vegetables

Welcome to the slow life

September 21, 2017

We don't just make slow fashion, we also live the life that goes with it-the slow life.  We live in a very small village in the southern Alps in France.  Although I am used to buying organic food and going to farmer's market, I am not as used to making everything myself.  I have forgone some convenience, and embraced trying to live with what we have.  We are very fortunate to live in an area where agriculture is abundant, and so are locally sourced products.  As I welcome you into my life, I want to share some moments of my life which make the slow life worth living. 

First up, canning...no self respecting mountain mama would be caught not knowing how to can summer goods for winter.  I have to say, I was not an expert in this by any means before moving here.  I am slowly learning, with some helpful expertise provided by my aunt. 

Everyone has their favorite recipe and ways of canning, here is my version of tomato sauce:

 

First up, gather supplies:

I use Le Parfait canning jars because that is what is most ubiquitous in France and also has been used in my family for generations.  You will need the appropriate rubber seals for this method, make sure they fit the jars you have, and NEVER reuse these. If you prefer to use mason style jars for canning, go for it! Make sure you wash with your jars with very hot water before every canning session.

 

The Ingredients:

The tomato harvest here is difficult, we are in altitude, and growing tomatoes is a bit more difficult.  We have plenty for eating throughout the summer and fall, but to make sauce you need a lot all at once, not possible for me here. So for the tomatoes I opted for buying them at my local veggie stand, I chose a local variety called "tomate de Provence" but Romas work really for this as well.  I also purchased garlic at the veggie stand, as my braid of garlic purchased at the agricultural fair last fall was long gone (but that's for another post...).

The rest of the ingredients I harvested from the garden, with the help of the cutest little farmer...There is something really special about sharing these little moments with my son.

 

Here is the bounty in all it's glory:

For approximately 6 L (about 12 pints) of sauce:

-6 kg ( about 13 lbs) of tomatoes

-2 cloves of garlic

-4 onions ( I used long red variety, but any red onion would work)

-3 leeks

-2/3 long zuchinni (yellow squash would work well too!)

-1 bunch of carrots (if they are very fresh, save the fronds for making pesto, seriously so good!)

-1 bunch of parsley and basil each

-a few dry bay leaves

-2/3 teaspoons of dried oregano

-couple sprigs of thyme (dry or fresh)

-salt and pepper to taste

-olive oil

-balsamic vinegar

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Tomatoes must be peeled and seeded, to make this easier, bowl a large pot of water. Once boiling, put clean tomatoes in the pot and let sit for a bit.  Emerge tomatoes in ice bath to cool (or if you are like me, just let them sit until you are ready to peel them). 

To peel them, just score the side and pull the skin off, discard skin (perfect for composting)

 

To seed them cut them in half, take out top green stem, and squeeze into a clean bowl.  Save the seeds and "guts" for straining and using the juice in the sauce. I warn you, this is messy, but also kind of fun!

2. Mash up your garlic, I used a mortar and pestle, but fear not if you don't own one, simply smash the garlic with the back of you kitchen knife, no one will know the difference.  I like smashing rather then cutting for this as I think it releases more flavor when it's cooking and doesn't burn as easily.

3. Dice leeks, onion, carrots and zuchinni. 

4. Put a few tablespoon of garlic in a large stock pot, sautee garlic, onion and leeks over medium/low heat (will prevent burning and add depth of flavor).

5. Once the onion and leeks are soft and translucent, add carrots and zuchinni.  Sprinkle oregano over top and sautee as well to bring out the flavor.

6.  Once the carrots are soft, add halved, seeded tomatos and stir. Once they have cooked down for about 1/2 hour, add the strained juice from earlier. I used all the juice, but if you feel it is too much, use less, too little, add water.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8.  Cook on low heat for about 2 hours. I usually do 1.5 hours with the lid on, and then the last 1/2 hour with the lid off, to thicken up the sauce. 

9.  Add chopped basil and parsley, with the fresh herbs it's important to put them in at the end, as they will get brown and bitter if they cook in the sauce. I also like to add in a slow drizzle of balsamic vinegar at this point, you can also do it once you have blended the sauce.

10.  Use immersion blender to puree the sauce.  If you don't have one, don't worry, you can also do blend it up in batches in a blender or food processor, it will be a bit more of a painstaking process as you have to ladle it in and make sure there is enough liquid for it to blend.

11.  Ladle sauce into your clean (I rinse my with very hot water inside and out) canning jars. Make sure you leave about 1" empty room at the top.

 

READY FOR BOILING:

I am super lucky that I have some very old, but very effective and large galvanized wash tubs for canning.  I was able to put all my jars in at once, and have an outside burner for heating it.  However, I realize that this may not be possible for everyone and I have done it on my stove top just a few jars at a time.  The most important thing is I always wrap them in clean rags, so they don't rattle while the water boils. The water must always cover the top of the jars.  For tomato sauce I boiled them for 40 minutes (start counting from when the water boils). 

 

Wait for jars to cool (I let them sit overnight) and then unwrap, and VOILA fresh veggie primavera sauce for the winter, or if you are like us, you open one within the week and eat it because you can't wait. 

Canning is almost always done in the summer, when it's the hottest and of course I picked one of the hotter day to do this, so we made a necessary pit stop at our favorite cooling spot in the village- the wash basin.  This was used back in the days as the place to go do laundry.  There is a wash section and a rinsing one.  The water flows in directly from a local spring, and runs year round.  The water is very cold, but so refreshing.  We also use this place to wash heavy blankets, and other things that don't fit in our washing machine, its actually really handy! Also to note, my grandmother is represented in the mural in the background that they did a few years ago.  Although in her lifetime she was lucky enough to use a washing machine, her mother, my great-grandmother did all her laundry at this wash basin, in the summer and in the winter!

Shorts featured in this blog can be found for purchase here.  Perfect shorts for swimming, running, hiking, all things kids love to do outside.

 

Pulling carrots, crushing tomatoes, smashing garlic, these are not only satisfying actions of being closer to the source of the food I put on our table, but also memories I get to make with my son, and that is priceless. I hope you will enjoy canning with your family as much as I enjoy doing it with mine.

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N.B. Unless mentioned I do not get any monetary or other compensation for links provided in this blog.  I simply like to share things that I value personally. 

 

 


 

 


 



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