It’s Summer So I’m Really Just Eating BLTs All The Time

These are my favorite sandwiches of the summer. now THAT is a blt!Can you even tell that this is a picture of a sandwich?

I’m not sure you can.   Actually, I really don’t think you can.  The bread’s under there, I swear.  We already ate it, so it’s too late for any reshoots.

Here’s the deal  I love plain old tomato sandwiches as much as the next girl, but if you have a little bit more time and a couple more ingredients, say… some fresh mozzarella and basil, it really doesn’t hurt. blt ingredients... bltmbb?I used Floodgate Farms salad mix for this, since I am like a walking commercial for their salad and put it in everything.  It has lettuces, edible flowers, arugula, fresh herbs, and a bunch of other wild greens like purslane mixed in.  It makes me happy and I eat it every day if I can.

EPIC BLTS, aka BLTMBBs?

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 5

Ingredients:

  • 1  loaf of sourdough bread
  • a few tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • around 5 medium sized heirloom tomatoes
  • 5 pieces fresh cooked bacon
  • a few slices of fresh mozzarella
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • a few sprigs of fresh dill
  • baby lettuces
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • optional additional toppings like sliced avocado or marinated artichokes, though I didn’t use them in this version, are equally encouraged

Slice the loaf of bread in half and warm it in a 350 degree oven while you cook the bacon.  Fry bacon, slice tomatoes, slice mozzarella.  Take the bread out of the oven and spread mayonnaise on each side.  Layer all of the toppings on, drizzle with balsamic, season with some salt and pepper, then close the loaf.  Press down on the top of the sandwich with your hands to compress everything a bit; it will stay together as a sandwich much easier if you do this.  Slice into 4-5 individual sandwiches and serve.

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Tomato Starts for the Ukiah Farmers Market Tomorrow 4/28

Tomorrow we’ll be loading up a bunch of tomato starts to bring to the Ukiah Farmers Market (so exciting, right?)…

Our tomatoes are all heirloom and specialty varieties that will grow well here in Northern California and look beautiful both on your dinner plate and in your garden.  The seeds that we use aren’t certified organic (many of these varieties aren’t available as organic seed) but we grow them completely organically from day 1.  We’ve grown almost all of these varieties here on the farm, so if you have any questions about them, feel free to ask.

This is the list of varieties we will be bringing tomorrow; the selection will change over the next few weeks. (The descriptions are taken exactly from the Baker Creek seed catalogue, none of them are my own writing- I thought it would be helpful for all of the market customers to see the full description written by the folks that are working hard to keep all of these great varieties around for generations to come).   Hope to see you at the market tomorrow!Ananas Noire: (Black Pineappple) A most exciting new tomato, it is wonderful in every way.  This unusual variety was developed by Pascal Moreau, a horticulturist from Belgium.  The multi-colored, smooth fruit (green, yellow and purple mix) weight about 1.5 lbs.  The flesh is bright green with deep red streaks.  Everyone loves their superb flavor that is outstanding, being both sweet and smoky with a hint of citrus.  The yield is one of the heaviest we have ever seen!

Big Zebra: “New! A stunning tomato that looks much like a giant version of our popular “Green Zebra,” this 8-10 oz. beauty has a vibrant green and deep gold striped skin, with delicious red-streaked, green flesh.  A superb home and market tomato, a must for all who love the beautiful and unique.  One of the most amazing tomatoes we have grown; so groovy and retro looking! 80-90 days.

Carbon: 90 days Winner of the 2005 ‘heirloom garden show’ best tasting tomato award.  These have won taste awards coast to coast in the last few years, so we were proud to locate a small supply of seed.  The fruit are smooth, large and beautiful, being one of the darkest and prettiest of the purple types that we have seen.  They seem to have an extra dose of the complex flavor that makes dark tomatoes famous.

Cherokee Purple: 80 days An old Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety; beautiful deep dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very large sized fruit.  Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor

Copia: 80-90 days  One of our most unique and beautiful large, striped tomatoes, these have lovely fine striped of glowing gold and neon red.  Inside the flavorful flesh is a mix of red and yellow that is swirled together in various combinations.  This new variety was developed by Jeff Dawson and named in honor of Copia, the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, of Napa, CA

Cuor di Bue: 70 days This oxheart type Italian heirloom has been a favorite in Italy for many years.  Beautiful 12 oz fruit have a delicious sweet taste; similar to the shape of a heart; great for fresh eating or cooking.  Large vigorous vines.  Hard to find.

Dr. Wyches Yellow: 80 days This heirloom was introduced to Seed Savers Exchange by the late Dr. John Wyche, who at one time owned the Cole Brothers Circus and used the manure of elephants to fertilize his heritage gardens.  The 1 lb. fruit is solid and smooth; their color is a glowing tangerine-orange that always stands out in the kitchen or off the vine.

Fox Cherry: Delicious large, red heirloom cherry tomatoes that seem to be one of the best-tasting large cherries around.  The vining plants are very reliable; even in years when the wilt kills about everything else, these seem to do great.  The fruit weigh about 1 oz. each and are perfect for salads.

Great White: 80-85 days Large, 1-lb giant, creamy white fruit, this tomato is superbly wonderful.  The flesh is so good and deliciously fruity, it reminds me of a mixture of fresh-cut pineapple, melon and guava.  One of our favorite fresh-eating tomatoes! Fruit are smoother than most large beefsteak types, and yields can be very high.  Introduced by Gleckler’s Seedsmen.

Hillbilly or Flame: 80-85 Days A huge, bi-color heirloom: brilliant yellow color with red marbling.  Very large with a rich, sweet flavor.  Beautiful when sliced.  An heirloom believed to be from West Virginia.

Lollipop: 70 days Delicious, light yellow translucent cherries.  The flavor of these is really good– both sweet and fruity.  Plants set good yields.  A real winner!

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge: 80-90 days Stunning tomato is a vibrant, tangerine orange with shocking true purple splashed in various amounts over its upper half.  This is one of the few domestic tomatoes that have true purple pigment, although research is being done with wild purple tomatoes.  These have a mild taste that make them good for snacking.  Fruit weighing 4-10 ounces were produced in abundance and tended to turn more purple as the season progressed.  Some fruit may not be very purple, coloration varies.

Paul Robeson: 90 days This famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs.  They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavor that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey.  7-10 oz. fruit are a black-brick color.  Named in honor of the famous opera singer star of “King Solomon’s Mines,” 1937. This Russian heirloom was lovingly named in his honor.

Placero: A flavorful, small tomato from our friend Herb Culver.  He colected this tomato in Cuba from a man named Orlando at Mission Mundial.  This tomato also is said to have a very high beta-carotene content.  Tasty, red fruit grow on very productive plants.

Pink Brandywine: The most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners; large fruit with superb flavor.  A great potato-leafed variety from 1885! Beautiful pink fruit up to 1 1/2 lbs. each!

Plum Lemon: 80 days Bright canary-yellow 3” fruit looks just like a fresh lemon.  … This variety was collected by Kent Whealy, of Seed Savers Exchange, from an elderly seedsman at the Bird Market in Moscow.  Delicious, sweet taste.

Purple Calabash: 85 days.  May be the most purple of all the “purple” tomatoes; a deep purple/burgundy and very colorful! The shape is also exciting, with the 3” fruit being very flat, ribbed and ruffled.  Flavor is intense, sweet and tart, with a lime or citrus taste.  A most uniquely flavored tomato! The plants give huge yields.  This tomato resembles tomatoes pictured in 16th century herbal diaries.

Riesentraube: 76-85 days This old German heirloom was offered in Philadephia by the mid-1800s.  The sweet red 1 oz. fruit grow in large clusters, and the name means “Giant Bunch of Grapes” in German.  It is probably the most popular small tomato with seed collectors, as many enjoy the rich, full tomato flavor that is missing in today’s cherry types.  Large plants produce massive yields.

Violet Jasper: When these little Oriental jewels ripen, your eyes will be stunned with color.  They have pretty violet-purple fruit with iridescent green streaks! Fruit weigh 1-3 oz., are smooth and have good tasting, dark purplish-red flesh.  This variety will also amaze you with its yield: It’s not only high, but incredibly high, being one of the most productive tomatoes we have grown.

Yellow Brandywine: 90 days Superbly rich and delicious tasting large fruit, the golden variety gives good yields and, in our opinion, the fruit are better tasting than pink brandywine.  Large potato-leaf plants are very sturdy and deep green.  This heirloom is delicious any way you eat it!

Yellow Pear: 78 days Very sweet, 1 1/2” yellow, pear-shaped fruit have a mild flavor, and are great for fresh eating or making tomato preserves.  Very productive plants are easy to grow.

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For some tomato growing tips from serious experts, I recommend reading this great article from Love Apple Farm. 

How to Preserve 100+ lbs. of Tomatoes With Almost No Work

Tomatoes are one of the main crops that I preserve. Jam is all well and good, but face it: there’s a ton of sugar in those jars. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are incredibly good for you can go in just about anything. Home-grown tomatoes are also one of the food items that are so far superior to their grocery store counterparts that they are worth the time it takes to put them up.

Vegetables are so labor-intensive to grow that it makes me cringe when they finally ripen in such abundance that some are left to rot or are simply fed to animals.  I put literal blood, sweat and tears into our farm, and I’ll be damned if I’m letting anything go to waste.  It’s like they say, “there are starving children…”

The key is knowing which preserving methods involve the lowest amount of work at the front end and are the most versatile during the winter months.  I used to get swept up in strange recipes for chutneys and pickles, but when it comes down to it, we really don’t need any of that in the pantry. They make nice gifts, yes.  If you really want to grow and preserve your own food, however, you won’t get by on chutneys. It’s basics like tomatoes (or potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbages, etc) that make up a well-stocked pantry for us.

So. Let’s get down to it. Last summer I preserved almost 2,000 lbs. of tomatoes and I intend on doing so again. Here’s everything I know about how to get it done.

First you’ll need to grow some tomatoes. You can also develop a relationship with local farmers. Hopefully you shop at farmers markets anyway. There is a certain time of year when busy farmers start feeding extra tomatoes to their chickens or giving them away to friends. This is the time of year that you want to go to the farmers markets just as they are ending, see what is left, and ask any of the following:

  • Haggle: “I’m interested in buying the rest of your tomatoes, can you make me a deal?”  For non-heirloom tomatoes, you should aim for $1/lb. or lower. $20 or lower for a huge box full of tomatoes is a good price.  Heirlooms will be slightly more expensive.
  • Barter, which is even better:  First ask the farmer what they are going to do with all the leftover tomatoes. Then you can tell them: “I do a lot of canning.  If you’re interested, I will take your tomatoes home, turn them into tomato sauce and can them.  In exchange, I keep 3/4 of the jars and will bring you back 1/4.  You will end up with beautiful jars of tomato sauce to eat during the winter without having to do any canning at all.”  A jar of high-end tomato sauce sells from $5-$9 per jar, so a farmer is essentially selling you a case of picked-over tomatoes for $10-$20, depending on how big the case is and the yield of your sauce. Most farmers will be quite happy with this, but will only do the trade if you’re buddies with them (which is why it’s good to be on a first-name basis with your favorite farmers).

Preserving options:

1. Freezing: I’m off the grid, but if you’re on the grid and have the freezer space, tomatoes are perfect for the freezer.  Wash them, let them dry, and either put them in ziploc bags suitable for freezing or vacuum seal them. Date them, and put them in the freezer.  You can take them out as you need them, and there’s absolutely no need to peel them; when you take them out of the freezer, the skins will slip off easily under some warm tap water.

2. Tomato Sauce For Busy People: So there’s this idea floating around that you have to peel and seed tomatoes to make a good sauce, and it’s 100% nonsense. It hurts my brain to think about peeling all those tomatoes.  And seedless sauce? Why? People who peel and seed tomatoes are the same people who peel potatoes and carrots, which I also don’t do and think is a waste of time. If you’re cooking at the French Laundry, then fine, peel and seed the tomatoes. Until then, don’t bother.The main argument for not peeling the tomatoes is that it often makes the difference between “I have time to can tomato sauce” and “Are you smoking crack? No way am I doing that!”

(Instead of photographing and writing out the whole tomato sauce process, you should go read about it on The Girls Guide to Guns and Butter.  Her recipe is for freezing, but all I do is add lemon juice and process the jars to make it safe for canning.  Keep reading for more instructions…)

All you need is a huge pot, tomatoes, salt, lemon juice, and a lot of big jars. Cut the stems and any damaged or rotten spots off the tomatoes,* put them in a pot, and cook it on very low heat until it gets to the consistency you want. Stir it every once in awhile.  I cooked mine for 36 hours. If you want, you can saute some onions, garlic, shallots and herbs in some olive oil and throw that in the pot with the tomatoes too.

If you like a smooth sauce, purée it in a blender or a food processor. I blended about half of my sauce because I like to have small chunks of tomatoes in it. Season with salt and pepper.

The summary: Instead of spending a ton of time peeling tomatoes, all you really do is throw whole tomatoes in a pot and then cook them forever.

To can the sauce: Add 1 tbs. of lemon juice to pint jars and 2 tbs. of lemon juice to quart jars. Fill the jars with hot tomato sauce using 1/2″ headspace. Process in a boiling water canner.  Pints get 40 minutes and quarts get 50 minutes. (Lemon juice is what makes the tomatoes acidic enough to be safe for the boiling water method).

NOTE: (brought up by a smart reader!) Processing times vary by altitude, so check this chart here to match your altitude to the right processing time for where you are. http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_03/tomato_sauce.html

Do NOT get all crazy and start doing stuff like adding ground beef or mushrooms or carrots or any of that. You absolutely must pressure-can a sauce with vegetables or meat in it. I add all of that fancy stuff later, in February, when I am making spaghetti and meatballs while it’s freezing cold outside.  This is a basic sauce to amend later.

3. Oven Dried Tomatoes

I like to dehydrate all of my heirlooms in the oven (I would use a dehydrator if I were on the grid).   They have such a wonderful flavor to begin with, but when you dry them with a little sprinkle of sea salt, they caramelize and turn into magic candy sweet salty tomato snacks. You can put the dried tomatoes in all kinds of stews, sauces, salsas, grain dishes, and jams for a wonderful burst of roasted tomato flavor.  I would challenge anyone to find a dried tomato from a grocery store that is half as delicious as a homegrown dried heirloom.

Cut the stems off and cut the tomatoes down into more manageable sizes: halved for smaller ones, quartered for larger ones. Lay them on a cookie sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle them with some sea salt. Add fresh herbs if you want; i like fresh thyme and wild bay laurel leaves. Put the oven on the lowest temperature it has. I roasted mine for 48 hours at 175 degrees, but you’ll want to just keep an half an eye on them. When they start looking almost done (shriveled up like any other type of dried fruit), you’ll need to check about every half an hour. Smaller tomatoes finish faster and I just pick them off the cookie sheet and put them in a jar as they are ready, letting the larger ones stay in the oven.

And there you have it- a case of heirloom tomatoes now fits in a quart mason jar. I dry them pretty thoroughly; they will still feel leathery and nice, not burnt and crunchy. Cover them and store in a cool, dark place. They should last for months, but I wouldn’t really know how long, we always eat them sooner. If you want to leave a little more moisture in them, I would throw them in the freezer to make sure they don’t spoil.

4. Last But Not Least, the Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry Tomato Bisque

I haven’t made it this year, but tomorrow these cherry tomatoes will go into a bisque. It’s so simple, but so bright and luscious.  Just saute some garlic, dump the cherry tomatoes in the soup pot, and cover with vegetable stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, then puree. Stir in some heavy cream and season with sea salt and black pepper.  This soup would freeze very well if you want to save it for later.

… And that is how to go through 6 cases of tomatoes in just a few days without losing any to rot or giving up and feeding them to the animals.

I would, however, be open to something like La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight.  A small town in Spain started this tradition, where “over 100 metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.”

That could be fun.

I Love Tomatoes

Here at Black Dog Farm, the tomatoes are officially in. It took forever because the beginning of the season was so cold and rainy, but the time has finally come when I can walk up to the garden with an empty basket and return with a whole assortment of multi-colored beauties.

Which makes me happy, because this is my favorite breakfast:

over-easy egg, warm tortilla, summer salsa

Nothing quite like the taste of ripe tomatoes and a freshly laid egg.

Summer Salsa

I like to make up a batch of this salsa and keep it in a glass quart jar in the fridge.  I’m not sure how long it lasts because I always eat it within a few days, but I would guess five or six days.

Makes: about a quart

Cooking Time: 10 minutes or so

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium to large heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors (these are my favorite varieties: Ananas Noire, Hillbilly, Copia, TigerellaOld German, Pineapple, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple)
  • about 1/2 pint. of cherry tomatoes, but really just a big handful.  Sungold and Chocolate Cherry are my favorite cherry types, and their orange and dark red-brown colors are quite pleasing to the eye as well)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 c. of roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice from 1/3 of a lime
  • a splash of white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Toss everything together in a big bowl.  Mash it up with a potato masher to get the juices all flowing together.  Taste it. If it tastes bland, add lime juice and salt. 


P.S. To get really crazy, add a cubed up avocado, a can of rinsed black beans, and a splash of olive oil to make a really nice entree salad. Serve it on a bed of baby greens with blue corn tortilla chips and it will blow your mind!