Tomato season is coming to a close, but there are still loads of tomatoes on my vines. Last week I went out and picked a huge bowlful of underripe tomatoes, leaving as much of the stem on as possible, and within 4 days they were perfectly ripe. If you pick all of your tomatoes before they are damaged by the first frost, chances are you can get most or all of them to ripen – even the fully green tomatoes! Lay them in a single layer in a box and keep them at room temperature. It’s even okay to keep them in the dark, for example in your basement, as long as it’s not below 50 degrees. Check them often and remove any tomatoes that show signs of rot – they should ripen in about 3 of 4 weeks.
Here are two very simple ways I have preserved my tomato harvest from this year: A beautiful and creamy tomato-carrot sauce, which I made with mostly yellow pear tomatoes, and a rich tomato and shishito pepper soup with lots of basil. All three main soup ingredients were big producers in my garden this year, and even though it has started raining and cooled off considerably, my opal basil and shishito peppers are still looking great. Pacific Northwest gardeners – you should try growing these if you haven’t before!
Simple Tomato – Carrot Sauce
makes about 4 pints of sauce
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
6 whole cloves garlic, smashed
6 pints whole cherry tomatoes (or 12 cups other large tomatoes, roughly chopped)
1 cup of dry white wine
small handful of fresh oregano leaves
plenty of sea salt, to taste
Melt butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, and garlic with plenty of salt for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, white wine, and oregano, cover, and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, uncover, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 90 minutes or until reduced and thick. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and puree using a stick blender or regular blender. Transfer to jars, cool completely, and then freeze.
Simple light dinner or side dish for two- Warm one pint of sauce. Once lightly bubbling, add 3 ounces cream cheese or goat cheese and stir to melt. Serve over noodles of your choice.
Tomato and Blistered Pepper Soup with Basil
makes 3 quarts of soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sweet onions, roughly chopped
10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 pint shishito or padron peppers, stems trimmed off
6 pints (12 cups) whole cherry or roughly chopped large tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups water
plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
Warm a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until peppers begin to brown and blister, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, water, and plenty of salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and reduce to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 30 minutes and allow to cool slightly. Add the basil and puree the soup with a stick blender or in a regular blender in batches. Chill until cold and then freeze until ready to use. For each quart of soup, rewarm and stir in 1/3 cup heavy cream and adjust salt before serving.