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Stave Off Winter’s Fury

It may seem odd to be thinking about winter here in the dog days of summer, but I suggest this is the exact right moment for it (and I have thousand of years of history to back me up on this).  If there is one thing that Jason and I have learned in our nearly ten years of living in NoVa, it is that we do not do winter well.  As children of the hot southern sun come late in life to the realities of cold, we have not adapted easily.  I know, I know, the idea of Virginia’s winter is laughable to some of you, but let me make my case.  If you live in a truly cold place you at least have the benefit of a usable cold (ice skating, snow, sledding, snow. . .lots and lots of snow :) ).  Here, it is just nasty: wet, cold, dirty, slushy.  I digress.

Well, this year I finally had the opportunity to bottle up a little summer comfort to see us through the Dark Days.  Last year, you may remember, we spent the majority of the summer traveling or recovering from travel (see Australia).  One of our favorite things to have in the winter is tomato soup (this one, right here), but the canned stuff just isn’t any good (and usually isn’t any good for you), and winter tomatoes are almost as depressing as soggy turnips; we won’t even talk about how much they cost.  So two weekends ago I scrambled down to our neighborhood farmer’s market and came home with 20 (yes, TWENTY) pounds of tomatoes, an humongous bunch of basil, and a pioneering spirit!  This is how I spent my day:DSC_0062

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Roughly eight hours later I had thirteen beautiful quart jars of soupy goodness ready to go in the freezer (I don’t have a pressure canner, so this is my only option) and a little store of lessons learned:

1. 10-15 pounds might really be my comfort zone. . .twenty verges on the absurd

2.  Get an immersion blender. . .no, really, just do it

3.  Food processors and blenders fail epic-ly with hot liquids in large quantity

4.  Do yourself a favor and sit down to process the tomatoes, or get a gel mat. . .or prepare for pain :)

5.  Peeling garlic in these quantities can burn your fingers every bit as badly as cutting up chiles–beware!

If you want to do something crazy like this yourself, here’s what you’ll need:

  • white vinegar
  • lots of water
  • large sink or bowls
  • 20 lbs. tomatoes
  • 5-6 heads garlic
  • 6 large white or yellow onions
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 quarts chicken or veg. stock
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 24 TBS (!) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tightly packed cups basil leaves
  • 2-3 very large stock pots (8 quarts or larger. . .larger)
  • roasting pans
  • parchment paper
  • a big dang spoon
  • immersion blender (trust me)
  • 12-14 freezer-safe quart jars (depending on how full you want them) or an equivalent volume of quarts and pints

Fill sink or bowls with cold water and a cup of vinegar (for the whole quantity of tomatoes).  Soak tomatoes in water for at least 10 minutes.  Clean, remove any bad spots, and transfer to kitchen towels to dry.  Prepare the soup with this recipe.  Wash jars in dishwasher on sanitize setting.  Place lids and rings in bowl and cover with boiling water.  Fill clean jars with soup (leaving at least a 1/2 space at the top), screw dried lids on loosely.  Allow to cool on counter for no more than two hours.  Place in freeze and pat yourself on your sweet, tired back!

3 thoughts on “Stave Off Winter’s Fury

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