As I sat on our deck steps last night listening to the cicadas and sipping a glass of vino verde while Brian threw toys for the dogs, their feet tearing through our bed of mint and releasing the most intoxicating smell into the air, I realized that the outside temperature was incredibly comfortable. A lovely 68 degrees, with the lightest breeze to whisk the hair out of your face and send goosebumps dancing up your arms, made for the perfect deck-sitting evening. I thought to myself “Fall...she’s almost here”, before picking myself up and moving inside because Summer’s mosquitos haven’t yet received the memo.
September. The first month of Autumn...how is it already upon us? The end of Summer is quite visible in the shriveling of our tomato plants, the slumber of our blackberries and the fully ripe figs on the public trees just down the street (of which I have enjoyed many...). I must admit, I’ve been feeling the fingers of Fall moving in to pull me through the last few weeks of Summer for awhile now and have not been unhappy about it. For Fall, with her crisp air, golden light, crunchy leaves under feet and produce fit for warm and hearty meals, is absolutely my favorite season.
That’s not to say that I won’t miss Summer. I’ll miss our garden, and bemoan the fact that I didn’t have enough forethought to plant winter squash, sweet potatoes or another round of beets. I’ll miss the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes that literally burst open on the vine because they are so full of juice, and the sweet taste of a peach pulled from a tree with my very own hands. I’ll miss my effervescent white wines and fresh berry tarts topped with vanilla ice cream, and simple green salads for dinner paired with a loaf of french bread. And of course there’s the kayaking, the trips to the reservoir with the dogs and the extended daylight that allows for late evening walks and runs with girlfriends.
We’ve done our best to preserve as much of Summer’s bounty as possible. We had bigger plans for the 2009 harvest, but I’m proud that we saved so much more than last year and feel certain that we’ll do even better in 2010. We’ve made over 200 ounces of jam, in flavors ranging from strawberry rhubarb to peach lime. I’ve frozen 10 quart-bags full of blackberries and the same number full of peach slices. I’ve baked and frozen zucchini muffins and raspberry muffins to grab on the go on future rushed Autumn mornings. And I’ve slow-roasted tomatoes, 8 pounds of them, to enjoy over pasta and on sandwiches this winter when I need a little reminder of warmer days.
Slow-roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavor into single bites that seem to explode in your mouth. They will instantly transform a simple parmesan-laced pasta or crusty loaf of bread spread with St. Andres or another triple cream cheese into the most satisfying meal. That is, if you can keep your husband and other fingers away from the pan as the tomatoes cool...
If possible, I encourage you all to freeze or can as much local produce as you can this summer. I wish I'd pushed the idea earlier on, and promise that next year I'll have more comprehensive guides to canning and freezing. As I've mentioned, Brian and I try to eat as locally and seasonally as possible. Unfortunately, living in Virginia, there comes a time every winter when it is nearly impossible to get any fresh local produce. This year we decided to extend out local eating season as long as possible by preserving as much as we could. We had big plans for canned whole vegetables and fruits, salsas and tomato sauces (of which Brian did make one freezer batch). We weren't as productive as we had hoped, although the season isn't quite over yet. So, get to your local farmer's market this weekend and pick up the last of the tomatoes, peaches, berries, okra etc, and have a little canning or freezing party in your kitchen. Come winter, you'll be so happy you did.
Slow-Roasted Tomatoesrecipe from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, pg. 192
3-1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes, halved (about 20 tomatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 200*F.
Wash and dry tomatoes, and cut them in half length-wise. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat.
Arrange them on a baking sheet cut-side up, and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt and a pinch of coriander for every 4-6 tomatoes.
Bake until the tomatoes crinkle at the edges and shrink to about half their original size, 4 to 6 hours.
Cool to room temperature before storing them in an airtight container. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for a few months.
**I also found this slow-roasted tomato recipe that I wanted to try, but we ran out of tomatoes in the garden too soon. I may pick some up at the market this weekend to give it a try.
The winners of the last two Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle Marinade (picked by random.org) are:
#31 Melissa, of Melissa's Journey
Congratulations Ladies! I know you'll love the sauce. Please send me an email at bellaeats[at]gmail[dot]com with your full name and address.
All other winners, of Saucy Mama marinade and jam, your treats are going out this week! I promise!
Other Bella Terra posts this season: