There is no feeling like that of being overwhelmed with freshly-picked garden-fresh produce. It’s something you want to revel in — that sensation of abundance, the freshness, the deliciousness — but, before long, what sets in is panic. What in the world am I going to do with all this squash, all these cucumbers, 20 pounds of tomatoes, etc.? And whatever I do, I’ve got to do it quickly, before the peak-of-harvest goodness fades.
We haven’t had a garden this year, but I got a taste of this from visiting my father. I also ambitiously placed an order from Johnson’s Backyard Garden (one of the local farms, perhaps the biggest), which was offering huge boxes of tomatoes at the height of their season. I knew we weren’t going to eat 20 lbs of tomatoes immediately, before they rotted away, but I’ve been dabbling in canning, so I figured I could tackle it all one Saturday, if we picked up the harvest that morning.
Then Michael walked in the door that Saturday, having picked up the box of San Marzano sauce tomatoes on his way back from soccer practice. I peered into the box only to find that the tomatoes were still green. There would be no canning done that day.
When could the canning be done? There was no telling. But when those tomatoes ripened, I had to be ready.
To let them ripen, I spread them along the floor in the dining room on sheets of newspaper, out of direct sunlight and covered with another layer of newspaper. Then, I checked on them a couple of times a day, to see how they were coming along.
Meanwhile, I plotted. I wanted to make more than one thing, just to keep things more interesting. But I didn’t want to endure two big canning sessions. So I came up with two recipes and used Thanksgiving Dinner-style timing hocus-pocus to juggle pots, stove space, canner availability, etc. Of course, they ripened in the middle of the week, but I rolled with the punches. The result: Tomato Jam (5 lbs of tomatoes to this) and Seasoned Tomato Sauce (15 lbs of tomatoes to this – 1.5x the recipe below).
What surprised me is how little end product I finished with, given the huge volume of tomatoes with which I started. Still, they were delicious, and I expect they will continue to be.