Edamame Time 6/23/2018

 

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Summer is finally here! It’s felt official since mid may, but now we are squarely into the 100 degree territory until late September. The dried bean plants have been ready for me to pull out of the ground for at least two weeks… but I’ve been lazy so I haven’t. What I have been doing is enjoying edamame. It’s finally ready to pick! Better yet, It’s even easier to prepare. Once a few green leaves turn yellow on the plant you know it is ready.

Although you can get frozen edamame at the store, I wanted to try growing it as an experiment. The plants don’t get as big as expected. It’s perhaps due to the weather here? But they seem to be troopers taking the heat better than most of the other bean varieties. I would plant every 6 inches apart rather than 1 foot in the future. Each plant appears to yield approximately one cup of edamame pods which is perfect for a light snack.

Edamame:

  • 2 to 3 Tbsp salt
  • water
  • Edamame
  • Coars salt for sprinkling

To prepare, yoink a whole plant out of the ground, Wash any debris off the outside fuzz on the pods.

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Boil a half pot of water with 2 or 3 Tbsp salt. When the water is boiling throw in the pods.

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Boil the beans for five minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water.  Serve in a bowl sprinkled with coarse salt. Eat immediately. A tasty easy snack awaits.

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I have learned a few things from doing this. Firstly, Pull the plant THE DAY that you want to make edamame. I waited one day to make my first batch and the beans started turning a little grainy texture which was not as good. Secondly, yellow pods are fine. They don’t taste bad or weird. Don’t be afraid of the yellow. Thirdly, don’t go thinking that you’ll make a huge batch of these and put them in the fridge and eat them over the week. It turns into a weird slimy mess. The husband and I decided to try that 12 years ago when we were still dating. It left such an impression on both of us we remember the horror vividly to this day.

It’s so much more fun and satisfying to eat the food you grow yourself. Happy Gardening!

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The Joys of Fresh Tomatoes 6/17/2018

This year my fresh tomato harvest has been small and meager thanks to a mouse family that has discovered my garden. I saw one running along the fence line into my neighbors property at dusk the other day, did some research and realized they are why I have exactly NO tomatoes and NO cucumbers. See the beginnings of mice damage here.

Since I only had five tomatoes counter-ripened that were saved a month ago I’ve been choosy as to how they are being used.  There is nothing I love more than the taste of a fresh sweet home-grown tomato. My two simple and favorite ways of using fresh tomatoes that really let the tomato shine are below:

Santa Fe Scrambled Eggs:

This is a super simple breakfast the husband and I enjoy on Weekends. It wakes you up with a nice spicy kick and is a great way to start the day with some protein:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 fresh tomato
  • 1 hot pepper
  • (optional) 1 sweet pepper
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • (optional) a light sprinkling of garlic powder and onion powder.

Method:

Dice and pour over scrambled eggs. It almost ends up like pico de gallo just without the onions and cilantro, and it is less liquid. I usually dust the top with a little of the garlic and onion power and we both mix the fresh salsa into the eggs and eat them together. Filling and delicious.

Tomato Sandwiches:

I made these for work last week and it was delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of your favorite bread
  • 1 fresh tomato
  • sprouts
  • 1/2 avocado
  • small bunch basil
  • Mayo
  • cream cheese
  • a dab of mustard
  • Salt

Method:

Make a sauce with equal parts mayo and cream cheese, and a dab of mustard to your liking. Chiffonade the basil and mix into the cream cheese/mayo mixture. Spread this mixture on your bread. Layer a generous helping of sprouts, avocado slices and then the tomato. Sprinkle the tomato with a light dusting of salt and enjoy! This open-faced sandwich is really something special with the home-grown tomato as the star. If you aren’t into the veggie thing I’m sure a layer of bacon would go quite well on top of the sprouts.

I’m counting my blessings that I still have some preserved sun-dried tomatoes in herbed olive oil and tomato butter from last year that I can still use this summer so I won’t be totally without. I also have amazing friends that have given me a load of their cherry tomatoes to enjoy.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we can take care of the pest problem and get some more tomatoes this fall.

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Glut of Onions 5/27/2018

The Garden Patch

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In this picture the onions look a lot more full of life then they did when we got back from our trip on 5/27/2018. The majority of all the onion leaves had browned on most of the plants. I would have picked them a week before if I knew I could process them before our trip. We ended up with 27 lbs of onions after giving at least 1/3 away to friends and co-workers and steadily using them in the prior month and a half fresh from the garden. Next year I will try to figure out how to be able to either continually harvest onions by planting different varieties and/or plant storage onions so we don’t have a glut of fresh stuff that has to be used up within 20-30 days like we do right now.

IMG_1094Here the onions are spread out to dry for a day or two in the hot sun. This is supposedly supposed to help “cure” them so they keep longer. Honestly I don’t know if it helps or not for non-storage types. It may have shortened their life. At any rate, when the green tops had died back to brown they were all brought inside for processing. There is NO way that two people can eat that many onions in 20-30 days.

The majority of the onions are medium-ish in size, some are a little small, some are tiny and some are fairly large. They all got sorted into a few different piles with their different sizes for different uses.

Small onionsThe super small ones will be pickled like pearl onions. I only had a few of these, less than 1 pint.

Small/medium onions: The smallish/medium ones will be dehydrated in an attempt to make onion powder. This seems like a good way of storing a non-storage onion.

Larger Onions: Stored in pantyhose to figure out how long they keep and to be used in fresh cooking

Quick Pickled Pearl Onions:

  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp salt + extra for water
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

Prepare the onions, peel and cut an x in the bottom. Boil in salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool under cold water then put the onions in a jar. Put the thyme in the jar with onions. Put all other ingredients except thyme in a pan and boil for 2 minutes then pour liquid over the onions and let cool. Store in refrigerator. Since the onions are in a brine they should be good for a year in the fridge. This whole process probably took 15 minutes including going outside to pick thyme and bay. I got to use my fresh coriander for the first time!!

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Onion Powder:

Slice onions to 3/16ths of an inch and arranging them on the tray they dried at 125 degrees fahrenheit. Most sights say to dry between 4- 8 hours. This is going on 11 hours. They are still leathery and not crisp although they appear to be mostly dry.  I’m not entire sure how long this part will actually take. Good thing it’s a passive activity and I’ve got all weekend.

Either store the dried onions in a jar whole and blitz them in a coffee grinder when needed, or make immediately into a powder after onions cool and store in a dry air tight container.

The Texas Sweet onions ground more readily into a powder. I found the Georgia sweet had a higher sugar content and would actually not grind. They are stored whole and I’ll use them in sauces and just sprinkled on top of dishes. They are SUPER tasty on their own. They already taste caramelized.

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Whole Onions for Fresh Cooking:

Each nylon bag is knotted so you just cut off the bottom for a fresh onion. Pantyhose work perfectly for this (weird I know) but you can get a whole brand new carton for super cheap. A knot between onions keeps them from touching each other and they can be hung this way. I wrote a “T” or “G” on top of the sack so I know if it is a Texas onion or a Georgia onion and can keep track on the keeping qualities this way.

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If they start going bad quickly I’ll make some sliced refrigerator onion pickles and we can use them up that way.

Now to find a place to hang these…..

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Native Rock Rose

 

Last of the Peaches & Peach Pie 5/13/2018

Remember the peach tree bowing under the weight of all the fruit?

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Well it’s back to normal now. We have had two baskets of peaches at a time sitting on the counter for the past few weeks now. Every few days I’d process the peaches into a pie, or some fresh peach salsa, (it’s great on chicken tacos) and freeze what we weren’t going to immediately use. Then we’d pick two more baskets of peaches and they would sit on the counter again. In total we picked at least 10 gallons of peaches which is more than enough for two people.

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The freezer peaches are waiting to be used in smoothies, popsicles and pies later on. We have a new favorite peach pie this year that I’m excited to share.

Peaches and cream pie:

  • uncooked pie crust in a 9.5 inch deep pie dish
  • 4 cups of peaches
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of plain greek yoghurt or sour cream

 

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Method:

It’s super simple. (my favorite kind of recipe) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make your favorite pie crust, put it in the pie dish. Place peaches on top. In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients and pour evenly into the pie dish.  Bake for 60 minutes or until golden. Ta da !! Delicious! you could do a cross hatch pie crust on top if you so desired. I took the easy rout. It’s yummy. Husband was very happy, which makes me very happy 🙂

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End of the Terrible Turnips 5/7/2018

Turnips are not for us. I kept hoping we would stumble across a recipe that made them taste good that we both liked. I wanted to be excited about growing more turnips next fall. We kept an open mind. We really did.

We’ve tried them:

  • Mashed Bacon turnips – Blech! We both wanted to like it but couldn’t. What a waste of perfectly good bacon!
  • Broiled/home fries – Soggy tasted too much like mushrooms for the husband.
  • Soup Turnip, Carrot Onion & Beet – Honestly this was only made just for me. I froze it for when desperate times call for desperate measures (IE: husband is out-of-town and I need a meal). Maybe the second most palatable option but nothing you would request on purpose.
  • Fries with Garlic Aioli -This was the best by far but still not something either of us enjoyed enough to make again. They never were crispy.
  • Gratin – Basically turned out to be a dairy/cheese delivery system which still was soured by the turnip taste/texture. Husband saw my reaction to trying it and didn’t even want to give it a taste.

So it is not for lack of effort in trying. We have concluded they are horse food. I will not be growing these again for human consumption. Pity. They were fun to grow and fast to produce. But what’s the point if you don’t like to eat it? NEVER AGAIN.

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Today out at the garden the harlequin beetles eating the greens and they were starting to get powdery mildew so they have to be pulled out. The temperatures have gotten too high for them to be happy. I have a fridge full of turnips and NO good ideas on what to do with them. They might just end up in the compost bin.

3tlsmYy

 

 

 

Peaches 4/28/2018

Peaches, Peaches Everywhere:

IMG_0855The peach tree is literally bowing to the earth under the weight of all its fruit burden this year. I did not thin the peaches as I should have. The result appears to be much more, and smaller fruit. Although they are blushed with red, they are still under ripe. They are crunchy, but they are sweet. IMG_0866Today I’ll be making a batch of peach salsa to lighten the load for the tree a little. There’s so many recipes on pinterest. I just picked one that looked like my husband would like it the most. He’s a salsa fanatic so I’m sure this will be a good use. I told him to expect a LOT of peach things in the coming future. Even if I just end up freezing a bunch for smoothies. (Got to do at least one cobbler though right?)

This year is the first year I’ve noticed a pest in the peaches. There is a peach moth that lays eggs on the peaches that tunnel into the center where the pit is. Basically it’s a peach worm. I can look at a peach and tell if there is one in it from the tell tale dimple. It is hardly noticeable if you’re not looking for it. (excuse the dirty hands, I just finished planting bulbs).

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There really isn’t anything you can do about it except try to interrupt the cycle of the pest. The peaches will fall to the ground eventually, the worms will burrow into the soil to pupate. The pupa will mature and come out as moths and lay eggs on the fruit again. The moth can go through a few life cycles in one year. Meaning you can have a full tree of unusable peaches. So, you see a peach on the ground. Pick it up. throw it in the garbage. I’m going to lay a frost cover on the ground under the tree to try to prevent A) the worms from burrowing into the soil and B) any ground burrowers from getting out easily. Hopefully the birds will find them on the frost cover and eat them before they have a chance.

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This whole bucket of peaches did not even make a dent in the tree. It’s hard to believe that but I guess that means more peach salsa for us!!

Peach Salsa

  • 1/3 red bell pepper
  • 2 cups peaches
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • Salt to taste

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It’s pretty yummy! got an approval from the husband. 🙂

I also made a peach custard pie to use up the majority of the rest of the peaches picked earlier. The verdict is still out if it is a good recipe or not though. We have to wait for it to cool down to try it. The strudel on top might end up being a little weird. But hey, it will end up being peach cobbler if it doesn’t work says the hubby. Not a bad way to look at it.

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Cold Snap and Turnips 4/8/2018

Cold Snap

Friday was 85 degrees and humid. Yesterday was 43 degrees during the day it dropped into the 30’s last night. Just as the warm season things were starting to flourish a cold snap blew through the area dropping temperatures in a matter of hours. It was so uncomfortable outside. All I was able to do at the garden patch yesterday was stake the remaining sweet peppers that were getting whipped around in the wind, put up an unwieldy frost blanket tent over the peppers and pick a few turnips that were loving the cold weather. I also had to cover my tomato plants that I just got in the ground last weekend at home.

Turnips

The first crop to produce for 2018!! Baby turnips are ready for the picking.

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Note to self: Nagasaki Akari Kabu Turnips were sowed on 2/17/2018 and last week and April 1st Baby turnips were ready for picking. 1.5 ish months of growing time before they are ready to start picking. Luckily they are all growing at different rates too which is making it so I can pick a few of the largest ones each week. The purple top white globe turnips have finally started bulbing also. Just not as reliably. They have a lot more foliage and the skin is tougher. They also have a much harsher peppery taste more like a radish.

IMG_0583After spritzing them down with a hose they’re ready to bring home.

Turnip recipe trial and error

Turnip Greens

Last weekend I tried making collard greens with their tops which was pretty good. I think I need to experiment with different recipes a little. This is a possibility for future experiments.

Mashed Turnips

I tried mashing the turnip bottoms with some bacon and chives following a recipe I found on Pinterest. This was TERRIBLE. NEVER AGAIN. Part of that might be my fault. I used turnips we got from a farmers market the week before. I boiled the turnips with their skins on which was probably most of the problem. The skins of the farmers market turnips were bitter and very harsh tasting like super spicy hot radishes and I think maybe that flavor boiled into the turnip even though I peeled the skins off after. Anyways, the results were Blech. That and.. Turnips don’t mash. I had to get out the stick blender. My husband and I both agree that was bad and not to be repeated.

Roasted Turnips

Today I lightly coated them in olive oil and broiled for 15 minutes until golden stuck them in a bowl and put a tiny pad of butter on top and sprinkled some fresh dill from the garden on it. Basically following another Pinterest recipe I had found. I was extra careful and taste tested the skins both varieties. Nagasaki Akari Kabu don’t even have a hint of that terrible bitter harsh flavor so I left the skins on for roasting. The purple top white globe turnips are less superior by far in their early maturing and in their taste. The skin had that gross hot-radishy flavor again so that one was peeled. Chris HATED this dish He said that it tasted like he just put a mushroom in his mouth (which he hates). I on the other hand did not think it was terrible, but it was kind of disappointing because its pretty tasteless. It seems like turnips are not meant to be the star of the show. Maybe I need to look at recipes where they play a support role to something more interesting.

Right now in my mind turnips are valuable as an early producer but not because they taste amazing… I need to hunt for more recipes.

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Fermented Carrots 4/1/2018

There’s a whole chunk of my garden at home that had carrots sown last fall. They have to come out to make froom for spring cucumbers.

IMG_0539These never actually were thinned so some carrots are large and some are suuuuper crowded so they are tiny.

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There was a lot more greenery than carrot but that’s ok.

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Fermented carrots are extremely easy to make. Scrub carrots with the skin on. Do not peel them. slice larger ones lengthwise in half or quarters and put them into a clean glass jar.  Make a solution of 4 cups water and 3 Tbsp of pickling/sea salt.

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Cut the carrots into sticks and pack them in a glass jar. I used a glass weight to make sure all the carrots stay under the solution. The containter will need to be burped if you are using a tight fitting lid. No special equipment is required though. You could even put a coffee filter over the lid with a rubber band.

IMG_0549Taste it every few days until you get the desired flavor. When you get something you like stick it in the fridge. My husband buys these from whole foods periodically so it’s nice to be able to make some for us without having to buy them. Hopefully they meet expectations.

*update, about a week later they were about ready. Next time I think they should have spices in there other than just the salt, like a hot pepper, some garlic etc. This needs more oomph. They aren’t bad but they could be more interesting.

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Are Tepary Beans Tasty? 2/25/2018

Last summer I grew Tepary beans in a neglected corner of the yard where a little space was available. Tepary beans are a variety a lot of conventional gardeners have not heard of. They originated from the American Southwest and Mexico where they can survive and produce on monsoon rain alone in the arid desert. In my experience in Texas so far, things that are rugged survivors don’t necessarily taste good. Under what is likely not optimal growing conditions the beans blossomed with pretty little flowers and matured giving a meager handful of beans that are left to dry on the plant before picking.

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The temperature started falling and the days started getting shorter and the plant burst forth with incredible vigor and produced enough beans to fill up most of a pint mason jar. Its like the vine was sleeping until fall started to arrive then it really kicked into gear. All the pods that were picked before the snow storm last winter were shelled in my spare time during the winter. This is what one plant’s worth looks like when it’s in part sun and gets regular irrigation from the sprinkler system:

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Not too shabby for one plant in my opinion. But what is the point of growing them if they don’t taste good? My brave husband will be participating in giving the gladiator thumbs up or down to the tepary bean tonight.  I did some research on how to cook them. It’s VERY IMPORTANT to research how to cook each type of bean you grow that is not just for fresh eating. Beans contain a compound called lectin. Some lectin is not harmful, but the lectins found in undercooked and raw beans are toxic. The red kidney bean is probably the most famous with its high content of the poison phytohaemagglutinin. A nasty trait of the toxin is that if it is only partially cooked the toxicity level can actually Increase. What to take away from this:

  • Soak beans for the recommended period of time in the recommended amount of water.
  • Discard this water
  • Boil Beans for recommended period of time

A lot of recipes online didn’t say anything about soaking time or that it was not necessary to discard the water etc. I don’t trust that at all. I found a great website from a farmer that sells tepary beans and has recipes which included preparation techniques. This said soak tepary beans overnight and bring to a boil. It doesn’t say how long to boil and because I’m paranoid I boiled ours for 10 minutes which is probably overkill but it is the recommended length of time for a kidney bean which is extremely poisonous.

Ok, now that the public safety announcement is over with, I’ll continue.

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It was surprising to see just how much the beans increased in volume from the overnight soaking. One cup of dried beans turns into 2 or 3 cups of soaked beans.

The french have a wonderful way of making food taste great. If the beans taste terrible I want it to be because we don’t like the beans, not because we don’t like the dish. Ragout is the answer. Pancetta, who doesn’t love it? I do! but I have bacon in the fridge so I’ll settle for that instead.

  • Bacon – 3 large slices
  • Red onion, – one medium
  • Fresh sage leaves, (3)
  • Celery – 4 stalks
  • 32oz container of chicken broth
  • Soaked beans (1 cup dry)
  • Handful of fresh parsley thrown in to finish it off.

Sounds good to me! All the ingredients are tossed into the slow cooker except the parsley.

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8-ish hours later.. hopefully something tasty will emerge.

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This was surprisingly good. All I did was add salt to taste and stir in some fresh parsley. Husband gave it a thumbs up, said it was very tasty. I agree. And the beans were not at all grainy. I’m loving the idea of planting this little seed, not doing anything to it. Just shelling some beans during winter’s downtime and being able to make some delicious meals that came from the garden when a chunk of it is dead mid winter!

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Tomato Butter 12/17/2017

The tomato ripening experiment worked from November 24th. I have a counter of beautiful red tomatoes right now.

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It’s surprising they are all coming ripe at once. I might have to pull out the dehydrator, or just resort to freezing them. However, right now the husband and I are running low on tomato butter. There’s a restaurant that’s a favorite of some friends of ours and they serve this amazing tomato butter with crusty bread while you decide what to order. We loved it so much we had to dupe it. It’s super simple, the only issue is it really doesn’t use up many tomatoes and I have a lot to figure out what to do with. For the recipe to figure out how much tomato to use 1 1/2 medium, or 2 small tomatoes per batch. Since my tomatoes were picked green they are smaller so I used 2 per batch rather than the 1 1/2 like last time. Basically you end up substituting 1/4 of a stick of butter with the tomatoes so it doesn’t take a lot. If you use beefsteak tomatoes maybe 1/4 of a tomato per batch would be more appropriate. I use early girl which are naturally small.

Ingredients

  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp of fresh thyme
  • 1 3/4 sticks of butter
  • Salt (to taste)
  • garlic (optional)

We like tomato butter with and without garlic so I always make two batches. Also my butter mold holds 4 sticks of butter so 2 batches fills it up nicely.

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Recipe

First cut the stem end off of your tomatoes and slice them in half. placed on a tin foil lined backing sheet skins side up.

Place the tray on the top rack of the oven and turn on the broiler. We’re looking for a roasted skin and to make the tomatoes warm to help melt the butter in the food processor.

IMG_0202When the skins have shriveled and they have brown/ black bubbly skins they are ready.

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Put the hot tomatoes in a food processor along with all the ingredients except for salt. Blitz away. It’s amazing how the warm tomatoes turn the butter into a melted soup almost immediately. This makes pouring or spooning the butter into the molds way easier and helps make sure the tomatoes and garlic get completely incorporated.

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This is the consistency you want. I start with salted butter but find that adding a little more at this step more makes the roasted tomato flavor come out a little better.

IMG_0212Press butter down into molds and put in freezer to set. Before I had butter molds I used waxed paper and rolling the butter into a log by twisting the ends which also works. I put extra thyme on the top of the butter with the garlic so I know which is which. The butter once frozen will be wrapped in waxed paper with a label and date and sealed in a zip locked bag kept in the freezer. When we want some with a meal we take it out of the freezer, cut off a chunk and let it defrost on the counter or put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it. The four sticks of butter seem to last us about 6 months in the freezer. This is probably my favorite way of enjoying tomatoes out of season so far. Tomato butter on a hunk of crusty bread with stew is quite good on a crappy weather day.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of those tomatoes….

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