My final harvest of the season is always a bittersweet event. In October, I harvest seeds from all over my garden and dry them for next year’s flower beds. I snip all the remaining basil, thyme, and mint and gather the green tomatoes off the vines for bag ripening. My kitchen is strewn with plates of herbs drying in the cupboards, and bowls of seeds on the table and counters with paper scraps identifying the color and habit of this or that poesy. I clean and freeze fruit, and prepare batches of chutney and jam. It is great way to preserve the flavors of summer, but also an opportunity for reflection (remember that warm day we picked these plums?) and projection (these climbing nasturtiums might do better on that south wall next year). I’ve had some inquiries on how I dry my ripened tomatoes, so I thought I’d give you the instructions. I love to make them with specialty salts, which is an endless experiment because there are so many fantastic salts available now. You can, though, just use regular salt or none at all, and you will have intense sweet dried tomatoes to improve the flavor of almost anything you are cooking this winter. You will need an oven with a dehydrate setting or a temperature setting of 140 degrees, or you can get a counter top food dehydrator for $50.00 that will work just fine.
2 large garden tomatoes, sliced into 12 pieces each (or the equivalent volume of halved cherry tomatoes)
1 tsp. of black truffle sea salt (or plain salt)
Cut your tomatoes each into 12 wedges. Lay them on a broiler pan and set the drip pan underneath. Sprinkle each wedge very lightly with your salt. A little goes a long way, so just a pinch for each wedge. Set your oven to dehydrate or 140 degrees and dry for 12-15 hours. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.
Ginger Pear Lemon Marmalade
I just had a bumper crop of fruit off my trees this fall. Result? I’ve done some spicy experiments with homemade jams and chutney, Of course, no fat or animal products used! Here are my two favorites. They are quick, easy and amazingly tasty. Try the marmalade on Dave’s Good Seed Bread toast or use instead of the orange marmalade in your “Aussie Bites”. Use the chutney as a sweet & savory sauce for a vegan pizza. Try not to eat these luscious jams by the spoonful, though, or you’ll have to start a new batch before you know it!
Ginger Pear Lemon Marmalade
7-8 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 C sugar
2 whole lemons, seeded
1 C coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
Put the chopped pears, sugar and 1/2 C of the chopped ginger into a saucepan. Quarter the lemons and remove all the seeds. Chop the lemons into 1/4 inch pieces, including all rind, pulp and juice. Add all to the pear mixture and bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce heat and simmer on low 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the sugar has caramelized and the mixture is a golden honey color. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/2 C chopped ginger and cool to room temperature. If you want something very special, stir in a bit of Cointreau or Brandy. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one month (it isn’t going to last that long, though).
Three Plum Chutney
1 ½ C Quartered fresh or frozen plums
3/4 C coarse chopped prunes
1/2 C raisins
3/4 C chopped red onion
1/2 tsp Ras el Hanout spice
2 tsp whole seed mustard (any oil-free brand)
2 tsp Kozlik’s Amazing Maple mustard
2 TBSP plum preserves
½ C brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer and low, stirring occasionally, until thick and caramelized (about 2 hours). Cool completely and pour into a clean container. Refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.