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Lasts and a Tomato Sauce Tip

September 16, 2013
Last piece of roofing

Last piece of roofing

The view from the kitchen window has changed!  Of course, now there won’t be a tanned, shirtless guy hanging out there since the last piece of tin was installed just before the rain Saturday night.  Thank Heavens for that, it was getting a little hairy to watch from my safe vantage point at the tomato roasting headquarters.  The weather vane was taken down and reinstalled, and it was weird to hold it in my hands.  It was a gift from my hubby before he was my hubby and I look at it as a weather consultant each day.  A weather sentinel with sentiments attached.  I held it while new holes were drilled for the new mounting, and it was such a strange feeling; I always am looking up at it, and as I held the weather vane fast in my hands while it had its turn at the drill press (the inanimate object’s version of a dentist, I imagine), I found myself wondering if the new mounting would quiet the familiar whine and whisper during a wind storm, or if it would go back to its perch with its voice still attached.  Sigh, winters coming, and soon we’ll know.

I’m harvesting the last tomatoes too.  Thank heavens for that.  Bar none, this has been the longest tomato season for this farm ever.  I’ve been processing tomatoes since mid August, which means in garden speak, that I had too many to eat fresh.  That’s a record for me as a gardener, despite having a greenhouse for my tomatoes.

Roasted Bellstar for sauce

Roasted Bellstar for sauce

I like to save my sauce making for last with these Bellstars for a couple of reasons.  One, they tend to ripen in a couple of settings for processing, I like that, and it gives me a breather.  Two, at this point in September they have not been watered since the first week of August (farming is about taming nature a bit and a greenhouse lets me do that to some degree) so the tomatoes I am processing now have a higher ratio of solids to liquid.  Nice.  So high in solids they are, that I am skipping my crock pot reduction part of the equation for this sauce.  I have added a little step though, because I still have a little extra liquid to deal with.  After each batch is removed from the oven, I am skimming the liquid off and adding it to the next pan.  Sort of like tomato fond in a round about way, adding this liquid to the next pan deglazes it a bit and reduces and concentrates the flavors of the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs.  It makes for a kick ass flavored tomato sauce let me tell you.

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Since my other profession is professional cream skimmer outer, skimming the tomato juice from these bowls is a piece of cake compared to dealing with a jar of milk.

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Ignore the misshapen hand, I have no idea who that belongs to…  We’re still laughing about that.

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The light is truly at the end of the tunnel for the tomatoes, as they give up the ghost, I have started ripping them in anticipation of prepping the greenhouse for its winter rest.  I have to report that if you have to grow one sauce/paste tomato and you live in a cool climate and don’t like a fussy tomato, you should try Bellstar.  The only con is that it produces too much!  If you could consider that a con.  In the pro column, it is a determinate so it doesn’t need staking or pruning; its open pollinated so you can save seeds; it doesn’t crack, ever; the sauce is so red you can’t believe it, and did I say it’s prolific?  I grew mine this year on the dark green mulch, instead of the traditional straw mulch I had always used before.  I can’t say that it made the tomatoes grow better or ripen sooner, but the biggest advantage was that I had zero waste to slugs or rotting tomatoes despite not getting them picked on time, every single time.  The mulch created an environment that the garter snakes LOVE and the slugs hate, so no nibbled tomatoes equaled no rot whatsoever.  That’s huge in my garden book.

Finally while fresh tomatoes are what we wait for all winter, the section on tomatoes in Jo Robinson’s latest book, Eating on the Wild Side, quickly spells out how the most nutritious tomatoes are in the canned food aisle at the grocery store.  Cooking makes the lycopene and other nutrients in tomatoes more bioavailable for us, and processing tomatoes are always picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly processed.  Such a different practice than how tomatoes are harvested for the fresh market.  I liked reading the part about the more tomatoes are cooked the better they are for you, since I have been cooking the devil out of these tomatoes to reduce them to a saucy paste-like consistency.  I’m still not finished with Jo’s book, yet so I will write a proper review when I am completely done, but if you don’t want to wait, I would recommend buying this book, it’s one you will refer to again and again when you are planning your garden.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2013 2:03 pm

    Great looking photos (and post as usual) your daughter must be shooting!

    • September 16, 2013 2:35 pm

      Thanks, and yes, we had a great laugh about how arthritic my hand looked in the photo, they look bad but not like that. I liked the photos, definitely makes the tomato roasting look a lot more romantic than it is 🙂

  2. September 16, 2013 2:33 pm

    Hi Nita. Congratulations on your highest yielding tomatoes this year. I have to say that tomato sauce looks absolutely delicious. x

    • September 16, 2013 2:37 pm

      Hi Rhonda, here you were in my spam folder, I suspect that is what happened before 😦

      It’s been hard to stay out of it actually it is so good, I pulled out a smidge last night and made marinara sauce for our dinner pizza. Wonderful – hugs to you and your family!

  3. Mary permalink
    September 16, 2013 5:09 pm

    I am so glad you had a great tomato year. But i am also so jealous. I planted 28 tomato plants and they did awful. I only got enough to can 3 quarts of sauce. Im thankful for those of course. We just had so much rain here (knoxville ,tn) that they just rotted on the plant. Oh well….. There’s always next year.

  4. M in NC permalink
    September 17, 2013 3:31 am

    Tomatoes are about finished in central NC also.I planted a variety of tomato seeds again (mostly paste type). Belle Star because they come in first, along with Jersey Devil, Rocky and a few older New Zealand paste to follow later.

    It was a very wet year here in central NC . We are over 9 inches above normal, and have actually had about 7 consecutive days at the house and country garden without rain.

    Our soil is a heavy clay, so in the country garden after harrowing and plowing to lay off rows, I use a hoe and shovel to make a raised, mounded row for the tomatoes … approx 12 inches high and maybe 18 inches wide — it varies down the length of the row (approx 50 ft).
    Most of the time this means we have to water, but this year the raised row saved the plant roots. The garden does have a downhill slant, so water will drain, but one end or the other will produce better or suffer because of seasonal rain.
    We also mulch with grass clippings from the yard along with some neighbors contributions.
    The grass/leaf mulch helps with erosion, and moderating soil temp and moisture. At the end of the season it gets turned under and adds to the soil mix. We do have a good dk brown/black soil on top of the red clay sub-structure.

    My mother loves the fruit that the Belle Star plants produce. It does make a beautiful sauce, and they are easy to pick.
    We do cage as many tomatoes as possible since it keeps them off the ground, cleaner and away from predators (insects,slugs,turtles).

    Overall, this was a good year for tomatoes provided you did not bury them in a deep hole in the clay ground.

    Love your pictures and descriptions of your preservation techniques.
    They certainly brighten up the day.

    M in NC

  5. Lisa permalink
    September 18, 2013 2:19 pm

    We have been slow roasting San Marzanos and Astianas for 6-10 hours, until reduced by 2/3, then freezing flat in ziplocks. Did pints and quarts of whole San Marzano, still need to do salsa, crushed tomaoes, maybe juice, sauce or chutney.

    Then we have to deal with the peppers.
    No time to look for wild mushrooms, and it looks like it could be a great year.

    • September 18, 2013 2:48 pm

      Lisa, sounds yummy, a friend picked up some Astianas last week for seeds for us, I can’t wait to try them in our location.

      I think I have one more round of peppers, but I have been distracted with mushrooms… Can’t. Stop. Tomatillos can wait!

  6. September 18, 2013 3:19 pm

    I’ll have to try Belle Star one of these years. My own current favorite is Cuore di Bue; huge, prolific, gorgeous, make fantastic sauce. They do crack, but it’s a flaw I’m willing to overlook. Indeterminate. Made less sauce than I think I ever have, because we had, for the first time ever, leftover sauce and tomatoes from last year. But am planning a batch of roasted tomato soup to can because it is amazingly delicious. With thyme. Have 2 quarts in the freezer, but it’s full, and that is not enough soup.

  7. wondering permalink
    September 23, 2013 12:13 pm

    Where do you buy your Bellstar seeds? I’m really eager to try them, as my growing conditions here on southern Van Island are very similar to yours. I don’t see them in my local seed catalogs though (Salt Spring Seeds and West Coast Seeds), so any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • September 23, 2013 12:33 pm

      I got my original seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine, they are open-pollinated so you can save the seeds from them once you purchase your originals.

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