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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

tomatoes

It’s that time of year again—break out your canning jars and start preserving the end of the summer season! Mid-September is an ideal time to put  up tomatoes, which are still abundant at markets now, but will start fading out over the next month. Remember, you can ask farmers if they have large volumes of tomatoes (or other produce) that you can purchase in bulk.

Canning is perhaps the most well-known way to preserve tomatoes, whether you’re opting for whole, diced, or sauced batches. For best results, look for a meaty, low-moisture, paste-style tomato, such as Roma or San Marzano (spotted at Fiddler’s Green Farm at Asheville City Market and Weaverville Tailgate Market). Cut a shallow X in the tomato skin, then blanch in boiling water and shock in ice water. Skins should be easy to peel off at this point. Fill sterilized jars with tomatoes and process in a boiling water canner according to the instructions.

For the lazy preserver, however, freezing is the way to go, especially if you have access to ample freezer space. This method will work even for those juicy heirloom or cherry tomatoes, and couldn’t be simpler. Just place your tomatoes on trays in the freezer until frozen, then transfer to airtight freezer bags. Thawed tomatoes are a snap to peel and can be used in most recipes in place of canned. 

Dehydrating or slow-roasting can turn an excess of tomatoes, particularly small cherry tomatoes, into essentially candy, and is a great method if you have limited storage space. Using a dehydrator will give you a leathery or crisp result (think tomato chips!) that will keep in an airtight container for several months. Slow-roasting in a low-temperature oven with salt and olive oil similarly concentrates flavor, but the result won’t be shelf stable. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for a longer-lasting batch. You can use either roasted or dehydrated tomatoes similarly to sundried tomatoes, in salads, sandwiches, or quiches. (Rather not make your own? Whaley Farmstead at East Asheville Tailgate Market and Black Mountain Tailgate Market, has dehydrated sungolds for sale.)

Believe it or not, you can also pickle tomatoes. Green, unripened tomatoes, sliced in rounds or wedges, hold up to traditional vinegar pickling and water bath canning. Cherry tomatoes, too, can get the pickling treatment, though they are best not over-subjected to heat. Prick tomato skins in several spots with a skewer to allow the pickling liquid to penetrate and cool your brine to room temperature before pouring over and refrigerating. Wait at least 48 hours before sampling; they will keep chilled for two months.

Other produce available now that you might consider preserving: peppers, corn, cucumbers, green beans, cabbage, peaches, pears, apples, and much more. In addition to produce, markets are a great source for mushrooms, eggs, cheese, meat, seafood, bread, fermented products, baked goods, and to-go snacks.

Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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