Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it’s in season. I heard Mario Batali use it once. With all the abundance of produce right now its hard to think ahead to the lean months of winter. Still, it pays to make the most of what is around us now. Eat fresh tomatoes, lots of them. Use fresh peppers in omelets and grill them and stuff them. Let’s not even talk about all the zucchini. I’ve been eating so many fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and it feels great. But the season will not be here forever. Freeze, can and dehydrate some of this bounty for the months ahead.

As I do laundry today every trip downstairs is a chance to carry down and pack away another case of tomatoes. We’ll enjoy them in soups and chili and pasta sauces all year long.  It’s like a little bit of summer in January. I’ve been teaching canning workshops at Blue Pike and ended with tomatoes on Saturday. Even if you don’t want to can here is a recipe for barbecue sauce you can use. It can be canned or frozen and tastes amazing. Be warned- it takes time to cook down- but you don’t need to stir it that often until near the end as it thickens.  Best to use plum tomatoes if you have them. They have less pulp.

I’ve also included a recipe for a fresh tomato soup to enjoy now.

Favorite Barbecue Sauce

16 lb. tomatoes, peeled and cut up

1/2c. pickling spice

2 sticks cinnamon

1 T. whole allspice

2 t. mustard seed

1 t. whole peppercorns

1/2 t. whole cloves

8 c. cider vinegar

5 c. sugar

2 c. brown sugar

1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 c. lemon or lime juice

2 large onions, minced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 T non-iodized salt

2 T. red pepper flakes

2 T. chili powder

1 T. paprika

Cook tomatoes over medium heat until soft, stirring often. Run tomatoes through a food mill or food strainer to remove seeds and crush tomatoes. Return this tomato sauce to kettle. Place pickling spice, cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, peppercorns and cloves together in a piece of food-safe cheesecloth and tie securely. Place in kettle with tomato sauce and all remaining ingredients. Cook over high heat, stirring as sauce thickens until sauce reaches desired thickness. Remember you put in 8 cups of vinegar, this is going to take a while. Of course, it’s so thin in the beginning, at least you won’t have to stir it very often. The sauce will cook down to about 6-7 pints, give or take a little.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes or freeze.

Tip : To peel tomatoes place clean tomatoes in boiling water a few at a time and remove in a minute or so. Cool in cold water and then core the tomatoes. Skins should slip right off. To seed tomatoes cut them in half and then squeeze. Most of the seeds will just get “squished” out.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped fine

1 rib celery, chopped fine

3 whole cloves

1 small bay leaf

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 t. salt

3 c. milk

Peel and chop tomatoes. Place tomatoes in saucepan with onion, celery, cloves and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and cover, simmering 15 minutes. Melt butter in a large saucepan then stir in flour and salt. Cook mixture until bubbly. Add milk and cook until thickened stirring constantly. Puree tomato mixture through strainer, food mill or in a blender or processor. Add to milk mixture and heat through. Serves 6.



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