Tomatoes: Fruit or Vegetable? I’ve heard it called both. Either way, I love them fresh from the vine, dried with spices in oil, sauced, or pasted. Nothing tastes like summer more than a sun-ripened tomato. So needless to say, tomatoes are a big deal around the farm.
By March seeds were planted and kept indoors by our south-facing window. In April, with snow still on the ground, the seedlings were taken out to our make-shift hot house.
As the weather warms up, they are transplanted into the greenhouse and spend the next few months rooting well and growing. We enjoyed June tomatoes, which usually come a month before they arrive at the local farmer’s market.
We make sure to experiment with different types of tomatoes, saving the seeds from our favorite plants to enjoy the following year.
One hundred tomato plants produce anywhere from 30 to 60 pounds of fresh tomatoes daily. Picking, washing, sorting and cutting this many tomatoes (and still having time to enjoy life), requires a lot of speed. (And preferably extra hands.) We’ve learned that the sauce thickens better with the skin still on.
The extra tomato cuttings go to feed the pigs.
The cooked tomatoes are run through a saucing mill. (Sauce Master costs under $20) The pulp and juice pour into the bowl, then is transferred into another pot. The seeds and skin are collected at the end of the saucing mill and then given to the chickens.
Sauce or paste depends on the time it cooks. Since we process such large quantities, we use a large propane burner outside as a cook top.
Please note that glass stove tops do not hold up well to canning. Our new glass cook top has small chips actually burned out of them where the canning pot sat overnight.
The next step is to can either straight from the pot or after adding fried onions, garlic, bell peppers and spices.
If you live in a climate like the Pacific Northwest, make sure to add some acid to the tomatoes in the form of lemon or lime juice, or citric acid to your jars. 1/4 tsp. of ascorbic acid keeps the acid content up preventing spoilage.
When canning sauce the ratio between the tomatoes and added vegetables are measured in the raw. So 30 pounds of tomatoes, safely holds an additional two and a half cups of other vegetables such as onions and peppers. Even if the sauce is brought down to two cups of thick paste, you can still add the 2-1/2 cups of veggies and remain confident of the quality and safety.
My favorite recipe:
Makes about 4 quarts.
- 30 pounds whole tomatoes (1 lug)
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tbls. oregano
- 4 tbls. fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tsp. black pepper
- 4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp sugar to brighten the vegetable taste
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil