One of the perks of living in the Pacific Northwest is that we have an abundance of local produce to choose from. This is the time of year when it is harvest time for many fruit trees, and whether it is apples, pears, peaches or plums, their season is now. Home gardeners can often be overwhelmed with the amount of fruit that one tree can produce and often the fruit will all ripen at the same time. The question then becomes what to do with the excess fruit.
Even homeowners with relatively small gardens can experience this abundance of produce not only from fruit trees but also with tomatoes. I am hearing from many home gardeners that this is becoming an excellent year for tomatoes with many of the normally late-season varieties ripening earlier than usual. Even though gardeners may have planted early, mid and late season tomatoes, this year there seems to be a ripening overlap of mid and late season varieties.
If you have an overabundance of tomatoes in your garden or plan to buy a box of tomatoes during the Wilco produce sale September 10-12, here is an excellent Bloody Mary recipe. While a bloody Mary is technically a drink made with tomato juice and vodka. The vodka can easily be eliminated and this will still provide a refreshing and healthful drink and a good thirst quencher on a hot day. Add vodka as desired. To make the drink spicier, add a couple drops of Tabasco sauce.
3 cups fresh tomato juice (straining the tomato juice is optional)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice*
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Chill thoroughly and pour over crushed ice. Finish it off with a stalk of celery in each glass. For a cool “fresh-canned” look, you can also use pint jars as your serving glasses. They’re sturdy and they look cool.
Canning, freezing or drying are choices we have of preserving the harvest and Wilco has what is needed. I recently walked through the canning section at the Canby Wilco store and was surprised at the vastness of supplies that are available. There are canning jars, (both wide mouth and regular), lids, water bath canners, pressure canners, pickling spices, vacuum sealers, dehydrators, jerky makers, etc. Whatever might be needed for preserving the harvest, Wilco has it. For preserving the harvest, actual canning is probably the preference of many and even if you are a novice, it is not difficult if you have the right equipment.
Don’t be intimidated by canning. One of the key elements to success is the right equipment and to be certain that everything is clean. It is best to follow directions and not deviate. After a couple of years, you’ll probably create some unique and original recipes of your own.
Wilco will be having the Annual Produce Sale on September 10-12 and this is an excellent resource for obtaining fresh local produce.
It is always good to remember that not everyone is fortunate to have a supply of fresh produce and I suggest donating excess to a local food bank or other community service outlet. Food should never go to waste.
*The USDA and OSU Extension Service recommend tomatoes and tomato products contain a minimum amount of acid (lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar) and be heat processed for at approximately 212°F for an adequate amount of time to destroy microorganisms that cause spoilage. Processing time is dependent on altitude, size of jars, and type of canner. Never taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage. For more information on tomato canning: OSU Extension or USDA.