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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tomato Time - For the Love of the Garden!

Tomatoes and peppers are in full swing now in Santa Barbara and the farmers markets are displaying some of the most amazing heirloom varieties. My Romas have given me harvest now almost three days a week and the cherry tomatoes are so sweet many don't make it in the house after picking.

After a couple days last week I have about 4 pounds of Romas harvested and did not want them to start going bad on the counter and wanted to find a new recipe to add to the site that was a cross between a potential salsa and a great marinara or pasta sauce. I went to my canning library, now six books strong, to search the numerous tomato recipes that I had at my disposal.

From the Pickled Pantry I found a recipe that piqued my interest because of the use of "fresh" oregano and basil as listed ingredients. I have had a hearty oregano plant growing now for two years straight and have yet to use a leave other than to dry it in my Nesco dehydrator. In addition I got a late start on the broad leaf basil this year and though my plants are still small they leaves are green, leafy and so tasty.

I found myself excited to make this recipe as I have been canning fruit like peaches and apricots for most of the summer. The zucchini of course is coming out of the garden daily with so much now I'm getting desperate for ways to prepare, preserve, or basically store it! But tending my plants and watching those little yellow buds develop into something magically is fantastic. My Romas, though my hubby was disappointed that I didn't plant more beef steak and bigger maters, have been just the ticket to making the sauces that I have been waiting for all season. Now with my tomato load ready I give you one of the tastiest relishes I have ever made. The recipe said to wait six weeks to develop flavors but right out of the pot it was amazing.  An adaptation of the Italian Tomato Relish recipe was a so easy to make! Enjoy!

Italian Tomato Relish

4 lbs plum tomatoes 
2 T. olive oil
1 onion diced (3/4 cup)
1 bell pepper (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

1/2 cup white wine (I omitted)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. chopped fresh oregano
2 1/2 T. sugar
2 t. kosher salt
1 head garlic (8 cloves)
5 large sprigs fresh basil

Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove peel and dice. You should have 9 cups.  (I choose not to peel my tomatoes. I don't mind the peels)

Heat the olive oil in a stainless steel pot or enameled dutch oven and over medium-low heat  onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until softened about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine vinegar, wine, balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and simmer for 10 minutes. The consistency should be like a loose but meaty salsa. Remove from heat and taste to adjust sugar and salt, if needed.

Ladle tomato mixture into pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles and refill to headspace if necessary. Wipe rims and add hot lids/rings. Process in water bath canner for 15 minutes once the water comes back to a full rolling boil. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.