Garden-fresh tomatoes! Everyone in the Northeast waits until late summer for them, unless they had the foresight to plant some early-ripening varieties. Every year I’m amazed by how much better they taste than the supermarket offerings. Sweet Petunia is in charge of the tomatoes here at Big Red, and he does a fantastic job with them, ordering his heirloom seeds every January from Gary Ibsen’s TomatoFest in California, nursing the seedlings along until they are big enough to go in the ground, then spending many hours of his summer tying and trimming and applying smelly organic soil enrichments. The rewards for all this loving labor arrive in August and September.
Gary Ibsen’s heirloom tomato seeds can be found online at:
Then it’s my turn. I usually devote several days to washing, blanching, peeling, and seeding many of these tomatoes, in order to can or freeze them whole, or turn them into sauces and salsa. I’ve used a lot of different methods and recipes, but I think the most useful one for me is the Ball Blue Book method of canning whole tomatoes in their own juice. (*** To avoid possible spoilage, as in botulism, it’s crucial when canning to follow a modern recipe,sterilizing equipment and ensuring proper acidity by the addition of lemon juice or citric acid. See below for a few detailed photos of some steps in the process. ) These jarred tomatoes can replace the canned diced tomatoes used in so many recipes, and I don’t have to worry about BPA lining in the can. Here’s an example of a recipe I use it in:
Crock Pot Chili, Veganized ( aka Hippie Hash #127 )
1 quart jar whole tomatoes in juice, drained and liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
I medium sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
1-2 hot peppers, finely chopped ( jalapeno, habanero, ghost, whatever you have ) OR 1-2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
(Base amount on your heat preference. When chopping and dicing hot peppers, avoid touching them: wear gloves or hold the exposed part of the pepper in a damp towel while you chop- sweep peppers and trimmings from them off the cutting board with the knife or other utensil, NOT your hands. )
2 medium zucchini ( I like to use one each of green and yellow varieties for color. )
2 cans kidney beans ( I like to use one each of dark red and either light red or white, again for color. )
1 bag frozen vegan “ground beef” crumbles – like Morningstar farms brand. ( This recipe can be un-veganized by substituting thoroughly browned ground beef or turkey.)
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place onion, garlic, and peppers in bottom of slow cooker.
2. Add cumin and salt.
3. Add zucchini and kidney beans.
4. Distribute “ground beef” evenly over the top.
5. Pour tomatoes evenly over all. Add 1/2 of the reserved tomato liquid, refrigerating the remaining portion.
6. Cook on LOW 6-7 hours or on HIGH 3-4 hours
(Check occasionally during cooking, if necessary, add additional tomato liquid. )