Where We’re At

barn waste spread into the field

barn waste spread into the field

Now that the greenhouse is being heated, it provides a space that at least feels like we’re working outdoors. This weekend we had another snow squall. A few inches perhaps, nothing too serious. Being able to work in the greenhouse, beginning to smell warm soil and carefully placing tiny seeds into flats, certainly helps to tolerate this prolonged winter weather. Still, we have our sights on what’s to come, and we glean every opportunity to tackle any “spring’ chore that can be done even while there is still snow on the ground. For instance, all the bedding that has come out of the barn through the winter and piled up is spread around one of the large vegetable gardens. I get very excited thinking about all this soil enriching goodness that accumulates during the winter and will slowly breakdown into the soil. It’s like money in the bank…..in the way of poop in a pile, that is. The leeks and peppers and eggplant have all been started. Trays and trays of both sweet and hot peppers. King Of The North, Jimmy Nardelo’s, Cubanelle Semi- Sweet, and Falvorburst are a few of our favorite sweet pepper varieties. On the hot side, we grow Anaheim, Czech Black, Long Red Narrow Cayenne, Hidalgo Serrano, Thai Hot, and lots of Early Jalapeno.Picture 782 This morning, once again, I will bring down more of the winter squash that is stored in a cool upstairs loft. These winter vegetables are a staple throughout the non growing months, and we love them, but we sure look forward to those first greens of the season. Just as soon as we can turn the soil in the hoop house, in go plugs of spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, and beets. Soon enough. The sun at the moment is peeking out from the east, a possible promise for the day. We hope you are all finding ways to greet the coming season…..planting a few seeds, forcing some spring bulbs, or designing your vegetable plots. Spring and warmth are bound to come!

A Sea of Sweet and Hot Red Peppers

Once again, we find ourselves hauling in baskets of sweet and hot peppers. Our favorite way to prepare them, aside from eating peppers fresh or in salads, is to roast them and preserve them in the refrigerator drenched in olive oil. We love using the roasted peppers in sandwiches, on pizza or in quiche, in sauce, or simply adding them to any dish that we think can benefit from the intense roasted flavor.

For storing I prefer not to can the peppers using the traditional pressure canning process. Instead, after roasting the peppers whole on the outdoor grill until the outer skins are blackened, I place them in a brown paper bag and close it tightly. This creates steam in the bag and makes peeling the skins off a much simpler task. After this, it’s easy to slice the peppers down the middle and scoop out the seeds.

At this point I put about two tablespoons of vinegar in the bottom of a quart jar and then fill it halfway with olive oil and add the peppers. This I store in the refrigerator and preserve them for up to a month. Of course, they hardly ever last that long in our house because we eat them all up!

I do the hot peppers this way as well but also dry most of our hot peppers for winter use or grinding to make a chili powder.

The varieties that we typically grow and the ones I find best lend themselves to roasting are Jimmy Nardello, Snapper, Semisweet Cubinellas, and King of the North. For hots, we love Joe’s Long Cayenne, Hot Portugal, Krimson Lee, and Red Rockets.

Once again, always follow specific directions and safety instructions for canning any of your produce.

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Tomato Glutton

This is the time of year when the tomatoes come on strong. Fortunately, we escaped any of the dreaded blight that has been plaguing farmers in the Northeast over the last few years. We plant approximately 60 tomato plants and find this truly meets our fresh tomato needs as well as providing an ample supply for the winter.

Our varieties this year included Martha Washingtons, Cherokee Purples, Soldack, New Girls, Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Krim, Hinez Paste, and a selection of our favorite cherry tomatoes.

Our winter supply is stored by canning, making sauce, salsa, and freezing. By mid-September, I feel less ambitious about standing at the stove stirring pots of tomatoes. To remedy this, I find roasting tomatoes not only frees up my time but also creates a versatile end product with a delicious and intensified tomato flavor.

I skip the traditional process of dipping tomatoes in hot water then cold to remove the skins and then seeding them. Instead I take my largest roasting pan, put a skim layer of good olive oil in the bottom, core all my tomatoes (still fresh), cut them into quarters and pile them into the pan. To this I add an ample amount of garlic, often two large heads, cored and seeded sweet red peppers and then sprinkle a little more olive oil over the top. Occasionally, I throw in some fresh oregano and basil. Then I put the whole pan, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven and roast for about three to four hours, without stirring. My goal is to reduce as much liquid from the tomatoes as possible.

I then use the tomatoes in a variety of ways:

  • Puree the whole pan and transfer into freezer bags for freezing.
  • Fill quart jars and follow traditional canning procedures for the vegetables included.
  • Add to the cheese I make.
  • Add to soups.

I do believe you’ll find that roasting the tomatoes brings out their sweetness. Of course, you can do this on a smaller scale as you bring in your harvest each day if you’re just looking for a fresh addition to your evening meal. This combination can even be roasted in foil on the grill. Try this over pasta and brown rice. Yum!

Come January when we’re craving the flavors of our summer’s bounty, we can satisfy this want by opening a jar of homemade sauce and delighting in the preserved tomato goodness.

REMEMBER: When canning, always follow recommended procedures for canning various vegetables.

I’d love to hear your ideas for using an overabundance of tomatoes.

Next up: A sea of sweet red and hot peppers!