Make tomato sauce the easy way!

2tomato sauce-making sauce

By now you’ve probably finished harvesting and making your tomato sauce but I have to share how I do it.

I grow many tomatoes each year and make LOTS of tomato sauce as a result. But canning it doesn’t happen until late fall after harvest season is done.

I use to make it the old fashion way of putting the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin splits, then putting it in ice water to stop cooking, then peel off the skin and squeeze the tomatoes and juice in bowls to freeze. Tiring—very tiring and it takes lots of time.

Now I make tomato sauce the easy way. I finally got a food strainer (sometimes called a food mill) that separates the skins and stems from the pulp, juice and seeds making an uncooked tomato sauce in record time.  My food strainer is from Victorio. It comes with one screen that is fine mesh. I also got the salsa screen because I want my sauce thicker. I can process about 20 lbs of tomatoes in 10-15 minutes. But let’s start from the beginning.

1tomato sauce-tomatoes ready

First you’ll need some tomatoes. Good and imperfect blemished tomatoes are perfect for making sauce. These had hail damage but tasted good.

4tomato sauce-tools

Here are the tools-a plunger to push to tomatoes through (comes with the food strainer), a ladle, and a serrated knife to cut the tomatoes in chunks to fit in funnel. This process is messy so cover your table!

3tomato sauce-putting tom in mill

Cut up and put the tomatoes in the food strainer funnel. No need to take off skins, the strainer will do it for you.

5tomato sauce-partially done

Here is some sauce partially done. The food strainer has separated the sauce out into this green bowl. You crank the handle and push the tomatoes into the funnel using the red plunger. The strainer reminds me of a meat grinder except it grinds up tomatoes instead. It also can be used to make grape juice from grapes and applesauce or apricot sauce.

6tomato sauce-skins out

The other side of the food mill spits out the skins. I also cut off the stems shown in bowl. The chickens will love getting this bowl!

7tomato sauce-finished in bowl

Here is the bowl full of rich raw tomato sauce ready to bag with more tomatoes in the background ready to make sauce.

8tomato sauce-in bag

I put about 12 cups of raw tomato sauce in a gallon size freezer bag. I don’t like to overfill them. I also squeeze out the air while I ‘zipper’ them up. Be sure you zipper it well or it could leak out when you lay it flat.

9tomato sauce-finished in bags

Here is the raw tomato sauce—bagged and ready to freeze. Notice I have different colors of sauce coming from different colors of tomatoes. Later I either cook the bags of raw sauce up for a recipe or I end up canning them when my freezer is too full and I’ve recovered from harvest season!

Tarbais bean/cassoulet part 2

cassoulet

Cassoulet is a hearty winter dish which was originally created by poor farmers or peasants in southwest France. Only god knows what the rich and royal were eating if this is what the peasants ate cause this is very rich! There are different types of cassoulets in France depending on the region you live. Some cassoulets made in mountainous areas might have lamb as their main meat, others close to the sea would have fish and the most famous cassoulet is made with duck but no matter, they all used the Tarbais bean (pronounced Taar Bay) as a main ingredient to make this famous dish. To find out more about my experience on growing Tarbais beans go here. I made cassoulet with duck and my Tarbais (cassoulet) beans that I grew.

Cassoulet is slow cooked in a ceramic dish called a cassole which is a basically a covered ceramic casserole dish that can go in the oven. It traditionally is made with sausages, pork, duck confit and Tarbais beans-not for the faint of heart and I mean that literally!

So on with making a cassoulet with duck. Don’t be in a hurry cause it takes several days to make this dish-yes I said days—like as in 3 days!

First, Whole Foods ran out of duck confit, so I had to go online and learn how to make it myself which was a blessing as duck confit is very expensive and evidently not as good if you don’t make it yourself. There are many recipes on the internet but here is the recipe for both the Duck Confit and Cassoulet that I use from: Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman as presented by ‘The Daring Kitchen’: http://thedaringkitchen.com/recipe/confit-cassoulet . Here is their recipe as a pdf – Confit_Cassoulet_Jan_2011 which is helpful to print out as your computer will run out of juice before you can finish making the recipe in 3 days!

I wouldn’t want to go to all this effort all the time but once a year in the winter is great. Plus I did not line the ceramic pot with pork rinds-just seemed like overkill to me (literally).  Now don’t worry they also have several different versions of cassoulets at the link above for the more heart healthy conscious (like chicken confit in olive oil and vegetarian cassoulet) but I thought I’d try an original version once! Next time I will exchange the pork with smoked turkey necks (which taste like smoked pork) and the different pork sausages with turkey sausage versions as it has sooo much fat.

What was once a poor man’s dinner is now very expensive but oh so good. I like to eat this hearty winter dish on a cold winter’s night with a glass of red wine by the fireplace. I think the red wine cuts the fat, or least that’s what I tell myself!

Tarbais bean/Cassoulet Part 1

Here is what Tarbais (pronounced Taar bay) beans looks like on the vine and closeup, after dried but before shelling and when shelled in jars. I like to cook and wanted to learn how to make a french dish called ‘Cassoulet’ last year (2012) and had a heck of a time finding this particular bean that hails from France where I would have to pay $34.00 an ounce for heirloom Tarbais beans ! That’s because our USDA and the cost of their inspections drives up the price to get them into the US. The ones to grow can be different from the beans to eat. The ones you can purchase to eat might not be a true heirloom, mixing genetically with other beans but they will taste the same unless you try to grow them out.  The heirloom variety were not in any seed catalog last year but I finally found 4 people who offered their heirloom seeds through Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in their Members Catalog ($4 for shipping only) and each gave a lot of beans (30+). Well worth joining because 1) you are supporting growing heirloom seeds and 2) many people grow unusual vegetables and offer their seeds through SSE. They were the only ones who had them in 2012 in the US. This year (2013) I saw them offered at Baker Heirloom Seeds in their catalog and got more although now I have my own supply of them as well.

tarabais and navy bean

Navy bean (top) and Tarabais bean (bottom)

So what’s so special about the Tarbais bean? I probably could have used a white Navy bean but I read that the Tarbais bean is slightly bigger and becomes creamy without disintegrating and becoming mushy like many other beans do and I wanted to be authentic and grow out that variety of bean.

The Tarbais bean originally came from the village of Tarbais, in southwestern France and is used in cassoulet dishes. Tarbais beans were developed by generations of farmers that lived in that area. The Tarbais Bean in 2000 obtained IGP status (Indication of Protected Geographical Origin). Only members of a small, closed cooperative in Tarbais are allowed to use that name for their beans, and production is tightly regulated. The original seed is a New World runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and most think it originated in Mexico.

That’s one of the great things about growing your own vegetables-you can grow something you might not find in the grocery store. That doesn’t mean it will taste exactly the same as where it originated from (like I doubt a New Mexico chili grown in New Jersey would taste the same as our conditions and soil are very different) but at least I could try. The beans are grown like any pole bean that you are going to leave on the vine until dried. They were harder to start as the birds liked the ‘bean sprouts’ when they popped up so I had to replant several times and cover them with row cover to protect them until they were about 3 inches tall. After that it was a breeze. Just water them regularly. They will produce many pods that you just leave on until fall when they dry on the plant.

Part 2 of this will be the about Cassoulets and the recipe I used.

Fresh Pumpkin Recipes

pumpkin interior

Now that the 5th Annual Pumpkin Bash is over, what can we do with our fresh pumpkin pieces? Here are some ideas.

pumpkin steak cooked

One recipe I love is ‘Pumpkin Steaks’. You can find the recipe here: https://giantveggiegardener.com/2012/11/05/pumpkin-steaks/

pumpkin soup2

Here are 3 great pumpkin soup recipes you can find here: https://giantveggiegardener.com/2010/11/21/3-great-pumpkin-soup-recipes/

512px-Pumpkin_Pie_from_a_*real*_pumpkin,_November_2007

Of course no pumpkin recipes would be complete without a pumpkin pie recipe but this one is for FRESH pumpkin:

FRESH PUMPKIN PIE

1 unbaked pie shell
2 c. freshly prepared pumpkin
1  can evaporated milk
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg or allspice
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 eggs, beaten slightly

To prepare fresh pumpkins:
Use small to medium size pumpkins OR really giant ones like I do! Cut pumpkin into quarters or big pieces. Whatever will fit on a cookie sheet. Leave rind on. Put a little oil on cut edges to keep from drying out. Place cut edge down on foiled lined cookie sheet. I put foil loosely on top to keep edges from burning.  Bake at 350° for about 30 min-to over an hour depending on thickness. Pierce frequently with fork to check for tenderness after at least 30 minutes. When fork pierces meat easily, remove from oven. Cool first and then scoop out meat and drain in colander for about 30 minutes to release extra liquid. Then use wand, blender or food processor to puree. Use fresh or freeze in Ziploc freezer bags for later use. I like to freeze in 2 cup increments which is exactly what the recipe calls for!

To prepare fresh frozen pumpkin meat:
By now, if you are like me, you have some pumpkin you prepared as above and froze it. All I do is defrost it and if still a little watery, let it drain a few minutes then follow directions below.

Pumpkin Pie Filling: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the 2 cups of fresh pumpkin with rest of the ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. If edges of crust start to turn too brown or burn, make a ring out of foil and put on edges of the pie crust.

The runaway

giant marrow 08-10

A BIG runaway! DISCLAIMER: This one is way too big to eat! I entered this in 2010 in the State Fair instead!

At this time of year if you’re a vegetable gardener, you’ve experienced it—zucchini runaways. One day you go out and see this cute little zuke and think I’ll give it one more day and the next day you go out and it grew into a baseball bat. It’s like overnight it got on some steroids and went ballistic.  Now it’s too big so what do we do with them besides hide them under the bed in case an intruder comes in? Well you could use them as door stops or take them to the fair but here are 4 ideas to eat them!

Savory Zucchini Pancakes
Take 2 cups of grated zucchini, add two beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 2 teaspoons of some fresh herb you have and 1 cup feta or mozzarella or cheddar or whatever cheese you have (please, no Velveeeeeta). If you want more, then just up the ingredients like 3 cups zucchini, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons flour, etc. Just don’t up the herb, keep it at 2 tsp so not to overwhelm the flavor of the zucchini (what? zucchini has flavor? Yes, at least two varieties do – Costata Romanesco and Benning’s Green Tint (not a zucchini but a delicious summer squash). All the others, in my opinion, are worthy of either the compost pile or the chicken coop or both) Then saute them in olive oil until brown on both sides. This is my favorite way to cook super-sized zucchini.

Garlicky Zucchini Medallions
Slice them into medallions and saute them in olive oil with some crushed garlic cloves until tender in a BIG fry pan. Sprinkle lightly some red pepper flakes and add fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top and cook a few minutes more till melted. This is also great with a little left over spaghetti sauce drizzled over them.  (Can you really drizzle spaghetti sauce. No—but you get the idea-don’t drown them.)

Zuchinni Soufflini (This one comes from my mom-thanks mom!)
1 1/2 lbs zucchini
1 large onion, chopped
3 TLB butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
2 TLB butter

Cook squash whole for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Cool. Dice into cubes. Saute’ onion in 3 TLB butter and add to zucchini. Stir in cheese and seasonings and allow mixture to cool before adding beaten eggs. Spoon into buttered 1 quart casserole. Toss bread crumbs with 2 TLB melted butter and sprinkle over casserole. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350°F about 30 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Serves 4-6 people.

Of course there is always the infamous zucchini bread but how about chocolate zucchini bread? I got this recipe from a friend many moons ago and it is excellent. Your kids, friends, spouse or partner will never know they are eating something healthy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
2 ¼  cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ¾  cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ c vegetable oil
2 eggs, large
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
2 cup unpeeled zucchini, grated
6 oz choc chips
¾ c chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan
-Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt into large bowl.
-Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients, alternate w/ buttermilk in 3 additions each, fold in zucchini. Mix in choc. chips + nuts. Pour into the baking pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean in about 50 min. Cool completely in pan.

So the next time you get a runaway, don’t despair, now you have some ideas on how to use them besides hiding them under your bed!

The Holy Grail of Beans

tarabais beans

The holy grail of dried beans are Tarabais beans. They are a runner bean (Phaeseolus coccineus). Haricots Tarabais (as they are called in France), have been grown for centuries in Tarbes, at the foot of the French Pyrénées in the southwestern region of France close to the Spanish border. This white bean, which is larger than a navy bean, is thin-skinned, sweet and has creamy flesh and doesn’t fall apart when cooked. They are commonly used in a classic french dish called cassoulet, a rich and savory casserole baked with these beans, duck confit, sausage, pork, sometimes lamb, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs. This is a great winter dish. Different cities in France have different ingredients in their cassoulets, but all of them start with these beans. They are also perfect for any bean salads or bean soups.

I had a hard time finding them last year in the states. When I went online to get them from France they were very expensive- $34 an ounce! I had a friend who was in Germany try to get some for me but they were still $15 an ounce. Too rich for my blood and to think these were originally used as a peasant casserole! I was about to give up when I saw them in my 2012 Seed Saver’s Exchange members book last year. There were 4 people offering them in the US. It cost $5 (for postage) to get them. So I spent $20 and got some from all four members. Enough for 2 years. Well this year you’ll be in luck if you want to try these beans-they are in Baker Heirloom Seeds for the first time and are easily available this year in the states.

haricot tarabais  bean pods in summer

haricot tarabais bean pods in summer

In growing these beans, I found it tough to get them started having to replant the seeds 3 times before I got them to germinate on my 8 ft long fence. They grew up over the 3 foot tall fence and curled back on the other side which was fine. Once up they are up, they are an easy keeper. You don’t have to do anything special except to be sure to give them adequate water. They did get a little rust on some of the leaves but regrew new leaves  (like all my beans) without it reoccurring again. You’ll need to get them in the ground as early as possible as soon as the ground warms up because it takes all season for the pods to mature. Then I picked them after the pods dried. After I picked them, I brought them inside, shelled them and placed the beans on a cookie sheet until they were really dry. You can tell if they are dry enough to put away by biting one and if it is rock hard and no give, then it is ready. After that I put them in some mason type jars where they are ready for me to start the cassoulet adventure this winter!

Cook green beans and other vegetables-Julia Child’s way!

Watch Julia Child/The French Chef cook vegetables the french way! Bon Appetit! Part 1

I found this video on you tube on Julia Child back in 60’s when she had her TV cooking show.  Besides finding it very entertaining (I kept thinking of the ‘Saturday Night Live’ skits on her), I also learned a lot. In it she cooks green beans, carrots, stuffed mushrooms and braised spinach. I was most interested in how she cooked green beans. I use to steam my homegrown green beans but I think this might be a better way to cook them as they keep their color and flavor (yes even store-bought beans). Besides I like her accent! Yessss. Watch it and see!

 

Watch Julia Child/The French Chef cook vegetables the french way! Bon Appetit! Part 2