Tomato Day

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It was nothing like ‘Tomato Day’ as described in the novel, “Looking for Alibrandi” but The Duke and I had our own mini version when we cut up 5.5kg of tomatoes yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago I asked at the local fruit stall if they had any cooking/sauce tomatoes as I wanted to make tomato sauce.  After some discussion it was agreed that they would try to get some from the market if there were any available and let me know.  I had not heard anything so I asked again when we went yesterday to buy our weekly supply of fruit and vegetables.  B then presented me with a box of assorted over-ripe tomatoes which had been sorted from the regular ones rather than specifically purchased.  These were then given to me as they would otherwise have been thrown out.

Back at home, we only had to discard 3 or 4 that were completely rotten and the rest were chopped up and placed in bags in the freezer.  I simply do not have the time to make sauce this week in the lead-up to Christmas and holidays so they can stay in the freezer until I have time to make the sauce.

This is an example of the benefits of eating seasonal produce and also supporting and getting to know your small, local retailer.  I could not imagine this scenario happening at my local Coles or Woolworths supermarket.

Slow Living – January

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Today I have decided to dip my toe in and join the monthly diary started by Christine over at Slow Living Essentials.  The idea is to post a round up of the slow living activities for the month based on nine categories.  I have watched with interest and think that this idea will link in nicely with many of my own ideals and goals.  Although Christine lives in Victoria, Australia I actually discovered her blog through Heidi’s slow living posts over at Lightly Crunchy.  Heidi is in Ontario, Canada – what a small world our online community is!

Here are the Slow Living categories:

{Nourish}  We eat largely unprocessed foods.  I eat a gluten and grain-free diet for my health.  I have been doing this for 6 months and am reaping the benefits.  Here is my ‘cereal’ recipe.

{Prepare}  A bumper tomato crop from several varieties gave me ample opportunity to save for later.

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I made tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Labelled and ready to store

In the dying days of the month, I decided that I couldn’t bear to lose the 4kg of tomatoes that had been frozen and were rapidly thawing due to loss of power for 2 days. Using the gas cooktop, I boiled them up and reduced the liquid then bottled and preserved them using a hot water bath.

Stockpot

I needed to be a little inventive as I normally sterilise my bottling jars and lids in the oven at 140C.  This time I boiled the jars and utensils.  Finally, I used the same water for the hot water bath.  Remember, I had to haul the water in a bucket from the tank at the back of our block.

We also prepared for, and survived, the wild weather from ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald (hurricane).

{Reduce}  We repainted the old star pickets to re-use in the fencing project.  You can’t see them here – the timber corner and bracing posts are new.

Fence-building

{Green}  The timber chairs and table are sparkling after being polished.  I use some vegetable oil with a little lemon essential oil on a soft rag to dust and polish all of the timber furniture.

Pink cloth

{Grow}  The tomatoes grew in abundance as did cucumbers.  Due to a warm, dry summer (until the last week) we managed to successfully grow cantaloupe and capsicums (red peppers).  The next month will be clearing and resting the beds ready for sowing again in March, weather permitting.

More tomatoes

{Create}  My sewing machine has been out of action (and, boy have I missed it)!  I have been doing some hand sewing – mending a couple of items for Missy.

{Discover}  I have indulged in some fiction this month.  I bought the entire ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series for my Kindle.  It was only a couple of dollars and will provide hours of reading.  I did not read the books when I was young, although I did watch the videos when my daughters had them.

Pumpkin

{Enhance}  We swapped a cantaloupe for 2 small pumpkins with a neighbour.  Also, checked to see how neighbours were going during the storms and flooding.

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I also gave away 75 novels on Freecycle.  The recipient was a co-ordinator for the Lifeline Bookfest so that is where they will be going.  I feel like that is giving several times over.  🙂  They were ones that we now also have on our Kindles.  We are enjoying the space, too.

{Enjoy}  I introduced my granddaughters to live theatre.

Showtime

Miss O and I went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Sydney and I took Izz to see Hairy McLary, based on the books by Lynley Dodd.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my first month of slow living as much as I have writing it.  Looking back back over a whole month and what you have done is really worthwhile.  I plan to continue this segment for the entire year.  There are lots more blogs participating so it would be great if you check them out as well.

A Saucy Tale

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Yesterday I picked 2 kg of cherry tomatoes from the bushes that grow wild in various parts of our garden.

Tomatoes
Firstly, I removed the stalks and rinsed them and then added the 1.5 kg that were already prepared and frozen from a couple of weeks ago.  It was time to make some tomato sauce (ketchup).  The recipe is super simple and is written near the end of this post.

Frozen tomatoes
Home-grown cherry tomatoes have a very short shelf life so unless you are feeding an army, it makes sense to freeze the excess immediately or otherwise they go to waste rather quickly.

Frozen tomatoes on scales
You will need a large saucepan or stockpot depending on the quantity of tomatoes that you are processing.  Mine is a stainless steel one with a heavy base which helps to stop the food burning.  This is important because by their very nature, most jams, pickles and preserves have a high proportion of sugar.  Many of the old-style preserving pans are aluminium, however, I do not use aluminium for perceived health reasons.

Stainless steel stockpotApart from the tomatoes, you will need a few other ingredients.

Tomate sauce ingredientsHere is the recipe.

TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

3kg ripe tomatoes
15g whole cloves
15g whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
250ml vinegar
375g sugar
60g salt
500g onions

Sauce ingredients in stockpot

Method

Place the cloves and allspice in a muslin bag.  Roughly chop the onions and tomatoes.  Place all ingredients in the stockpot and simmer for approximately 2 hours, stirring regularly.  Remove spice bag and discard.  Strain or process mixture in a blender to required consistency.

Return mixture to a clean saucepan and bring to the boil for 5 minutes before pouring into warm, sterilised jars.  Seal jars and store appropriately.

Notes

When using cherry tomatoes for this recipe there is no need to chop them.

I used chilli powder instead of cayenne, powdered instead of whole allspice and I always use raw sugar. The powdered spices and raw sugar tend to make the finished product slightly darker.

I use a hand-held stick blender to process the mixture.  Whatever method you use, be very careful when handling the hot liquid as it can be unpredictable.

Tomato sauce - finished
The original recipe can be found here.  It is also in Sally Wise’s book, ‘A Year in A Bottle’.

This is a tasty tomato sauce which bears no resemblance to the commercial varieties.  Enjoy!

Squirrel It Away

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I have had a very productive weekend.  Following on from yesterday’s post about the Tabasco sauce I wanted to show you my other achievements in the kitchen.

The bell chillies were dried and the 4 trays of sliced chillies ended up reducing to this.

2012-02-05 01I then ground them in the spice grinder attachment for my food processor.

2012-02-05 02This is what I ended up with.  45g of powdered chilli – grown about 20 metres from the back door with no chemical sprays.  The smaller jar is the residue after I had sieved it mixed with some avocado oil.  I will use the chilli oil to add a little bit of flavour when cooking.

2012-02-05 03Today we went to the Caboolture Markets.  I bought the fruit and vegetables that I needed as well as 9kg of tomatoes.  These were being sold for 99c/kg so I filled my Ecosilk bag.

2012-02-05 04I decided to make tomato pasta sauce that I will be able to use in a variety of ways.  The ingredients are tomatoes, onions, basil, tomato paste and red wine.  The onions were from our crop last winter which were diced and frozen, the basil from the garden, tomato paste and red wine from the cupboard.

I forgot to take any photos as I was working flat out to get this done this afternoon but here is the end result.

2012-02-05 05The sauce in the plastic containers will be frozen and the jars of sauce were processed in a hot water bath so they will be stored in the cupboard.  This was my first attempt at processing anything in a hot water bath.  I am confident that it has worked well as the pop-tops have all been vacuum sealed.

I am definitely going to do some more research and learn more about this method.  It means that I can preserve food without using the freezer and being reliant on a consistent supply of electricity.  There is also a small matter of available space in the freezer, too.

Any tips or recommendations of resources on preserving would be appreciated.