The tomato harvest is slowing, but I have been able to keep up with our demand for fresh tomatoes in salads, on sandwiches, and just plain. I even had enough extra to make a few quarts of sauce and some spicy tomato jam. The tomatoes in the top of the bowl pictured above come from a volunteer plant that sprouted in my herb bed. This is the third summer I have had volunteers of this type of tomato. They are small like cherry tomatoes, but pear shaped and green around the stem. Nice, really. I've never planted anything that looks like this, so I'm not sure where it comes from, but it's been easy to just allow one of the many volunteers that come up on their own to grow to maturity and take advantage of the free bounty. The small dark round tomatoes in the lower half of the bowl are called chocolate cherries, and they have become one of my favorites. Not as sweet as red cherries, but tangy and delicious.
Helen and Mrs Hall get their fill of tomatoes that go to the compost, and they are not above helping themselves to any nearly ripe ones that overhang the chicken wire I haphazardly wrapped around the tomato bed.
The tomato featured in the photo above is one I refer to as "chicken kissed." I can clearly see the beak marks from the taste test performed by one of the chickens, but it hasn't caused the tomato to go rotten yet. At first this grossed me out and these got chucked in the compost with the mushy ones, but these days I've gotten less picky and have convinced myself that one chicken kiss isn't that big of a deal and I can just cut it off. If I die of some rare chicken disease you will know how this has happened - I eat chicken kissed tomatoes!
I used the surplus of cherry tomatoes to make tomato jam. If you have never had spicy tomato jam spread on hot buttered cornbread, then you just haven't lived! One of the best parts of making tomato jam is getting to use my favorite hand cranked kitchen tool, my food mill. I just cook the tomatoes until they start to burst, squish them through the food mill, and then follow the recipe in the pectin box. The jam has sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, so it smells like Christmas in the kitchen while I'm making it.
The jam goes into a hot water bath for a while, and then I use a sharpie to label the lids and I have jam to gift to friends and family - if I can keep us from eating it all!
Remember the apples that I picked from the tree at the farm? Well, I finally got around to processing them for the freezer. This job allowed me to use my second favorite hand crank kitchen tool, my apple peeler/corer/slicer.
From about two and a half gallons of apples, I got over eighteen cups of sliced apples. I'm all set for thanksgiving pies! I was worried that the peeler wouldn't work well on these apples because they were so lumpy and had so many spots. But, the peeler handled the lumps like it was designed for them, go figure, and the spots were easier to remove once the peel and core were out and I could see if the blemish was only skin deep.
Because the peeler is adjustable for apple size, I started with the biggest and worked my way down in size. By the time I got to the bottom of the bucket the apples were tiny and I was starting to get a back ache from working. Mentally, I was complaining to myself that I wasn't even going to get enough calories from a pie made with these little apples to make it work peeling them. Eureka! A pie that actually burns calories! If I expend enough calories picking apples, washing, peeling, coring, slicing, cutting out spots, freezing, and then baking into a pie that I actually burn more calories that I am consuming, I could eat apple pie guilt free! I love it.