Now, in these warm fall days, the true nature of tomato plants is revealed. They are perennial plants in their native Peru and many varieties will continue to grow and produce fruit as long as the weather permits. (Varieties that continue to grow are called indeterminate; those that produce one flush of fruit are determinate. One way to keep the terms straight is to remember that determinates know how big they want to get, indeterminates can't make up their minds so they keep growing.) Here are three recipes that I use to make the most of this late season harvest.
Dried Cherry Tomatoes – My favorite variety for drying is Sungold, a very sweet orange cherry tomato.
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half horizontally
Drying can be done in the oven on low heat or in a dehydrator. I use a cheap dehydrator that consists of plastic grates stacked over a heating element. Air circulation is key, so you may want to make your own trays if drying in the oven.
Place tomato halves cut side up on drying tray. Sprinkle with salt. Dry on low heat until leathery (this may take many hours, but the energy used is quite small.) Condition at room temperature for a week to 10 days. Store on shelves in clean canning jars or in plastic bags in the freezer.
All-purpose Tomato Sauce - This is a basic recipe culled from many sources, primarily indebted to The New Vegetarian Epicure (1997) by Anna Thomas
2-3 quarts tomatoes, peeled and cored
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
salt and red pepper flakes
To peel tomatoes: cut a small x in the bottom of each tomato and drop into boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove to bowl. Skins will slip off; cut around core.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over low heat; add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Add tomatoes, breaking up roughly with spoon. Salt, being careful not to add too much. Simmer for 30 minutes, longer if a thicker consistency is desired. Add basil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and more salt if needed.
This sauce can be thickened with a tablespoon of tomato paste, which also adds a richer red color. I puree the finished sauce with an immersion blender, let it cool to room temperature, and freeze it in containers or quart freezer bags. This is not a recipe that can be safely canned in a boiling water bath.
Tomato Conserve- From a vintage 1940s Ball Blue Book, via Martha Foley. Unusual and yummy!
2 quarts tomatoes, peeled and cored
6-8 cups sugar
2 cups seedless raisins
1 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice lemons. Juice orange and cut peel into very thin slices. Cook tomatoes, orange juice and peel, lemon juice until tomatoes are pulpy. remove from heat and let stand several hours or overnight. Add sugar and raisins and boil rapidly until thick, stirring as needed. Add nuts and salt.
Pour hot into jars which have been filled with water and boiled in water-filled pot for 10 minutes. Seal jars and return to pot to boil for 5 more minutes, making sure that water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of jars.