End of the Garden 2013: Holy Tomato

A few weeks ago when my mom and I were drinking bottles of wine ah, working on the pasture fence, we got the bright idea to take a break from the hard labor by clearing “the last of the tomatoes” out of the garden.

I thought there might be a basket of good tomatoes left…

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I might have underestimated.

I mean, there were still quite a few that I didn’t pick in time, and this is how my mother decided to clear the garden of “bad” fruit. Stack them on the rake and fling them into the field.

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I do not recommend this approach if you have actual neighbors, but it works pretty well when your backyard looks like this…

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The big question, of course, was what the hell to do with all of those tomatoes. I already made 6 jars of salsa and canned a bunch of whole tomatoes, and I was pretty much done with chopping and canning. But thanks to one of the fabulous people who commented on my last tomato post, I learned that there was something called a Tomato Mill.

And now I own one…

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This was no less messy than skinning and chopping by hand, but it was way more fun, which does count for something. And it gave me the perfect consistency for something that could be boiled down to a red sauce that could then–because I was effing done with the canning– be frozen.

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I am 100% sure this was not my idea. It probably came from Pinterest. Either way though, totally brilliant. My family always froze the red sauce in big bricks that took approximately 432 hours to thaw, but the cubes can be portioned out and thawed in a minute or two in the microwave.

I also mixed the tomato scraps with some kale from the garden and froze it for chicken treats this winter…

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One of the best things about the farm is that almost nothing goes to waste here.

Now, you know there was no way I was going to dress regular old boxed noodles from the store with my farm-fresh, homemade sauce, so this also happened…

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Making pasta from scratch is one of the genetic gifts that comes with being Italian. Along with the ability to yell really, really loud.

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Typically when I make pasta it’s for a family dinner, and it’s cooked an eaten right away. This time I actually flash-froze the pasta nests on a baking sheet and then packaged them up for storage in the freezer.

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They cook in a couple of minutes just like regular pasta, and, yeah, it tastes even better than it looks.

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If you’ve never made homemade pasta before, here’s my recipe:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup or less of water

Mix flour and salt, make a well in the center of the flour, crack in eggs, add a little water, and slowly mix in the flour from the outside. It will look dry and clumpy for a while, but don’t go crazy with the water, keep adding as needed. Kneed with hands until a dough forms. Still may seem a bit dry, but as long as it’s sticking together you’re good. Cover with a wet towel and let rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Kneed again (it should be more pliable), then run through a pasta machine from the thickest setting to the thinnest setting. If you’re making pasta, run through the cutter for the appropriate sized noodles. Wrap in nests on wax-paper covered baking sheet. Freeze for a few hours. Seal in freezer bags. Take out, boil, and enjoy wheneverthehell you want.

So that was the last of the tomatoes, but certainly not the end of the garden for the year…

12 Responses

  1. I’m a Nigella Lawson fan, and one idea of hers that has always stayed with me is to treat your freezer like its an extension of your pantry. I cook and freeze a lot. I know someone whose father has a lime tree so I do a lot of lime juice ice blocks. I also freeze leftover wine and stock in one cup amounts. This way I know exactly how much I’m adding to any recipe. Cheers

  2. I LOVE making home made pasta. I was taught by an ex boyfriend in college who was hardcore through and through Italian and made everything from scratch. And I’m jealous of your super fresh homemade red sauce. I usually buy the canned tomatoes to start and that’s as from scratch as I can get it.

  3. I remember those days: Once a year, my mom would come home from Jersey with bushels of tomatoes, and I’d be stuck cranking! The giant pot of bubbling tomato sauce on the stove. Homemade ravioli or gnocchi. Eating “dinner” at noon on Sunday, usually watching an Abbott and Costello movie on the small B&W tv in the kitchen.

  4. “Making pasta from scratch is one of the genetic gifts that comes with being Italian. Along with the ability to yell really, really loud.” OMG I’m dying. You just summed up my family in a hilarious little sentence. 🙂

  5. Great, now I’m craving pasta! I didn’t put in any tomatoes this year (big mistake!), but my parents did. Of course, my dad never let me have any, so, no fresh sauce for us this year!

  6. oh, nicely done! Also…you can throw whole tomatoes in the freezer. Well, wash them and bag them first. When they thaw the skins just slip off.

  7. My goodness, you were busy, and that looks awesomely delicious! PS. Never underestimate the good ol’ food dehydrator. You can preserve stuff so that no electricity is required during long term storage, no precious freezer space taken up, and no worries about spoilage during a power outage.

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