The end of the tomato season.
The onset of cold weather brought the end of the tomatoes. Some had a blush of color—they’ll finish ripening off-vine—but most were decidedly hard and green. I was bummed. And I hated the idea of throwing them out. The only thing I knew to do with green tomatoes came from watching a movie, and breading and frying has never been my thing, so I went online to find a way to make use of the final harvest. Bingo: I found a recipe for green tomato and apple chutney on The Slow Cook and immediately pinned it. It was described as “powerfully good stuff,” how could I resist?
As recipes go, it’s pretty easy. Chop a few things, cook in a pot, add some flavorings, cook it some more, process in jars. And chopping green tomatoes is a breeze, they’re firm and don’t fall apart into wet mush. My favorites were the unripe black cherry tomatoes… they had beautiful emerald green insides, and only needed to be halved or quartered to get to the right size.
Unripe black cherry tomatoes taste like tiny tart apples with liquid centers.
I was a little nervous about knowing when it was done. I tend to want things to be precise: cook exactly X minutes, or let it reach a certain temp, that sort of thing. The directions here were to cook “until it holds a mounded shape when lifted in a spoon.” Errrrr… ok? I compulsively scooped it up every minute while internally debating what made a mound a mound. For posterity, and as a reference for others who want a visual, here is when I decided the chutney held a mounded shape:
Is it mounded? I say yes.
And, that’s it. Process, and… PING!… you’re done. I halved the recipe and filled one pint jar (for eating now) and five half-pints (for storing/gifts). The chutney is supposed to get better over the next few weeks as the flavors incorporate, but what I sampled before canning was already pretty tasty. How perfect that the end of tomato season overlaps the beginning of apple season here in the Capital District. Don’t be sad when the end of summer leaves you with green tomatoes… make green tomato and apple chutney!
Remember the surprise rhubarb? Here’s what I did with the first bunch I picked.
Soon after discovering my tart friend I twisted off some of the outer stalks for experimentation.
I guess I need a bigger container.
Our kitchen wasn’t even completely unpacked at this point, so I kept my first foray very simple: rhubarb syrup.
Step one: Chop ‘em up and put them on to boil with water and sugar for about 15 minutes. If I recall correctly I used equal parts water and sugar, but I don’t remember how much in total, and I didn’t measure how much rhubarb I had. I guess it turned out to be a very unscientific experiment, my high school chemistry teacher would not be impressed by my (lack of) quantitative rigor.
Rhubarb boiling in (approximately) equal parts sugar and water.
Step two: Cool slightly and strain. I used a strainer basket lined with cheesecloth and then squeezed out every last bit of liquid. The squeezing part is why you need to let your syrup cool. If you’re not planning on manhandling a heated sack of vegetable pulp, you can strain right away.
Step three: Pour into clean containers.
Cooling off on the window sill.
This should be kept refrigerated. I’m not sure how long it will keep; I finished using it quickly. I used rhubarb syrup to top off ginger ale and plain seltzer for refreshers. I mixed it into various vodka, gin and rum concoctions. I even added some to prosecco for a rosy toast. There may be food applications for rhubarb syrup, but I never got that far… drinkin’ use only.
In the game of homeownership surprise rhubarb is way better than surprise asbestos.
M’s mom was on the deck scoping out our plants and said, “Hey! You’ve got rhubarb!”
Me: “I do?!”
Surprise! Turns out there are two big plants tucked along the side of the deck, hidden behind lilies and rhododendron. I’m not sure why it was planted there, it’s a bit of a shady spot, and getting to it requires walking through other plants. I’d like to try to make something with it, though, so I’ll just step gingerly. The kitchen isn’t completely settled yet, so it’s probably best to stay simple. Maybe rhubarb liqueur, or a rhubarb syrup? Now, where did I unpack the heavy-bottomed pot?…