Although Labor Day weekend is supposed to be summer's last big celebration, this weekend sure seemed like an introduction to fall instead with rain, cooler temperatures and the first leaves coming down. We're really glad it didn't stop folks from coming out to see us on Saturday though, as we had a wonderful day at the stand, seeing lots of old friends and making some new ones.
Although I hate to let any produce go to waste, it seems even more critical now as certain plants are reaching the end of their season. At one point, I felt inundated by cucumber, and while I pickled what I could, I didn't feel terrible about feeding some to the pigs as well. Now each is like a final green gem from the garden, and I'll miss their cool crunch for many months once they are done. Cukes are actually my personal favorite garden veggie, I like them more than the ever-popular corn and tomatoes, but once they are gone I fall back on my pickles. I won't buy a tastless, slimy one coated in wax from the store. Although it's a long wait between the end of the season in September to the first new ones in June, there are also so many tasty foods we grow or that I preserve here, it doesn't ever feel like deprivation. It's more like a decadent overabundance when the season is here.
I really hate to waste tomatoes, they seem especially precious after the blight destroyed almost the entire crop last year. This year we're selling them by the literal bushel and I'm still looking for ways to preserve the rest. If you've visited us, you've likely seem the hot and mild varieties of salsa and our sun dried tomatoes for sale. I have also run quite a few through my food mill and frozen the results. Late in the year or early next, I'll defrost the squished tomatoes and spend a day making chili and spaghetti sauces for myself. I'll enjoy the all-day process of boiling it down when it's warming the house from winter's cold. But for now, I still have tomatoes, so I'm always looking for something different, and something that doesn't contain hours of processing...a summer recipe! Last week, I found one for Bruschetta-in-a-Jar. Chop the tomatoes, pack in hot jars, and fill with a boiling mixture of wine, vinegar and Italian spices. Easy and delicious, but not one you could really get a taste of before processing. One of the labels was rather lumpy-looking, so I told Dan Saturday morning he could have it. He asked what exactly it was supposed to be. I replied that he should imagine spreading it over warm garlic bread, possibly sprinkled with cheese. He popped the jar open and sampled it with a tortilla chip I had set out for salsa samples. I warned him as I had made it just days before, it may not have had time to fully incorporate the flavors. He argued that it couldn't possibly get much better and when he offered me a taste of the finished project, I had to agree. I'll be making lots more of it this week! Along with another effort to let no tomato go to waste, I'll have lots of other projects as well. The hot peppers will either be made into hot pepper rings or a batch of salsa. I'll be making dilly beans and pickled beets. Also, the dehydrator will be running full of herbs, tomatoes or anything else that seems like a good candidate. And who knows, I may find another wonderful recipe during the course of the week like the Bruschetta. While it can be overwhelming to try to put up all the food the garden produces, it's a wonderful challenge and one that's filled with nearly limitless possibilities of flavors and colors!