Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tomato Invasion

The horde of unripe tomatoes are no longer unripe.

That's good news...but twenty pounds of ripe tomatoes to deal with all at once is more than a little daunting.  The options are endless, really: do I make salsa?  More crushed tomatoes?  Dry them?  Freeze them and deal with them later (like, in January)?

After popping onto the internet, and rummaging around in the fridge and remains of the garden, I discovered a wonderful thing:  I had all the stuff to make a monster batch of tomato soup.  I love tomato soup.  I like to make it fresh, from scratch, but that takes quite a lot of time.  So the idea of having a raft of canned tomato soup tucked into my pantry seems like an excellent indulgence (not to mention a great way to use up all the now-ripe tomatoes leering at me from their wire shelves).

Tomato soup is really easy to make, but you do have to keep in mind a couple of things.

1.  Don't thickener like flour, and don't add dairy to it (I love milk or cream in my soup) when you are canning it.  You can add a rouge of flour and butter to it when you reheat it, and you can add that milk to it at that time to.  Just, don't add them when you are canning.

2.  Watch your salt.  You will need to add seasoning to this (like salt and pepper) when you serve it, but if you go nuts with the salt when at the canning stage, you could wind up with insanely salty soup when you want to eat it.  Be cautious with sugar, too.  Oversweet tomato soup is just...nasty.

So here's the basic method:  core and quarter your tomatoes, and toss them into a big pot.  Bring them to a boil and simmer until soft, then run them through your food mill and reserve the juices in another big pot.  In another pot, combine about five pounds of chopped onion, three cups of chopped celery (I used some of my lovage from the garden), a nice big handful of flat leaf parsley and another one of fresh basil, and three large cloves of garlic.  Add water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer until soft, and then run through the food mill putting the juices into the pot with your sieved tomatoes.  Pop the big pot of juice onto the stove, heat to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Ladle your hot soup into hot jars, top with lids and bands, and process in your pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pints (or 30 minutes for quarts).

When you want to serve this, you can add some milk or cream to it.  I like mine thick, so I make a little rouge of butter and flour and stir it into the hot soup, simmering until it thickens.  Served with a grilled cheese sandwich, this may be the best thing to come out of your garden all season.

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