Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tomato Murder & Ferret Babies

This morning Gibson was at my bedroom window, whining softly at the turkeys who were strutting below him. The sound of their Ornithomimidae feet rustling wet leaves woke him up. The sound of his pathetic desires to bother them woke me up. But he was just watching in silent understanding that I could still sleep. There was no farm ruckus to report. No reason to bark or wake me, just the usual goings on. Still, he wanted to be out there. Who did those toms think they were? Walking around without his direction like destitute fools? He turned his head to look at me and whined once, setting a paw on the windowsill like a Dickensian orphan. He looked back outside. I sighed. "Do you want to go out?" I asked, half-mumbling a whisper. He turned, walked beside my bed, sat down and set his head on the edge of it. He stared at me. "Fine." And at that he trotted downstairs.

Friday didn't move from her spot beside me, sprawled on her back with her head on a pillow. She knew I wasn't talking to her. "Fri?" Her eyes half opened and she turned to me like some hungover lover. "He's already downstairs." She stretched, yawned, and lazily got up and hopped off the bed to wait with him by the front door. I had moments, just moments, before they both ran back upstairs and launched onto the bed to use whimpering kisses to get me out of it. If I wanted to use a sink for a face wash instead of carnivore saliva, I better get up.

I let the dogs out. How many British people with border collies watched us Americans enthralled with Lassie and shake their heads? He barked when a kid was in a well? Well isn't that's adorable. Aren't Americans so easily impressed by their clever dogs? Meanwhile, over in Dorset their sheepdogs were figuring out the third quarter budget.

My house spells like tomato sauce and that isn't a complaint. Yesterday I spent a sawbuck on a case of spotted and bruised fruits from the farm stand and ended up turning my kitchen into a lazy experiment. I made a saucepan of traditional red sauce on the stove. The kind where you boil water and get a bowl of ice next to it and shock the skins off. I cut them open after and removed seeds and inner liquids, leaving just the flesh for the saucing. It was a as violent as any pig slaughter, maybe more so since there was no sense of sacrifice. These were a week away from being garbage to that farm stand and they were thrilled to sell them to some homesteader who had time to make 15 pounds of fruit into sauce. That made it seem ever more vulgar. Maybe it's the homesteader in me - the having seen so many living things turned into food - that it bothered me how flippant and fast these once-gorgeous, full bodied tomatoes turned into anemic corpses in a bowl. Oh well, where's the basil?

So I made a stove top sauce out of the best, skinless, all-meat tomatoes. It was pretty easy. A skillet was already full of caramelized onions and garlic and was popping on another burner. I added just that and some sauce spices to the now warm and soup flesh. That was it. All that was left to do was stir it so nothing burned and let it simmer and evaporate what was left of the water.

I got a tip on Facebook to take the rest of the lot - the bulk of the tomatoes - and make sauce the easy way. Here is what Heather McKnight Hamilton told me. Her word is good.

KEEP THE SKINS! and the seeds! so much good stuff in there for you and for flavor. This is what I do - saves so much work. Halve the tomatoes. Put one layer in huge roasting pan (aluminum ones from dollar store are perfect) throw some sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, peeled smashed cloves of garlic, drizzle olive oil. Roast in 325 oven until juice is released and evaporated. let cool slightly, puree in blender. seeds, skins get blended in and you'll never notice them except for the extra flavor and nutrients. can or freeze. DONE!

That is what I did, that's it! Now I had so much sauce it the house it was ridiculous. I had only consumed coffee and a beer in the late afternoon. I was starving and had two boxes of 99cent spaghetti in the larder. I was guessing I had enough food here to feed 4 people all they could eat until they exploded with enough sauce to can or freeze. I needed reinforcements.

I emailed Trevor and told him to come over if he wanted to commit suicide through Italian food with me. I had some hamburger in the fridge and browned it the same skillet I had done the oil and onions with. Then I poured the quart of sauce I had made on the stove (the fancy skinless one!) into that. I wasn't waiting for Trevor. I made myself a plate. It was amazing. The combination of food I had waited for, worked for, and knew would continue feeding me when snow was on the ground - good Lord does it not add to the flavor profile! 

Trevor ate twice as much as me when he came over. We chatted about his adventures in Timber-framing and work. I caught him up on things going on around here. I live and work alone, but this house is never not full of people. I met them all after I retreated to a farm on the side of a mountain - exactly where I was told I'd never meet anyone. Phooey. 

All the tomato skins and bruises went into the slop bucket. The pigs had that alone with some slightly-off corn with their pig chow and were thrilled. I tried to get a photo for you but it was a massacre. That was the best of 37 photos of pigs trying to eat. Here's another one!

I hope all that food talk wasn't too much. These daily updates are going by the seat of my pants. As for today? It's a workday for me. I work on design and illustration between farm chores five days a week from home. Saturday and Sunday I take off. But being just a Tuesday I have invoices to chase, clients to bug, more episodes of Archer to laugh at, new work to solicit, ads to sell, an agent to hassle, and a house to keep in some order. I haven't had any coffee yet. I haven't even gone outside yet. I had nightmares Friday gave birth to a litter of ferrets and the internet yelled at me for being a monster because somehow my dog got ferret raped. Imagine waking up to a genius dog, ferret baby night terrors, and smelling spaghetti? Welcome to Tuesday. 

Oh, yesterday Storey Publishing sent me a copy of their new book Farm Dogs, to read and review. I'll write about it here but so far I just read the Border Collie pages and was instantly impressed. Jan knows dogs - this is not some coffee table book. It's an actual dog expert explaining which herding animals, terriers, and livestock guardians best suit your like and farm. The dogs posed for this. More talk between the author, Storey, and me over on Twitter.

Okay Antlers, I got a hawk to weigh, a farm to feed, a work day to plan, and at some point I need to hop in the shower before anyone from the general public sees me. I look a mess. Enjoy your day, drink more coffee than the Surgeon General suggests, and be nice to each other.

Danger Zone!

P.S. this post was titled Tomato Murder and Ferret Rape - per the weird dream. But I wasn't sure that would come across as offensive -using such a loaded term as rape in a dream-reference/jokey way. Sad that I didn't even flinch at the term murder.


Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for the review of the easy sauce recipe. I'm going to salvage what I can from my neglected tomato plants this weekend, and throwing everything together is the easiest thing in the world it would leave me no room for excuses.

October 4, 2016 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger crashdown said...

But wait a minute . . . the recipe says to leave the skins on and then to add raw garlic cloves and drizzled olive oil to the uncooked tomatoes and then to roast everything together in a roasting pan before pureeing in a food processor. You sauteed the garlic in another frying pan, took the skins off the tomatoes, and then cooked them separately on a stove top before adding the sauteed garlic. That sounds fine, but in what sense did you follow the recipe that you posted and said that you used?

October 4, 2016 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I baked them with the skins on! When did I say I followed her recipe? I just used that idea, and credited it her for it

October 4, 2016 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger crashdown said...

Where? Right here:

I got a tip on Facebook to take the rest of the lot - the bulk of the tomatoes - and make sauce the easy way. Here is what Heather McKnight Hamilton told me. Her word is good.

[posted recipe]

That is what I did, that's it!

There's obviously nothing wrong with not following that recipe, but I was confused about why you posted totally different steps and then said that this was the recipe you used. I read for detail!

October 4, 2016 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Yeah, I baked it. That's what I did.

If you're reading for details, this isn't the blog for you!

October 4, 2016 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Did you can this sauce?
The canner in me is dying a little about food safety :) I just did 24 pints with the blender method from my 5000 square foot lot in town.

October 4, 2016 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I plan on freezing in bags what is left from last nights feast. I'm guessing it's only about 8 pints? I'll put it in single serving freezer bags for me. Silly question has anyone here vacuum sealed sauce? is that crazy talk? Maybe freeze it and THEN Vac seal it?!

October 4, 2016 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger crashdown said...

Well, there's detail, and then there's posting steps to a completely different recipe from the one you said you followed. I'm a cook, and these things are important to me. At any rate, why did you end up not deciding to use the skins in the sauce?

October 4, 2016 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

freaking awesome day, love it

October 4, 2016 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, for Pete's sake. She used the skins in the sauce. She simmered AND roasted tomatoes. She refers to the batch without skins as the "fancy" one in this post. That's the one that simmered. She roasted a batch with skins also. She provided both recipes/steps.

As always, thanks for sharing, Jenna. :)

October 4, 2016 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Heather is just being Heather, details are important in an editor. She's the lady I hired who edited Birchthorn - so I forgive editors for being pedants.

October 4, 2016 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I hear you! I'm one myself. It's a blessing and a curse.

October 4, 2016 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ooooo! Did someone say Birchthorn? How's that going?

October 4, 2016 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Birchthorn is back from the editor, and the notes from her as well as the edited version are being reviewed before it comes out as an ebook. Which I hope to be soon but I won't put a date on it until I know for sure.

October 4, 2016 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great. Will the paperback be next? Maybe in time for the holidays?

October 4, 2016 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I think once it is ready to be published and already formatted for ebook, most of the works done? I'm personally not publishing it but hiring a small press in NJ so I can't give any certain dates but i would assume once that ebook is out the paperbook is soon to follow. Not the same week, but the next step for sure.

October 4, 2016 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Umm. OK. Well, I know this is my fault but I promised a friend a copy your newest book for Christmas last year and she went CRAZY when I told her. I lost some face when she received a stack of your older books instead. She was happy to receive them but a little disappointed because she had already read them (she checked them out at the library). So I was hoping I could give her Birchthorn this year. If you have any influence over any of that stuff, it would be really great if I could give it to her even as an ebook.

October 4, 2016 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I'm doing my best Luke, but I WAY underestimated the time it would take doing it alone, the writing took 3X as long, the editing, formatting, setting up, it was all beyond my expectation and control. So I will do my best but I learned how hard people criticize you for making a timeline and not being able to stick to it - so I can either offer you a refund for the wait since I made that mistake - but that's all I can do at this point. I hope to have it out soon as possible. It was more time than I ever expected.

October 4, 2016 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger psoupbetty said...

Hey Jenna! I'm loving your daily updates on what's doin' at CAF -- thanks so much for doing this! Re the idea of vacuum sealing the sauce for the freezer -- you *must* freeze anything juicy before you seal it (even meats) or the machine will suck the liquid into the place that is supposed to seal, and it just doesn't. (Ask me how I know this...) What I have done with things like marinara is freeze it in Ziplock freezer bags, squeezing the air out before sealing the zip, then freeze them lying flat and they will stack when hard. Space saving and very easy to thaw when you want one. It *does* pretty much mean the bag only gets one use (heresy in this house), as it's almost impossible to adequately clean the traces of tomatoey oil out of the bag.

October 5, 2016 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger T. Crockett said...

This is just the sort of post that made me a head over heals fan years ago.

October 30, 2016 at 12:50 PM  

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