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Mainely Tipping Points

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Turkey Tracks: Preserving Garlic

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Turkey Tracks:  February 2, 2012

Preserving Garlic

Some of our garlic is starting to go soft and to mold–especially the really big bulbs.  It’s that time of year.

Last year, I jollied the bulbs along by putting them into the refrigerator.  I swore then that I’d take the time to clean them and do SOMETHING with them next year.  For those of you who don’t grow things, one plants garlic in the fall, it winters over in the ground, sprouts in the spring, grows all summer–giving you fresh garlic scapes just when you’re hungry for fresh garlic taste–and one harvests in the early fall when the plants start to turn brown.  After pulling up the bulbs, one dries them in a warm dry place, which makes the true, strong garlic taste develop.  After that, one cuts off the stalks and stores the bulbs.  They need cool, dry storage.

Also, EAT GARLIC!.  It has the most amazing chemical properties which can build up your immune system, drive off colds and infections, and keep you generally healthy.  It didn’t get the reputation for vampire protection for nothing!  If you start coming down with a cold, mash a fresh garlic clove into some butter, spread it over a cracker or something like that, and eat it.  Salt helps.  Three times a day.  You’ll notice that help is occurring almost right away.

So, this year, I brined a jar of garlic, which took care of about half of our crop.  You can see what I have left to do.  You can also see the dusky blue light outside my kitchen window

I used a recipe from NOURISHING TRADITIONS since it uses whey.

Brining Garlic

In a quart Mason jar, place the peeled cloves of about 12 heads of garlic.  (If you roll them under your hands or in a towel, the cloves break free easily–all except for the pesky little ones.)

Add 2 teaspoons of dried oregano (I used a savory herb mixture with a Mediterranean base), 2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 Tablespoons of whey.  If you don’t have whey (you drip it out of yogurt), use another 2 teaspoons of sea salt.  Add water to cover, but leave a good inch free at the top.  You’ll notice I have my jar sitting in a saucer to catch drips if the fermentation process gets going in earnest and bubbles start going over the top.

Leave the jar on the counter for about three days, turning it upside down and shaking it a few times a day to distribute the juices.  Then, put it in a cool place.

You can use the garlic like fresh.  The juice is great in salad dressings.  Or, I suspect, a little would jive up soups.

I’m also going to make some GARLIC ELIXIR–from a recipe in WELL BEING JOURNAL, Jan/Feb 2012.  They took it from Doug Oster’s TOMATOES, GARLIC, BASIL:  THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF GROWING AND COOKING YOUR GARDEN’S MOST VERSATILE VEGGIES.  Sounds like a good book.

Garlic Elixir

1 cup of garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup parsley

1 teaspoon salt (sea salt please)

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Olive oil (1/2 to 1 cup)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

optional:  chopped black olives or capers to taste

Process garlic and parsley in a blender until chopped fine– put optional ingredients in first before blending the garlic and parley if using.  Place in a mixing bowl.  Add salt, vinegar, pepper and lemon juice, stir in olive oil.  Place in a glass jar and cover with thin layer of olive oil.  Will store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Wow!  I’m guessing some of that added to salad dressing would make some fabulous salad dressing.  Wonder if one could freeze it…

Push the cloves do


Turkey Tracks: Roasting Tomatoes

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Turkey Tracks:  September 15, 2011

Roasting Tomatoes

September is the “red” month in Maine.

Or, in other words, September is when our tomatoes turn…red.

September is when my kitchen gets really interesting:

Those gorgeous yellow and Black Krill tomatoes on the left–and more red tomatoes–come from my neighbor Susan McBride of Golden Brook Farm.  The large red tomatoes to the right are ours; they’re Brandywines, and I think they are probably the best eating tomato in the whole world.

I’ve made a dense tomatoes sauce that I freeze in past years.  But, now that we don’t really eat pasta very much–too much of a carb hit–I looked around for a different way to preserve tomatoes for the winter–and, indeed, for early summer since our tomatoes take much longer to ripen.  Remember that summer doesn’t really arrive in Maine until July 4th!

Last year I made tomato soup and froze it, and it’s been so delicious all year.  And, I roasted tomatoes and put them into smaller jars.  It takes a LOT of tomatoes to fill a pint mason jar.   But, the flavor is dense and very rich.  So that’s what I decided to do with this year’s crop extras.


Start the oven at 375.

Put on a pot of water to boil–a large one if you have it.

Put a large bowl filled about half way with ice in  your sink.  Add some water, not too much as you don’t want to spill out the cold water when you put in the tomatoes.

When the water boils, drop in tomatoes to fill the pot, and after about a minute, lift each out and drop it into the ice water.

Let your pot reboil and add more tomatoes, etc., until all are done.   Meanwhile, take out the cold tomatoes, run a paring knife around the stem section to remove it, and slip off the skins.  Chuck up the tomato into a baking pan.

For about five pounds of tomatoes, add a chopped up onion, 4 to 5 cloves of garlic smashed and roughly cut, a couple of handfuls of basil, some salt, and a drizzle of really good cold-pressed, organic olive oil over the top–no more than 1/4 cup total.  Mix it all up with your hands–GENTLY.

Here’s what things look like at this stage:

Cook the tomatoes for about an hour, then stir gently.  Now you have to start checking on them about every 30 minutes.  And, when they start to “cook down,” more frequently.

The smell all over your house will be absolutely mouthwatering!

Here’s what they look like all finished up, which will take at least 2 hours total:

Load the tomatoes into pint mason jars–a canning ring funnel is a great help with hot food going into mason jars.  Be sure to leave at least an inch at the top for freezing expansion.  Cap the jars and put them upside down on a counter so they form a vacuum–you’ll see the cap is pulled down.  And, yes, you must freeze them.  You cannot can tomatoes cooked in oil–too dangerous.

Use these gorgeous tomatoes to enrich winter soups, to drizzle over meatloaf or stuffed peppers–saving a bit for some sauce on the side, or over pasta.


Written by louisaenright

September 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Turkey Tracks: Cream of Tomato Soup

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Turkey Tracks:  September 29, 2010

Cream of Tomato Soup

Late blight hit our tomatoes over the weekend.  I went out Sunday to harvest and realized that the long row of plants were all infected.  If you didn’t know, last year infected  tomato plants from nurseries grown down south and shipped north–mostly by the big box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart–wiped out the tomato harvest in New England.  Maine was no exception.  And, late blight also infects potatoes.  The spores from infected plants travel on air currents for as long a distance as forty miles. 

Given the fact that it rained here every day last summer for all of June, July, and the first of August last summer, my tomato plants did not grow and did get the blight.  I was able to harvest my potatoes, but the plants did have signs of the disease.  I carefully bagged all the plants and hoped for the best for this year.  We did not have a really cold winter, so I crossed my fingers.  Mostly, I think I got away with it as we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes before last Sunday–though many on the plants were still really green.  I think I need a small hoop house for the tomatoes.  I saw this one at the Common Ground Fair this year.  It’s called a giraffe hoop house, and it does not take up much space:


My potato plants seemed ok, though the harvest was light.  It’s been dry here this summer, and I was afraid to water too much as our well might go dry.  The tomatoes, as I’ve written, have been glorious!  I cannot complain.  But, I’ve spent a lot of time putting up sauce, and now I’m out of freezer space–especially since we just got our annual lamb for the freezer.  Thus, I started looking at other ways to use tomatoes.  And, voila!  I fell upon cream of tomato soup.  It’s dead easy and amazingly delicious!  I’ve combined recipes from several sources, so basically, I think it’s just mine.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Three or four pounds of ripe tomatoes–skinned, which is basically simple.  Just dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, transfer them to cold water.  Use some ice if you have extra.  Take out the core with a small, sharp paring knife, slip off the skin, and drop the tomato into your pot.

Add 5 to 6 tablespoons of organic butter and some salt

Heat the whole mass, covered, until the tomatoes break down.  Cook, covered, for at least an hour.  Two is better.  There should be lots of liquid, but keep an eye on the pot so the liquid does not cook off.

Next, you have a choice.  I mix it up with a hand blender, which is an essential tool in my kitchen.  You could also put the hot soup into a blender and risk burning yourself.  You could mix it with a hand mixer.  You could strain it.  With the hand blender, I’m not straining out the seeds, but I don’t seem to notice them after I’ve used it. 

Next, you had heavy cream to the hot soup.  I am lucky to have local, organic raw cream.  Adding more dilutes the tomato taste, but makes the soup creamy.  Find the balance you like, season with additional salt if you like.

Eat and enjoy.  It’s beyond delicious if you’ve got good tomatoes! 


When we were done ripping out and bagging diseased plants on Sunday, we had two big boxes full of green tomatoes and beginning to ripen tomatoes.  We threw out the tomatoes that obviously were going to get late blight spots while ripening.   (Yukko!)  We wrapped the big Brandywines in newspaper and put them into a dark, cool closet.  We put the tomatoes that were tinged with color in the kitchen windows.  And, I cut up the green, hard paste tomatoes and put them into the dehydrator.  We’re going to have “dried green tomatoes” AND “fried green tomatoes.”  I plan to try adding them to soups and stews.  And, I’m going to try to reconstitute them and roast them with winter vegetables.  They should add a nice zing.

Roasting Green Tomatoes

One of my favorite food combos and recipes  in the fall is roasting green tomatoes cut into chunks, with dense sweet squash (like a buttercup) or sweet potatoes, with newly harvested small potatoes (like red or gold)   small, whole onions.   I toss them with olive oil, salt, and generous amounts of rosemary and/or thyme.  I’m pretty sure this combo comes from Anna Thomas’s THE VEGETARIAN EPICURE.  It doesn’t hurt to parboil the potatoes.  Roasting at 350 for about 45 minutes is about right.

Try it!  You’ll like it.     

I still have a pile of ripening tomatoes on the counter to process.  And, all the tomatoes in the kitchen windows, assuming they ripen without being ruined by late blight spots.  So, I’m not done with tomatoes yet. 

FEDCO sent our fall garlic yesterday–the planting of which is the last task in the garden.  Though the cold frame is loaded with seedlings just emerging.  And, oh yes, I have to clean this year’s garlic which is presently drying in the top of the garage.