Wednesday, August 3, 2011

CSA 2011 - The Goods - Week 9: Tomato Day

This isn't a photo taken at the farm market.  It was taken in my dining room.
My CSA offered bulk tomatoes for cheap this week.  It was advertised as a 25 pound box, mine was actually closer to 27.  I don't think I knew what 27 pounds of tomatoes was until yesterday.

Also, kale, chard, beans, red onions, zucchini, cucumbers and horseradish cheddar.  

Oh and eggs.  Weird eggs. Just one was broken this week, which is a huge improvement over the scene last week when I opened up the previous week's eggs to find four were smashed on the bottom and had sat like that for a while.   Note to self, check the eggs on pickup day.  All of them. 

So I'm putting the jump break here because there are some vulgar scenes and descriptions of tomatoes ahead.  If tomatoes can be vulgar (and Sous Chef Brian would insist they can).  If you're not easily upset by messy kitchens and bulk tomatoes, and all the things they can look like, click through.  If not, hey, look, that was my CSA this week.  Nothing to see here.  I didn't process 27 pounds of tomatoes on a weeknight, did I?

So here's where it gets upsetting.  We got this email about the bulk tomatoes and I asked Sous Chef Brian if he thought we should do it (I make sauce, and tomatoes keep very well in the freezer) and he was like, "No."  Which eased into an, "I guess, if you want to."  So of course I did it.  I paid $18 for 25 pounds of tomatoes.  If I'm recalling correctly, the week before, tomatoes were $3 for 4 large tomatoes.   My 25 (27, really) pound box included 77 usable tomatoes, ranging from medium-sized to f-ing huge.  

Luckily, my workday started and ended early, so I hit the pickup site a bit early and ran home to get water boiling. I put on the new Fountains of Wayne* album.  I took pictures of everything, brought out the bathroom scale to weigh the tomatoes and then everyone got a bath and a quick scrub.

And an X on the bottom.

And I looked in the freezer at two trays of ice and called Sous Chef Brian to bring home ice on his way.

I dunked them in boiling water in large batches, about 12 tomatoes per, and then into an ice bath.  I let them hang out in the water for a bit longer than usual, because I had far too many tomatoes to face, and didn't want to deal with any tricky skins.  I left them in for several minutes, maybe more than 5 sometimes.   And then let them sit in the ice water just as long.  

Skins were reserved.   About 1/4 of the skins went into my stock bag, and the rest went into their own bag in the freezer.  I'll add them to future stocks, but I thought that 77 tomato skins might lend too much tomato flavor to a single pot of stock.

And naked tomatoes went into a bowl.  Ok, in reality, they went into four bowls.  I was wishing for buckets.  Buckets would have helped.  

This is when Sous Chef Brian came home, after batch one had been skinned.   I asked him to help.  I think I've mentioned before that Sous Chef Brian used to hate tomatoes - he would get upset if they touched his food.  He's way cool about them now.  Until tonight.   Brian: "I don't want to be a bitch, but um, we're dealing with the part of the tomato that bugs me the, seeds, ugh.  And the ones you've skinned, they're just sitting there, looking like..."  I interrupted, "Body Worlds?"

No, we didn't go to Body Worlds.  I almost had to for work and I was trying to find a way to claim a moral objection without looking like a bitch.   I think that was one of the most exploitive and disgraceful things I've heard about that got mainstream acceptance.  But yeah, I saw posters and ads and the website and yeah, there was a minute last night where I thought I was never going to be able to eat a tomato again.

And Sous Chef Brian said, "Well, yeah, but I was trying to find a way to say it that wasn't so upsetting."  So there you go, blog readers.  Brian would have protected you from the scary imagery of naked tomatoes.  Me, I think you can handle it.  

So I asked Brian to make polenta for tomorrow and order dinner for tonight, while I skinned tomatoes.  HOURS PASSED.  My fingers got pruny.  Ok, maybe like an hour.  Still.

So then I had all these skinned tomatoes.  Look, none of the pictures from this adventure are pretty.  It's almost as bad as straining yogurt, which is also not pretty.  

I sliced them open over this cutting board, inside a rimmed tray, to catch the juice and seeds.  I seeded them with my thumb and threw the hard bits into a garbage bowl.  The good stuff went into a bowl, the juice, as below, was strained into a pot. 

This is the good stuff.

When the good stuff looks like that, imagine what the bad stuff looks like.  Every once in a while I strained off the good stuff into the juice pot.   Also, at this point Sous Chef Brian summoned up some heroism and jumped in to do some seeding, which was awesome, because it was 77 tomatoes.

And then, sometime before bed, we had shifted from 27 pounds of tomatoes to less than 7 pounds, divided among three freezer bags.  

Note the tomato splatters on the wall.
I was delusional when I thought I was actually going to make sauce tonight.   No harm in giving them a few days in the freezer first.  

But I had all that juice, remember?  So I strained it again (it was chilling with seeds, so yeah) and put it in a big pot.  I added a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of sugar and simmered it for about 45 minutes, stirring often. 

Then into jars to eventually freeze (too warm to freeze tonight.)  

I can't believe how overlooked tomato juice must be in the tomato harvesting process.  I was Googling around for a recipe, and everything I saw included pureeing whole tomatoes, which seems wasteful.  I'm sure people save the juice, but there's not much action on the web about it.   I would have spent $10 on 64 oz of organic juice, so I already made back half my money. 

And here's a bit of the aftermath.

Of course, every large bowl I own is covered in tomato, and every strainer is clogged up with seeds.  I'll face that tomorrow.  Luckily, Sous Chef Brian already made up some polenta, so dinner is handled. 

*re: Fountains of Wayne - I'm not one to try to outhipster you, I'm simply not cool enough, but damnit, they were among my favorite bands (meaning one of the 5 I'd willingly listen to) long before Stacy's Mom.  But when I mention them, that's all anyone thinks of.  Give a listen to Sick Day, damnit, or A Fine Day for a Parade.  This is the opposite of my problem with Radiohead, where they were my favorite band way back when they were uncool, and Pablo Honey is still among my favorite albums, but my Radiohead friends don't acknowledge the album exists. 

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