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What to Do With Your Summer Tomato Harvest

by Matthew Mead

Matthew is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. Matthew is the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and Oprah.com. He has also written several books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target, and Stonewall Kitchen.

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  • tomatoes
    Photos: Matthew Mead
  • The abundance of summer hits home in August when gardens, farmers markets, and farm stands literally spill over with beautiful fruits and veggies. With the trend toward organically grown produce, pesticide-free foods have never been more accessible! So, whether you grow your own vegetables or select from finely grown specimens at the market, the end of summer is the ideal time to mix fresh produce into your dishes. One of the easiest fruits to work with is tomatoes.
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  • Heirloom varieties are my favorite of all the tomatoes. They come in a plethora of sizes, shapes and magical colors that make them a feast for the eyes. They're valued for their complex flavors, and also their versatility. Heirloom tomatoes can be enjoyed fresh from the vine or cooked with meats and cheeses and chunked into sauces. Below are some of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes!

    For a low down on size, flavor, taste, and when these beauties are most easily found in the markets, check out this chart: Comparison Chart for Heirloom Tomato Varieties

    I use mini and grape tomatoes in all kinds of dips and cocktail snacks. Mix fresh tomatoes wedges into pasta (hot or cold). Or pair them with bread and delicious cheeses. I love them most just sliced and sprinkled with kosher salt as a snack. A favorite trick of mine is slow oven drying tomatoes and topping sandwiches with all of their dense rich tomato flavor.
  • heirloom tomato salad
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • Heirloom Tomato Salad

     
    1 lb heirloom tomatoes, cored (large ones sliced 1/4 inch thick, small ones halved)
    2 tbsp minced chives
    2 tbsp chopped basil
    1 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    Imported sea salt
    Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

    Cut all tomatoes in half and place on a platter. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil. Top with herbs and cheese. Chill one hour before serving. Serve with a crusty fresh French bread
  • decorate with tomatoes
    Photos: Matthew Mead
  • Decorate with Tomates


    Pretty up a windowsill or mantel with fresh tomatoes right off the vine. Dot the center of a dining table or fill an old bowl with a mix of colors and varieties.
  • can tomatoes
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  • How to Can Tomatoes

     
    Set up:
    • Wash 5 pounds of ripe tomatoes to remove any dirt.
    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove.
    • Fill a large basin or one side of a sink with cold water. If using a large basin, set it beside the sink.
    • Place a strainer over a bowl and set it next to your pot.

    On the stove:

    • Drop seven or eight tomatoes into the boiling water at a time. Let them boil until the skin cracks. This should take between a minute to a minute and a half. Remove all tomatoes with a slotted spoon, even if all of the skins haven't cracked.
    • Once you have removed all of the tomatoes from the water, place more tomatoes in the boiling water and dump the strained tomatoes into the sink of cold water.
    • Peel the tomato skins off with your hands. (You may want to wear rubber gloves as tomato juice is very acidic and will sting your hands.) The skins should remove easily after boiling.
    • Place a large empty stock on the stove on low heat. Rough chop each tomato into diced pieces. (No need to be perfect here.) Continue transferring tomatoes to the pot as the cutting board gets full. Take care not to waste the tomato juice because it adds wonderful flavor.
    • Once all tomatoes and juice are in the stock pot, turn the heat up to medium low and add your desired seasonings, including salt, pepper, and sugar, to your desired taste. 


    Canning:

    • Transfer tomatoes into clean canning jars. Leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space at the top of jar. Wipe rims clean and place lid and ring on top. Tighten.
    • Process jars in a hot water bath. For those of you who aren't canners, this is a large pot (not a pressure cooker). Fill it with enough water to cover the jars when submerged. Bring the pot to a roaring boil. Once the boiling starts, put the lid on to allow the jars to boil. Quarts should process 35 to 40 minutes and pints 25 to 30 minutes.
    • Once they are done processing, remove from heat and allow to cool. If the seal pops downward, you're good to go. Immediately use or discard any of the jars that do not seal.
    • Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year. When using tomatoes, make sure that jars are not bubbling and fruit is not discolored. Dispose immediately if this is the case. Jar seal must make a whooshing air sound when opened to insure the freshness.
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