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Saving Summer: Freezing Tips From My Gardening Guru

Not so fast, summer! You taste too good. (A tomato from my garden). 

Not so fast, summer! You taste too good. (A tomato from my garden). 

My gardening guru: Jason Saling is Director of Vineyard Operations at Lynmar Estates in Sonoma County, CA. It's safe to say he knows a bit about growing stuff. How lucky am I to have this guy on speed dial?

My gardening guru: Jason Saling is Director of Vineyard Operations at Lynmar Estates in Sonoma County, CA. It's safe to say he knows a bit about growing stuff. How lucky am I to have this guy on speed dial?

My gardening guru is back! This time with some simple tips to help us keep a bit of summer around long after the first frost.

You may remember Jason did some hand holding in the spring to help me get my first veggie garden off the ground, and I'm proud to report it was a success (relative to nothing...but a success nonetheless!) 

Between the late and spectacular bounty showing up at our local farmers markets (check them out if you haven't!) and my own home grown supply, I plan to use these tips to keep summer flavors handy all winter long. 

 

Jason's Sun Dried Tomatoes

 

I like simple solutions. One of the more important factors to having too many tomatoes, which happens to me every summer, is to have too many of the right kinds. Principe borghese is the classic Italian porch sun drying tomato.
— Jason Saling

From Jason's backyard garden. Principe Borghese, perfect for drying,  are the small, red tomatoes. The larger yellow guys are grown to eat when picked: think BLTs and Caprese salad. 

I prefer the smaller tomatoes, like Principe Borghese, for drying. Since I don't have a dehydrator, which is another way to do this, I just use my oven. 

I set it to 180, slice the tomatoes in half and lay them cut side up on a sheet pan lined with parchment, pop them in the oven for 8-10 hours.

If I get them in the over in the evening, then usually by morning they are done.  You don't necessarily want them to be crispy, but you don't want them to be heavy with moisture, either, somewhere in between they reach a leathery "sun-dried" consistency. 

The smaller ones, obviously, dry fastest, and I'll pick them out as soon as I get up, then leave the others until I'm leaving for work.  I then freeze them.  I've tried packing them in EVOO, but more often than not I just don't want oily dried tomatoes, so my clear preference is freezing them in a ziplock. 

Jason's Frozen Pesto:

 

Remember that pesto translates literally as “paste”. Basil, garlic, pine nuts and parm is just the most common combo associated with the word.
— Jason

 The only other thing I do with any regularity is make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes, put them in another container to make space for more cubes.

One trick to growing basil is to keep picking it because after it flowers it begins to shut down, so by picking those succulent little tufts of leaves at the top keeps them coming. I've found that silicone ice cube trays are almost a requirement for this since due to the ease of getting the cubes back out.

I also don't worry about always using pine nuts due to the cost. I love pine nuts, but those things are nearly worth their weight in gold, it seems. I've tried almonds, which are OK if you blanch and peel them, which is way easier than it sounds (drop in near boiling hot water for about one minute, remove, rinse with cold water and then they slip right out of their skins), but I prefer walnuts since I don't have to blanch them and I think the texture is better.  Anyhow, the pesto keeps very well in the freezer and the cubes are the perfect size for recipes.

Recipe, using a 3.5 cup food processor: 

  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic.  Remember: this is a taste preference thing. That makes a pleasant pesto with mild garlic flavor. I pulse that a couple of times to coarse chop the garlic.
  • Fill it to the top with pulled basil (no stems), I pulse that until it is also coarse chopped.
  • Add what I'm guessing is about a third of a cup of nuts, chop those.
  • While still running the food processor, drizzle in what I'm guessing is approximately one-third cup of olive oil. It becomes pretty fluid at this point which I think is good for getting everything milled up to a pretty even consistency.
  • Stop and scrape the sides a couple of times.
  • Add some salt to taste and let it run for a solid minute or more.
  • Stop and add the parmesan cheese, which I'm guessing is also a third of a cup.

I haven't measured stuff for a long time on that one, it has been about consistency for me! Enjoy!


 

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