The last several mornings, I’ve woken up to mist or rain. I feel like I’m living in the northwest. When I step outside to walk the dog, sweat immediately begins to pour down my forehead despite the cool morning. The humidity must be somewhere around 1000%. Exertion makes it worse (think rivulets of sweat pouring down my chubby cheeks), but I must get this body back into shape.
However, the tomatoes like it, so I can’t complain. Even without the sun to urge them on, they are growing so fast that they can’t even hold themselves together. Cracks and splits form in their burgeoning sides and I can’t seem to eat them fast enough.
Time to preserve! Somewhere in among the boxes lies the box with my Ball preservation book. I gave away the rest of my canning supplies as I left town last October. I am utterly without canning equipment and guidance!
The lack of everything necessary for me to can left me settled firmly in the freezing camp. Years ago, my mother recommended freezing tomatoes. I could freeze them whole, she said with her years of experience, or cut them into chunks.
The paste tomatoes (we have San Marzanos) are small enough to freeze whole, but I cut off the very top so I don’t have to deal with the green. Then I pop them into a labeled gallon freezer bag and into the freezer.
My cracking tomatoes are the beefsteaks. Our bounty of German Striped, Cherokee Purple, Brandywines and Granny Bradleys overwhelm me with their dense flesh and juicy sweetness. Those I cut into wedges. I put the wedges on a tray lined with parchment paper and freeze them solid. Another labeled gallon freezer bag holds them for the coming winter.
Green beans make up my other big preservation task. After a short respite, they have resumed their need of harvest every other day. After I wash them and snap the little stem ends off, I blanche* them. After drying them in a towel, they get frozen too. I line the tray with a kitchen towel instead of parchment paper since they are a bit wetter than the tomatoes. They line up in my freezer in their quart freezer bags like good little soldiers.
I can see my winter filled with a wedge of tomato here and there in a pan to add sweetness, whole tomatoes tumbled into a pot for pasta sauce, or chunks swirled into broth for a soup. I love to cook frozen green beans simply by tossing them into a pan, adding a chunk of butter and popping the lid on. Then, I turn the heat on low and let the butter melt into the beans as they thaw.
Right now, though, it’s all work. I imagine future LA eating a creamy tomato soup or savoring the freshness of the green beans. How thankful she will be! Only that thought propels me into the kitchen for a few moments to cut up tomatoes or blanche green beans to freeze and preserve.
I guess that’s as good a way as any to spend a cloudy day.
*Blanching is a process where you drop the beans into boiling water until they turn a brighter green. At that point, remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Now, all set for freezing (or eating)!
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