Preserving Other People’s Harvests

The summer is over. There it is. The honest truth. Sure, it was 95 in New York today, but the daylight hours are shortening and the nights have a chilliness not felt in June, July or August. Kids are back in school, the drug stores are stocking halloween costumes and I am knitting my little hands off getting ready for a meager Christmas.*

So, what to do? If you are a wise foodie, you will take your farmer’s markets and families-with-gardens for all you can get your hands on. Here are some ideas to make your January nights less cold:

Tomatoes
At this point, you might be sick of tomatoes. I know, a sacrilege! But you can get to a point where, its like, ok! enough tomatoes! You’ll be kicking yourself in January when the best you can get is something flown from Mexico that looks like a tomato, but tastes like an apple-sponge hybrid. Here’s what to do now. Beg, borrow and steal all the tomatoes you can get your hands on, and set aside a day to make this sauce and clean out some space in your freezer.

lots of tomatoes (whatever you bought, begged, borrowed and stole**) 

olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh basil leaves, washed

First, peel the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating up, fill a large bowl with ice and add water. Some of the ice will melt, that’s okay. Set a colander in another large bowl, like an assembly line. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop the whole tomatoes (you can pull off the green tops if you want) into the boiling water. You’ll probably have to do this in batches. Boil tomatoes for 1 minute. Pull them out with tongs or a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. Let them cool, and move them to the colander. Repeat. When all your tomatoes are in the colander, peel them. The skins should slide right off. Discard the skins and chop the tomatoes into chunks and set aside. 

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame. Add the onion and stir to coat with the oil. Salt the onions well and cook until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Stir and turn heat to low. Simmer the sauce until its done, stirring occasionally. You’ll know its done when your olive oil has come to sit back on top of the sauce and it is a luscious ruby red. Turn off the heat, stir in the whole basil leave and let cool completely.

When the sauce is room temperature, ladle it into freezer bags or freezer safe containers. Label and date your sauce, and put it in the freezer. Dare yourself to wait until January.

Corn on the Cob
This is another one that I get to point of “enough already!” Lucky for us, its easy to preserve until the dark days of winter.

Shuck the corn. Drop ears into a pot of boiling water. Cook 2 minutes. Plunge into ice water. When cool enough to handle, stand one ear on its flat end on a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, cut the kernels off the ear. Scoop into freezer safe bags and save for the dark days.

Basil
Such beautiful flowers, yes, and a wonderful ingredient to have on hand. Place leaves into a food processor with some olive oil and kosher salt. Pulse until creamy. You might have to add more olive oil. Spoon into an ice cube tray (that is reserved for this purpose) and freeze. When frozen, break your basil cubes into a freezer bag and add to soups and sauces all winter long. 

*Ah, yes, the secret project. This Christmas will be particularly meager as yours truly has, gulp, enrolled in culinary school. More on that to come.

**The Gourmand & the Peasant do not, under any circumstances advocate stealing you produce. Look what happened to Rapunzel!