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Nows the time to can the tastes of summer

by: Barb Randall,

Are you going to be eating this winter? Of course you are. The real question is are you going to be eating the bounty of this summer's harvest all winter?

I plan to eat locally raised, homegrown organic foods all winter long and hope I can inspire you to do the same. A few hours preserving foods now will allow us to eat well year round.

Between husband Mark's garden and our share at Luscher Farm CSA, we have an abundance of organic produce to 'put up,' to use a term from another era.

My mother, an excellent role model in many ways, was the Queen of Canning. Each summer she began with strawberries and continued all summer canning fruits and vegetables for our family to eat during the winter. Her pantry glowed like the crown jewels. Deep red, yellow and orange, green and purple shone through glass jars of jams, peaches, pears, plums, pickles, relishes, beans and tomatoes - all lined up neatly to represent the bounty of the harvest from area farms. There wasn't much that escaped her canning kettle; wild plums growing in the yard became a plum jelly to accompany pork or turkey at holiday feasts. Peach and apple pies materialized throughout the winter, the result of a few moments spent chopping fresh fruit to freeze when they were at their peak.

My efforts to preserve summer's bounty are almost as industrious. Mark and I put up several kinds of pickles, dilly beans and medleys of other vegetables, tomatoes and tomato sauce each year. We freeze kale and other greens, herbs, corn, peaches, every berry imaginable, apple slices, jams and zucchini by the truckload. Mark canned barbecue sauce last year, too.

This past week, Mark made salsa from his homegrown organic tomatoes, onions and peppers. It is good - really good! He proudly put 24 pint jars on the pantry shelf.

Last weekend my friend Suzanne Slauson and I picked tomatoes, made sauce and canned it. The sauces were made Saturday and left to simmer until we deemed them perfect.

Tonight I'll make pesto when I get home from work. I have four huge bunches of basil to process, which should yield 6 or more cups of pesto. In less than an hour, I'll tuck away in the freezer pesto to pull out in the dead of winter when I'm craving 'the taste of summer,' as my friend and fellow Luscher Farm subscriber Nila Persson says.

Preserving food is fun, easy, economical and pleasing work.

Is this time consuming? No.

Mark made his salsa one night and canned it the next. All in all, he probably spent three or four hours on the project.

Suzanne and I spent about an hour picking tomatoes, another hour preparing them and making the sauce and probably an hour from start to finish processing the jars.

Is it cost effective? The numbers speak for themselves.

For Mark's salsa, the expenses were for seeds and water. We had the canning kettle and jars, but needed new lids. Not counting water, the tab came to a whoppin' $4, or 16 cents for a 16-ounce jar.

Tomatoes for the sauce at 50 cents a pound u-pick, were $10. Herbs and onions we had from our garden. Wine and stock were maybe $5, for a cost per quart of 65 cents. Cool!

I had to buy Parmesan cheese and olive oil for the pesto, but had basil, parsley and pine nuts on hand. My $8.49 investment yielded 6 cups of pesto. A two-cup container at the grocery store runs about $4; my cost: $2.83.

Equipment needed to start canning is pretty minimal. A canning kettle costs between $20 and $35; a dozen one-quart jars cost about $9. You may shell out another $5 or so for freezer bags and containers.

Is there a down side to this? Whether you can or freeze foods, storage is an issue, but I bet you could find space to show off a dozen quart jars of homemade tomato sauce.

One method of preserving I have only dabbled with is drying. We don't have enough of the necessary 100-degree days and 80-degree nights to manage sun-drying successfully. However, foods can be dried in the oven and in a food dehydrator.

On our list of foods yet to put up are dried tomatoes, apples, more peaches (if we aren't too late!) and mushrooms - we'll pickle them in vermouth brine. We will dry herbs at the end of the season. I'll make sauerkraut, using Melanie Session's mother's recipe. That will be the beau monde of Oktoberfest!

Enough about my pantry - can I help you put up food in yours? It's time to recapture this lost home art. If you need help or have questions, please contact me.

My recipe for Fresh Tomato Sauce is a modification of Jeff Smith's (The Frugal Gourmet) Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian. He uses just 9 cups of fresh tomatoes and four 28-ounce cans of good quality canned tomatoes with juice. I use all fresh tomatoes.

A good tomato sauce is considered a basic in the kitchen; you can add meat or vegetables when you open and heat the sauce. With this canned sauce on the shelf, you can have a flavorful dinner on the table with the blink of an eye!

Bon Appetit! Eat Locally!

Randall's Fresh Tomato Sauce

Makes 6 quarts

I suggest you at least double this recipe!

¼ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

20 cups peeled, cored and chopped very ripe fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter

Heat an 8- to 10-quart heavy bottomed pot and add the oil, garlic and onion. Sauté until the onion in clear. Add the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and gently cook, uncovered for at least four hours stirring often. Stir in butter and salt and pepper to taste

Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at bran

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