The crisp clear autumn air this past weekend was begging us to play outside. To boot, our friends Corey & Leann were visiting, so we decided to head out for a picnic on the Chesapeake Bay. We drove over to Grandpa G’s place on Deep Creek (which opens on to the Chesapeake) and ate our lunch on the dock.
It was not long before M and Corey were quite eager to pull out the rowboat, and Leann and I figured we may as well come along.
Aside from the metronomic creaking of the oar with each motion (despite multiple applications of saliva, the rusty creaking persisted), we had a lovely time.
Along the way, we spied on an egret stalking its shellfish prey, attempted to pull up a long-forgotten crab trap (empty), and baled out the slow trickle of water leaking in from the back of the boat. I attempted to take a turn with the oars; M generously allowed me five minutes of turning in circles before taking them back. Apparently I need to work on my rowing skills.
Last week we had noticed a field of tomatoes, the plants turning brown but bespeckled with lots of red tomatoes. This seemed so strange until we remembered seeing a tomato truck on the highway not long ago filled with green fruit. I guess around these parts, they pick them when green, and if anything is left ripening on the vine, it’s already too late. Of course a field full of beautiful tomatoes was just asking to be picked. I mean, they were already out there pulling up the stakes on the plants and plowing them down…perhaps we could save these poor fruits by gleaning them!
Luckily for us, our friends are just as game for adventure.
Driving home we happened to pass another tomato field, where M brought the car to a halt on the side of the road. We grabbed the empty lunch containers and bags and descended upon the field to glean. All in all we came back with 25 lbs of grape and full-size tomatoes.
What does one do with so many tomatoes, you might ask? Sunday afternoon after we bid farewell to our friends, M and I got to work on turning them into sauce. We washed, and washed and washed them (to make sure any chemical sprays were gone), then began stewing them down. Thank goodness Mom G has some huge canning pots here!
We cooked down all 25 lbs of tomatoes, then put them through a food mill. After a few minutes of this, we thought it was taking an unnecessarily long time, so we brought out our 1960s juicer (which we bought a couple years ago for $3.99 at a thrift store in Onancock). In fact, it worked like a charm. It pureed more of the tomato than the food mill was letting through so we got a little more glop in our sauce.
We followed the ‘Family Secret Tomato Sauce’ from Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal Vegetable Miracle, and we thought it turned out pretty well. The tomatoes didn’t taste like they were at their peak of tomato-ey goodness, but the sauce certainly was worth the effort. Next year we’ll surely be canning a boatload of or own home grown tomatoes (smiley face)!