Friday, September 28, 2012

Indian Summer

Oh what a beautiful day it was today! It started off cool and gray but by noon the sun was shining and the temperature glorious - a perfect Indian summer day and how hard it is to believe it's already the end of September! My Dad used to recite the poem "Along the line of smoky hills, the crimson forest stands and all the day the blue jay calls throughout the autmn land . . ." a sure sign to us that autumn was here. And here in Muskoka, the hills are coming alive with their annual colour show.


Although parts of the garden are well past their prime, other parts are just coming into their true glory - the burning bush is now aflame, rudbeckias are at their peak of golden beauty and my David Austen roses continue to bloom and bloom, and oh what a fragrance they give. And my climbing rose that only blooms in June has produced a multitude of fat rosy rose hips, an antidote for winter colds. I just noticed today that my wegeilia is starting to bloom again. After a crazy summer of too little water and too much heat, the  past couple of weeks of cooler temperatures and a few days of rain have given everything a renewed boost.

A few days ago I harvested the last of the tomatoes, as we've already had frost, and cooked them into delicious roasted tomato sauce for enjoyment during the long cold winter days when one needs a reminder of summer's harvest. And yesterday I picked and cooked my grapes. I then froze the juice which I will make into delicious grape jelly on the next Saturday that I have free. Another taste of summer to be savoured in the depths of winter.

In the next few days we'll be taking down the gazebo and putting away the garden furniture for another season. I hate to put everything away when the days are still warm and sunny but before you know it there will be snow in the air and I'll be cursing that I didn't clean up everything when the weather was nicer. But today I'll just enjoy the blue jays calling to each other and visiting my garden to partake of the berries on the shrubs and trees. Aaah! Indian summer days!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Harvest Days - Tomato Time!

Oh, nothing says summer more to me than the red, ripe tomato. I love biting into a red, ripe tomato fresh from the vine, warmed by the sun, and feeling the juice drip down my chin as I enjoy the sweet delicious flavours burst in my mouth. Working in the garden it is a joy to be able to reach down pluck a tiny red jewel, like Red Candy, a quick, handy and tasty snack. And how appropriately named, for Red Candy, pictured above, tastes just like its name, like candy.

And to enjoy that taste of summer all winter long, I also grow Roma-style tomatoes which I make into tomato sauce to fill the freezer, so on a cold winter's night I can make a pizza or a pasta dinner enlivened with that delicious full bodied flavour of tomatoes. Yum! Yum!

This morning the rooftops were white with the first frosts. So with the nights getting colder as the thermometer dips with the anticipation of winter, it's time to harvest the rest of the tomatoes before we lose them to autumn's chill. I'll make the Red Candy into a tomato salad or bruschetta with the addition of some sweet onion and simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil, some white basalmic vinegar and sea salt and fresh ground pepper. The Romas and Carolina Gold will be transformed into tomato sauce.
Tomorrow we resumed the Community Kitchen cooking sessions we hold once a month where I teach some great ladies from our community a variety of recipes that are inexpensive, easy, use the freshest of ingredients and best of all taste delicious. So tomorrow we are celebrating Harvest Days by making Roasted Tomato Sauce which can be easily stored in the freezer, for thhose who are not comfortable with canning. I'll be showing them easy ways to harvest and store fresh herbs for use during the winter too as herbs you grow yourself really do taste best. If you have an abundance of tomatoes then why not try out this recipe, its easy, quick and you'll love the taste that roasting the veggies gives to the sauce.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
This recipe doesn't have any specific quantities as you can make as much or as little as you need and you can add whatever additional veggies you want. It's a great sauce to make for those picky, non-veggie eaters in your family as once the vegetables are roasted and processed together you can't taste individual veg except for the tomato flavour.
Cut into eighths a quantity of tomatoes and place in a large roasting pan. Add quartered medium sized onions, as many cloves of garlic as you want (remember that when roasted garlic loses its pungency and becomes sweet so you can add more than you think), then I add red and/or green pepper, celery, zucchini and any other vegetables you want. Drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and stir to coat. You can also add fresh herbs like basil, thyme, oregano and sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. I roast for about one hour at 300 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
Process the roasted vegetables in a food processor until smooth, you may have to add some vegetable stock or tomato juice if the mixture is thick. (I find that using Roma tomatoes creates a very thick sauce which definitely needs to be thinned. If you're using ordinary or beefsteak tomatoes which are juicier, you might not need to add much additional moisture.) Use immediately if you can't help yourself or place in plastic containers in the freezer to be used in winter when you need a summertime pick-me-up.
Celebrate the end of the summer season with Harvest Days!