy the bounty. When I read this gardener’s experience with tomatoes, I thought you’d enjoy reading it as much as I did. -Marlene

  8. Mich permalink
    August 5, 2013 11:32 pm

    Nice looking tomatoes. I have just spotted one ripening in my greenhouse 🙂 feel like I have been waiting ages for a fresh tomato.
    I grew Japanese black trifele last year, I liked it but my chap didn’t! Boo. This year I am trying out German Johnson, Mortgage lifter, Ponderosa orange, Limon, Legend and my usual Tigerella.
    I usually roast mine down with olive oil and garlic, purée and freeze.
    This year I am going to attempt the water bath canning method as freezer space will be tight. Fingers crossed it doesn’t go wrong I would hate to lose my winter supply.

  9. m in nc permalink
    August 6, 2013 5:04 am

    Love the tomato review, I’m going to pull up the entry for my mother to read.

    We do grow Belle Star and they are doing quite well this year. They are planted at the top of the row and should be ready to pick in a week or two. We are late this year, cold wet spring drifted into a cool wet summer (June). It only really got summer like the last week of June. The indeterminates: 2 New Zealand paste (from some old seed I had collectd), Jersey Devil and Rocky from new seed will be coming along later. All paste tomatoes. A few eating tomatoes are planted at the house in the city.

    I definitely get the ‘rule of 52’! It would have been great if we could have put up 52-plus quarts of green beans. However the cool wet weather set them up for disease — and the @#%$! deer took care of the rest.

    Squash bugs: Squash with the fingers — check cucs and tomatoes if they are hiding around those. I also use a regular bucket with about an inch of water, a squirt of dish-washing detergent (Green Palmolive / Blue Dawn) and a cap full of mouthwash (strong with alcohol). Toss the bugs in this … wet your hands in it and rub the eggs off the leaves. Squirt soapy water around the base of the plants. the adults like to hide in the mulch around the plants and they DO NOT like getting set (plain water will drive them out too) . They soft bodied nymphs can be squirted/splashed with the soapy/alcohol water too. This bucket mix works well for japanese beetles too. It’s pretty easy to shake beetles into the bucket. We have treated the soil and try to mash/drown them before they can lay eggs. It has taken a few years, but the population has been drastically reduced. Oly found a few on the eggplants.

    M in Piedmont NC.

  10. August 6, 2013 4:08 pm

    I just wanted to thank you so much for going to all the trouble of sharing your life experiences with us . As a “newbie” I find it invaluable and inspiring . Gives me a small hope that I might be able to grow my own some day soon .

  11. August 8, 2013 6:49 am

    Thought you might find this story interesting: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/05/209018347/ecologists-turn-to-planned-grazing-to-revive-grassland-soil

    Gorgeous tomatoes! Maine has had a cool, wet summer, this me drool I mean dream even more from a bigger hoophouse.

    Ali

    • August 8, 2013 12:14 pm

      Thanks Ali, I’ll check it out! Oregon’s summer has been one to die for this year. Goodness we have tomatoes coming out our ears in early August, unheard of!

  12. November 5, 2013 2:14 pm

    Guideline 52 is a brilliant idea! We’re planning on raising meat birds this year (come Spring) and I was already thinking that if 50 made it to butcher size, that’s almost a chicken a week. You’d think I would have then applied that to canning or fermenting but I didn’t :p

Trackbacks

  1. Winter Squash Harvest | Throwback at Trapper Creek
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