Just so you know – preserving isn’t all waterbaths, bubbling cauldrons and temperature control. Here are a couple of my recent projects that capture summer’s essence now and put it by to savor on a dark, rainy night.
Anyone who lived through the late eighties can remember when sun-dried tomatoes were so HIP. I swear, they were ubiquitous and found in everything. Sort of like bacon today! It’s only just now, nearly 20 years later that I can once again appreciate and enjoy their concentrated sweetness and flavor punch. The pesto recipe is a variation based on a delicious pasta dish I used to order at 1904, a long defunct but very cool Seattle restaurant back when our fair city had about 6 top eateries. The mint and basil mixture are lighter than a traditional basil only pesto and the walnuts are a good way to mix it up (& save a little money besides).
Oven -Dried Tomatoes
Small jars of dried tomatoes packed in oil are costly deli items. Preparing
your own when the summer crop is abundant is easy and every bit as tasty.
Season: Late summer through fall
Yield: 1 pint
Store: Refrigerator or cool, dark pantry
4 pounds ripe but not overly soft Italian paste-type (plum, Roma)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 200°F. Line sheet pans with foil or parchment paper and set cooling racks on them. Halve the small tomatoes and quarter the larger ones, removing the tough core at the stem end. Gently squeeze the tomatoes to remove most of the seeds.
Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on the cooling racks. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. Place pans in the oven and prop the door open to allow moisture to escape; a convection oven with a built-in fan is ideal. The tomatoes are done when they have shriveled and are leathery but not brittle. Their color should be a deep ruby red. The amount of time required will depend on the tomatoes, but count on 6 to 8 hours.
Cool the tomatoes completely. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, tossing with your hands to lightly moisten them. With a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and drain on paper toweling, patting them to thoroughly dry.
Pack the tomatoes into a sterilized pint jar together with the rosemary. Pour in enough olive oil to completely cover the tomatoes and cap securely. Store at cool room temperature for 1 month before serving. Refrigerate after opening.
Variation on Pesto
Basil is what we think of most often when pesto is mentioned. A fine paste of olive oil, fresh basil, pine nuts, and garlic, finished with Parmesan cheese, basil pesto is delicious on pasta, grilled chicken, tomato salads, or simply crusty bread-a definite highlight of the summer herb season. Carry this flavor into the colder months of the year by freezing pesto in small, serving-size quantities-an ice cube tray is perfect for this-and packaging in zip-locking freezer bags.
Season: Late summer through fall
Yield: About 2 cups
Store: Refrigerator or freezer (6 months)
3 to 31/2 cups mixed fresh green basil and mint, firmly packed
3/4 to 1 cup good olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup walnuts
Parmesan cheese (omit if freezing)
Purée the basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts in a blender or bowl of a food processor to the degree of coarseness you prefer. Scrape the purée into a bowl and add salt to taste. Stir in several handfuls of Parmesan cheese and serve. To store in the refrigerator, pack the pesto into a jar and top with a layer of olive oil to keep the paste from darkening from exposure to the air. To freeze, omit the Parmesan cheese and pack the container, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, or fill ice cube trays as suggested; add cheese when serving.
From Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest, by Carla Emery & Lorene Edwards Forkner, 2009 Sasquatch Books