Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Home Food Preservation Front.

Even though all the cool kids are bowling now, my adorable husband the historian and I have stayed at home, making grape juice from our very own grapes.

You'll be edified to know that, in the home food preservation arena, I have also been roasting tomatoes*. I took a pile of sweet cherries from our trees and preserved them with lemon juice and some sugar--they are pretty much the nectar of the gods on vanilla ice cream. While I've been messing up the kitchen, I've also made granola, a total of three plum galettes, cookies, a cake, and more cookies over the last few weeks. (Anyone coming to the Five-Year Plan meeting tomorrow gets cookies, by the way. You'll have to come to find out what kind.)

I have nothing profound to say about the home food preservation project. There were years when I had several dozen jars and I filled them all with tomatoes and peaches, pears, apples, and grape juice. Also a jam-making episode that was financially ill-advised, if delicious. There were years when I looked at all those jars and thought, man, I can buy canned [fruit, tomatoes, etc.] and save myself the damn trouble. And then, there was the year when we canned all the peaches off my aunt's tree and took digital pictures to prove we did it (not for my sake--the recipe my aunt submitted to her church's cookbook was for tacos, and featured instructions like "Put the dogs in the car and drive to Taco Bell"). This episode occurred a couple of years ago, and since then we've been doing it.

I must say, however, that the grapes in our backyard are amazing and make amazing juice. We are slob viticulturalists, in that we let the grapes grow wherever, whereas the extension service folks like to tell you to prune your grapes severely, like an old-fashioned schoolmarm. Not us. Our grapes grow in and through the apple and cherry trees and all over. One time when my mom was visiting, she brought in a tiny bunch of the most delicious green table grapes--the kind that, when they're ripe, you can crush them in your mouth, tongue on palate--and said, "Did you know you had these little green grapes?" No, we did not. Now we guard them zealously--it's a race against the wasps, who can leave a bunch of grapes decimated (in the etymological sense of the word), the fragile little hulls of the grapes left to mock you. And we love our red grape juice so much that we're reluctant to share it, even with the children.

We got a dozen jars of juice from this year's harvest, which also involved an unfortunate and rather severe pruning shear injury when my husband was trying to balance on a ladder and reach over the back fence to cut the last few bunches. I heard him swear with great vigor as he extricated himself from his extreme harvesting posture (I provided the first aid). That's just how far we're willing to go for the juice.

*Roasted Tomatoes: Oven at 375. Take as many tomatoes as you want to roast, blanch them and remove the skins, cut them into fourths. Place in a pan that's big enough to hold all the tomatoes, plus the other stuff you're about to add, but before you put them in the pan, put some olive oil at the bottom of the pan. It's for a good reason. Okay, now put the tomatoes in. Add as much garlic as you think appropriate to your tomatoes. Also fresh basil, and don't be stingy. Salt, pepper, more olive oil. Give everything a good stir so that the oil bestows its blessing upon everything. Roast for two hours or so, stirring occasionally (okay, once, sometime during the two hours). You want the watery juice to disappear, leaving you with slightly caramelized, dense tomatoes. Cool. Use as many as you want right away, and freeze the rest in ziploc freezer bags (sorry for product placement). These are so much better than bottled tomatoes or canned tomatoes or any other kind of tomato you might be tempted to eat in wintertime, you will not believe it.


  1. I was just wondering what to do with the rest of our tomatoes. I've got a project for this weekend as I love roasted tomatoes.

  2. I like that, "etymolgically decimated," as in reduced to one-tenth of its former quantity? Mom used to can the hell out of peaches, pears, and cherries and I hope to do the same some day--when I have a house...and a garden...and a garage...and a big dog to play around with...(sigh)

  3. Tomatoe update: I (with some help over the phone from my wife--she was working) followed your recipe to a T. Well, I wasn't sure, for a few moments, if the tomatoes went into a cookie sheet type pan for baking or a pan but finally decided on a cookie sheet. Worked out fine, filled the house with smells of garlic, and tasted delicious. As with all food processing, though, it's always a bit disappointing to realize how much cooking down occurs. Still, stoked to carmalize a few more tomatoes later this week.



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