Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!!

Picked Sunday afternoon.

Largest tomato of the year.

We have been picking in the garden as much as possible each night. I have been taking the tomatoes as soon as they are a little pink or orange, though some are nearly soft ripe before I find them. Tonight I moved a few of the plants from leaning left and tipped them right in order to get inside of them and find the ripest ones on the plant. The days are getting shorter and cooler, though the sun was out most of the day, which was nice, but not much is growing anymore. Mostly they are ripening on the plant and that is fine. I really don’t have room for all of them in the house until I figure out what to do with the cucumbers that really are not all that good. Add to that the stack of zucchini that is on the table and I see why we can’t fit any more tomatoes in the house. Checking out those pictures, I think that for supper tomorrow night we just might cook up a batch of jalapeño poppers.

When I got home from school tonight someplace between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I went to the garden to grab another batch of tomatoes. It looked much like the batch from Sunday, but this time there were more romas and less of the really huge ones. I brought them all inside and sorted what was on the table into the sink and put most of what I picked back on the table. I was able to empty on entire box on the table and most of the second one. The tomatoes in those shallow boxes have been ripening under paper most of last week. I had put the ripest into the sink thinking that I would can a batch on Wednesday night, but there were not enough to start the water boiling. Tonight I found enough. I had no idea as I was washing them and dropping them into the water that there were so many. As I took them out to cool, I used four cake pans and a large bowl. I always use those fancy cake pans, one is a bus, one a turkey and the other a bear, plus just one that is a rectangle. They cool much faster, and I refuse to dip them in cold water because I am such a contamination freak. This method has worked for me for years and that is how it is.

I did change a little this year in how I deal with what I used to consider the excess liquid in the pans. I used to drain it away, and now I realize it is from the tomatoes, so I strain it through the cone and put it aside to make juice. Tonight I made three quarts of juice and seven quarts of soup. I held back the final container of peeled tomatoes and one batch that was in the blender while I was filling the jars with the juice. I had two quarts full but only 2/3 in the third quart. I kept draining the liquid and a little bit of the runnier tomatoes through the sieve until I had that third quart full. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, canning salt and sugar to each of those quarts then sealed them up to process.

7 qts. soup and 3 qts. of juice

The soup was interesting as always the ratio of salt and sugar is always determined by the flavor of the tomatoes. I dropped in one stick of butter, then added 1/4 a cup of lemon juice to assure it has the correct acidity for canning safety. I put in 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of canning salt then I whisked in 1 cup of sifted flour. That was a treat to coordinate. It became much easier when I began using the large whisk and switched hands. After a couple of taste tests, I added a bit more sugar and a touch more salt. In the end, I think I should have put in more flour. I didn’t want to over do the stiffness factor though because I was not sure how it would sit up after being processed. I used to really add lots of flour and ended up with really firm soup, almost like what you buy in the store. This batch has less liquid because I strained so much off for the juice. I wasn’t real sure on the flavor, but at the least it will be good when cooked up with a little milk and some chunks of fresh tomatoes. I did not used to like it that way, but it is pretty good on a cool fall day.

Well enough of this fun today. I hope to take some time tomorrow and share some of where we were this past weekend. It would be much easier if I had all of the pictures I tried to take. When I realized that my card was not in my camera it was already the second day of the reunion and I had missed lots of shots. Dang nab it. Oh well, I did still get some, and Paulina shared hers with me, too. Happy Gardening to you!!

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