Sometimes I make irresponsible choices when it comes to summer tomatoes. Since the really good ones are only available for such a short amount of time every year, I want to consume them as often as possible. That means that many times I find myself walking home from the farmers’ market having nibbled through not one but two pints of cherry tomatoes that were meant for a summer salad or a quick tomato sauce. Not only do I eat so many tomatoes that my mouth becomes irritated from the acid, but I have to trudge back to the market to buy more. The height of my tomato addiction, however, came two summers ago in Ithaca, New York…
I was walking along the quaint, sawdust-covered rows of the farmers’ market in Ithaca with a craft friend. She is my partner in crime in all things canning – beets, green beans, jalapeños and carrots – you name it, we have canned it. So, given our prior experience, we were quite comfortable with our canning skills, and didn’t bat an eye when we came across 25 pound boxes of locally grown, organic tomatoes for twenty bucks for all 60 pounds.* We stuffed the boxes in the car and drove back to the city with the sweet scent of the ripe red orbs permeating the car.
Once back in the city, we set to work processing our bounty. We peeled, chopped, stewed, jarred, boiled, and cooled every last tomato, ad nauseum. At the end of that long day, we were each twenty jars of homemade and organic stewed tomatoes richer. Whipping up a batch of chipotle ranchera became the preferred method for me for using up those tomatoes. Easy to make and requiring only minimal ingredients, this sauce adds kick to pasta dishes, can be used as a base for Mexican pizza and is fantastic spread on crusty bread stuffed with sliced carne asada and peppery arugula.
In Guatemala, I found locals use a similar type of tomato sauce to serve over perfectly fried eggs, which in my book, ranks right up there with graham crackers and Nutella. However you choose to use this sauce, you’ll want to keep a jar around all the time. Depending on how industrious you are, maybe you’ll even use home-canned tomatoes. No? Don’t worry. Store bought work just fine.
The realization that the canning process would allow me to prolong that oh-so-brief summer tomato season long into the bitter and dreary winter was eye opening. For every time I would pop the lid of one of the glass Ball jars, unleashing its essence, I would be reminded of that summer scent that permeated the Suburu, tickling our noses with grass and sunshine and warmth.
*For those of you doing the math, the boxes were overweight, but we weren’t charged extra…