Categories
Garden

Tomatoes 2019

Tomato Plant

This year has been an amazing year for garden tomatoes.

21 varieties with a total of 47 plantings produced beyond expectations and our household’s ability to use them. There are so many I took two crates to the orchard for folks to can, freeze, eat and share. I took flats of them to meet ups and shared them with neighbors and friends via Facebook.

Here are some tomato notes for fans.

Deer

As we reach peak tomato season neighbors complain about deer. This comment from a friend in our township is typical,

How do you keep the deer away. They graze on ours. They take a bite, decide they don’t like it and drop it on the ground. Then onto the next tomato. Bite, pick, yuk, drop, and repeat until no tomatoes are left.

My symbiotic relationship with deer includes a custom designed deer fence using common materials. I install a 4-foot chicken wire enclosure mounted on posts so the top of the wire is 5 feet from the ground. I plant the rows 36 inches apart — close enough for me to get in, and close enough together to discourage deer from jumping five feet high to get in. I leave enough space so I can move between the fence and the tomatoes. This is my second or third year of using the method and it works keeping the deer from ripe tomatoes, leaving more for humans.

Pre-season

There are so many varieties of tomatoes! I listed seeds planted in this earlier post. The selection process was intended to produce plenty in three categories: cherry, slicers and canning tomatoes. I had plenty of seedlings from the greenhouse, allowing selection of the best starts. If three trays of 120 blocks seemed like a lot at the time, it produced what was needed for the beds.

Canning tomatoes for work colleagues.

Plot preparation

For the second year I dug 3-foot trenches for tomato planting instead of digging and breaking up entire plots. I conditioned the soil with composted chicken manure and finished with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth. The latter was intended to retard progress of tomato-loving insects.

Moisture

When there wasn’t rain, I watered with a garden hose daily, mostly in the morning. Half a dozen plantings on the north side of the plot developed blossom end rot. I suspect the problem was a mineral deficiency in the soil rather than inconsistent moisture. I had enough grass clippings to mulch the tomatoes to prevent weeds and retain excess moisture.

Stars of the show

Tomatoes with the best results and great flavor included,

Cherries: Clementine, Grape, Matt’s Wild, Jasper, Taxi and White Cherry. The sweetest were White Cherry, Jasper and Matt’s Wild.

Canning: Granadero produced many perfectly shaped, flavorful plum tomatoes. Amish Paste was also a strong performer. Speckled Roma was the most flavorful in this category. Other varieties of small, round tomatoes filled out the crop for canning needs.

Slicers: German Pink and Martha Washington produced the best large slicers. Black Krim was unique with its dark color and tasty flesh. The Abe Lincoln plants produced consistent small round tomatoes which I used to dice for tacos and for canning.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Uses

Eating and cooking fresh: What else is there to say but tomatoes on or in everything!

Sauce: With so many tomatoes in the house they had to be culled every couple of days for bad spots. These were trimmed and cut into large chunks to simmer until the flesh was soft and skin loosened. Next I put the whole lot into a funnel strainer and drained out tomato water. The garden produced a lot of this by-product so after canning 24 quarts of tomato water to use mostly in soups and for cooking rice, I discarded the rest. Once the water drained out, I used the wooden mallet to press out tomato sauce which I froze in one quart zip top bags to use later for pasta sauce and chili.

Diced tomatoes: I canned enough pint and quart jars of diced tomatoes to get us through the next year. I rotate stock so oldest ones are used first and still have a couple of jars from 2016 and 2017 to use first. Diced tomatoes include the skin for its nutrients.

Whole tomatoes: This year I took the skin off small round and plum tomatoes and canned them whole. There are about 24 quarts and 24 pints to last a year or more.

The 2019 garden was an unmitigated success in the tomato category. It is a feature of late summer in our household.

Categories
Garden

2019 Gardening Season

Sundog Farm under clouds

I want to write a nice summary of this year’s garden including successes, failures and lessons learned.

Instead of crafting something usable, I visited two of the farms where I work.

Knowledge lives within us more than in written words. Life doesn’t always proceed in a linear manner despite predictable changes in season.

Yesterday was about dealing with the abundance of Red Delicious apples ripening on the tree. I plan to give excess — about 350 pounds — to my friend Carmen for the winter share in her CSA.

At the orchard we did a taste test: the apples were too starchy. Then to Sundog Farm where we discussed how much for each share and a process for delivery once they ripen. I think we are set.

Over the years I’ve been able to develop a network of master gardeners, farmers and growers to provide feedback on what happens in our garden. I am a better gardener because of this work. I’ve come a long way since getting started with the process in 2013.

Two things added a unique layer to summer gardening: my spouse’s five-week trip to her sister’s home in July, and the 26-day interim between Mother’s death Aug. 15 and her funeral Monday. Both were unexpected and made a unique mental frame for what was already a weird gardening season.

While Carmen and I walked about her farm she showed off her lettuce patch in a high tunnel, and the abundance of tomatoes a crew was harvesting. We had a conversation about diversification. This year was a big tomato year for both of us, although that’s not been the case for everyone. We planted many varieties of tomatoes and while she has members to take the excess, my canning, freezing and eating has physical limits which will soon be reached.

I moved the cherry tomatoes to their own patch this year and it’s a better idea. They are all good, but my favorites were Jasper, Matt’s Wild Cherry and white cherry. I planted two rows of four plants and next year I will only plant one row to make it easier to harvest.

Among my trials this year were okra (easy to grow and a little goes a long way in our kitchen), Guajillo chilies (if they ripen well I’ll get a crop for making pepper sauce for tacos), Poblano chilies (did not produce much), red beans (I mistook pole beans for bush beans so they had trouble), and planting beets in flats before transplanting them to the ground (produced much better beets than sown seeds). I planted two types of broccoli in succession, but the second variety (Imperial) didn’t produce.

We had basil, parsley and cilantro in abundance. Basil goes into tomato dishes and parsley and cilantro are for eating fresh. Fresh cilantro is an important addition to tacos. I made a good amount of basil pesto and froze it. Even with lots of uses for basil, I let the second raft of plants go to seed because there was too much.

If there was a single most important lesson in gardening this year, it was to better tune what I grow to our cuisine. I’m not exactly sure what that means but Carmen and I discussed and agreed that is important for a gardener. As our family cuisine makes a transition, this will gain relevance when planning next year’s garden.

So that’s the story of the 2019 garden, which isn’t done.

Categories
Cooking Local Food

Tomatoes on Everything!

Slicers, plum, paste, cherry and grape tomatoes.

The 2019 tomato harvest has begun.

We have fresh tomatoes with every meal, for snacks, and with everything.

We aren’t sick of them yet and work to preserve some of them is imminent. There’s a lot going on in the kitchen garden this August.

Sweet corn is in. Our local farm has had a spotty year, yet we’ve been able to freeze enough two-cup bags to make it until next year. Last night for dinner we had corn on the cob with sliced tomatoes — a classic summer combination.

First up in tomato preservation is to make a dozen pints of diced. This, combined with a backlog from previous years is enough to run the kitchen. I’ll also make as much tomato sauce as I can. Last year I froze it and that worked well. The freezer is filling up already so I may have to can some of it this year. Last year I froze small tomatoes whole and used them during the year to make sauce. I may try canning them whole to supplement the diced.

Yesterday I picked about two bushels of the first apples. A lot more wait on the trees. Our early apple is sweet and makes a great base for apple cider vinegar. I make a couple of gallons each year and the jars to do so are empty and just need cleaning. Our cupboard remains full of apple butter and apple sauce, so maybe a few jars of each is all I’ll make this year. They are good for out of hand eating as well. I’ll need to find a home for some of them or leave them to wildlife.

I froze enough kale for the year early in the season. What I harvest the rest of the year will be to give away or eat fresh. There is enough vegetable broth for the year, frozen jars of pesto, frozen okra, frozen celery, grated and frozen zucchini,  and the hot peppers are beginning to come in. It’s been a good year so far.

The garden didn’t produce green beans. The plants look healthy and there have been flowers. Almost no beans have been produced.

The variety of red beans planted needs to climb and I thought they were bush beans. There are bean pods forming, so there will be some harvest. Next year they need a fence to climb on, if I plant them again. I planted beans mostly to fix nitrogen in the soil.

It seems like there can never be enough beets. I started some in trays and those fared much better than the ones sown in the ground. Will do more of that next year. For now I have one jar of pickled beets to last the year.

The tomato and apple harvest signal the garden’s impending end. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes as much as anything we grow.

Categories
Home Life Local Food

September Slides into Plain Life

September Tomatoes

What happened in September?

We are in peak apple season at the orchard where I’ve been working more hours compared to August. Time at the home farm and auto supply store continues to be predictable work and a regular paycheck. I’m working more volunteer hours in politics as the general election is just six weeks away. The garden is finishing with some plots ready to be cleared.

September was a month of plain living.

People don’t often use the phrase “plain living.” Most don’t want to be plain. I embrace it. I don’t know why I’m walking this blue-green sphere, but I am, and want to get along as I get by. Maybe that’s enough of a goal. It makes a life.

On Wednesday I read Anthony Bourdain’s “Appetites: A Cookbook” from cover to cover. I needed to get away. Many of his anecdotes have been out there, although there is always something new to learn. While meat is not on my bucket list of culinary adventures, there are a dozen Bourdain recipes I’ll try and hopefully adapt to our kitchen.

I’m usually on my own for Thursday dinner and had Bourdain in mind as I prepared a burger. It began after work at the home, farm and auto supply store with a trip to the warehouse club. I selected S. Rosen’s Plain Mary Ann hamburger buns. This bun is not a wonder of nutritional value. Like me, it’s plain. The warehouse club sells them in bags of 16 for a couple of bucks, which means I froze most of them to use later. Bourdain said bun selection is very important. This made in Chicago and trucked to Coralville bun fit the bill.

Our burgers are commercial veggie patties and like the bun, plain and utilitarian. They fill in for “burger” in the iconography of consumer life. I cooked the patty, and prepared the bun with Dijon mustard on the bottom, ketchup on the top, thinly sliced onion from the CSA and a thinly sliced tomato from the garden. As the burger warmed, I put a piece of Swiss cheese on top to melt. The goal in ingredient selection is to make the burger so it can be eaten without a bib. Served with a side of corn chips and salsa and apple cider it made a meal. It reminded me of childhood.

September was also the month I harvested my best crop of tomatoes, ever. There were enough to free me from any single preparation so I have several variations of tomato sauce in the ice box and freezer. Enough to last most of the next year. A few remain on the kitchen counter but they won’t last long. I have salsa with the abundant crop of Jalapeno peppers in mind.

One could do a lot worse than to live a plain life with plain folk. That of itself can be extraordinary. Especially with a burger for dinner.

Categories
Home Life

Taking a Deep Dive

Gala Apples

It’s raining as I type on the keyboard. Rain is to relent and I hope it does because one of the farmers for whom I work is getting married today.

In our small family there are not many celebrations. I’m not sure what to do at a wedding, although I’ll figure it out by 3:30 p.m. today.

Jacque is steering me in the right direction. We bought a gift on line and had it sent to the bride’s home. She is making a card. She suggested I refrain from going directly from the orchard in my work clothes as I had planned to do. I looked through the closet to find something to wear and there was my blue shirt and a pair of slacks. I have a pair of dress shoes left over from when I worked in the Chicago loop. I need to pick a tie. My navy blue blazer still fits. Special things for a special day. I’ll change in the employee rest room at the orchard then head down to the county seat for the ceremony. Civilization at work.

It’s still raining.

Since my first retirement nine years ago I’ve kept track of significant activities.

I keep a balance sheet, a list of books I’ve read recently, and record every event, meeting and significant encounter with people outside immediate family who are part of my world.

Early on there was a purpose to this, although I’m not sure now what it was. Three full binders later, I’m ready to give up tracking things so closely. My last full report was in December 2017 as my Social Security pension began. My second retirement seems opportunity enough to let go of details and focus on main tasks at hand. Things like weddings, funerals, birthdays, housekeeping and the like. I expect I’ll get better at it.

September begins the turn toward winter. The garden is in late summer production so there are tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, winter squash, green beans, eggplant and peppers coming in, requiring processing. Fruit is also coming in from the orchards with pears, apples and peaches lined up on the counter waiting to eat. Cooking has taken a fresh flavor with local food dominating most menus. Cucumber salad is happening daily and we’re not tired of it… yet.

2018 is proving to be a year of transition. So aren’t they all?

I’ve been planning garlic planting in late September and haven’t decided whether to use the cloves I grew as seed or to get more from the farm. I picked a place for them and once the cucumbers are done I’ll prep the soil. I think I know the answer. At some point we have to live on our own — I’ll use the cloves I grew this year, hoping they multiply and eventually become self-sustaining. I’m confident they will.

Categories
Home Life Local Food Obituaries

Remembering Donald Kaul in High Summer

Sweet Corn from a Roadside Stand

Sunday was a day to hang out on memory lane.

Sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and Donald Kaul.

I bought sweet corn from a roadside stand and we had it for dinner with tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, and thin slices of cheddar cheese from Vermont.

At some point after our return to Iowa in 1993, I decided to outsource corn growing. It takes up too much space and what space could be devoted to it produced a small crop. It was a good decision.

I cooked and froze the remainder of three dozen ears in two-cup portions in zip top bags.

We revisited stories of our lives during and after dinner.

How our cat would lick the cobs cleaned of corn kernels.

How putting up corn had been a long tradition — a family project.

How simple and good this year’s corn tasted compared to the past.

The trick to eating sweet corn is knowing how much to eat without getting a belly ache. The first ear was buttered, then sprinkled with lemon pepper seasoning and a little salt. Three ears is a usual portion. I ate four and went light on the salt. There were no ill effects.

Tomatoes

The arrival of sweet corn and tomatoes is the arrival of high summer. A short window — a couple of weeks max — when summer is good and we get a chance to be human again.

That’s something we need in this turbulent world.

In Iowa we also have the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, more commonly known as RAGBRAI, which began yesterday. Donald Kaul and John Karras were two Des Moines Register reporters behind the annual event. It was expected this year, and Kaul died of prostate cancer Sunday morning.

“On January 11, 2018, Kaul, an agnostic, revealed that the cancer in his prostrate has spread to his skeleton and that he will no longer take treatments,” wrote Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson. “He was in the end stages of his battle with cancer and didn’t expect to live beyond the year.”

The end came at 11:50 a.m., according to a local radio station.

The narrative of this year’s RAGBRAI seems already written, and it doesn’t include Kaul. There is time for some show of recognition on the seven-day tour. We’ll see what happens.

For me RAGBRAI was about the summer of 1973 when it started. An artist I met in Davenport invited me to her family’s home near the Catholic orphanage to meet her parents. Her brother was out in the garage when I met him too. He was talking about riding his bicycle across the state with the Des Moines Register. Over the Coffee, Kaul’s column, was popular in this household.

Today people prepare for months for the long endurance test the annual ride has become. Specialized, lightweight bicycles, meal plans, and training. Not in 1973 when the sequence of events was 1. figure out how to get to the Missouri River with the bike; 2. tighten up the hub axle nuts; and 3. air up the tires. I can’t recall, but I don’t believe he even had a derailleur gear on his bike. It was pretty simple then and proved to be enduring.

Kaul’s death on the beginning day of the 46th RAGBRAI is likely coincidence. In any case, he is memorable for his writing more than his promotion of bicycle riding.

In high summer, after our dinner of sweet corn and tomatoes, my wife and I discussed our interactions with Donald Kaul. She got his autograph in a bookstore in Iowa City, and I corresponded with him when he was a Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Register. He was a constant part of our Iowa lives. That will still be true now he succumbed to cancer.

Categories
Garden Local Food

Tomato Planting

Tomato Plot

Despite extreme heat tomatoes were planted yesterday.

Temperatures set new records throughout the state. Here it was 96 degrees by noon. I began planting at sunrise and finished around 10:30 a.m. when it became too hot. Snow last fell on April 15, so spring, if we can call it that, lasted about five weeks.

It is shaping up to be a punk vegetable season although it’s far from over. The heat stresses cucumbers and zucchini requiring a close watch to make sure they get enough water to survive. Likewise tomatoes. Some plants won’t survive and I reserved the extra seedlings to get through initial planting and establishment. Gardeners will adapt as best we can to weird and unseasonable weather. It’s what we do in a time of global warming.

Tomato Worksheet

That said, the tomato seedlings survived planting and the heat.

This year I planted eight varieties, Martha Washington, German Pink, Brandywine, Soldacki, Nepal, Red Pearl, Taxi and Clementine. If they all make it, harvest should include a variety of textures, colors and flavors.

The process was to dig three yard wide trenches in the designated plot. Using a hoe I broke up the clods of dirt then fertilized. Next I used a garden rake to further break up the dirt then fertilized again. Finally I smoothed everything over with a rake.

Down the center of the plot I spaced Soldacki and Brandywine seedlings about 18 inches apart — a bit close together but it allowed a dozen plants in the row. These varieties will produce fruit that weighs less than a pound.

I began the east row with German Pink. This variety grows fruit up to two pounds and I planted all five seedlings that germinated, spacing them more generously. It is one of my favorites because of the large slices it produces. Next I planted four each of Taxi, Red Pearl and Clementine bunched together. Each stake held two cages in which two each of the seedlings were planted together. These three varieties are smaller, with fruit weighing from 20 to 150 grams each.

In the west row I planted four each Nepal and Martha Washington spaced at 24 inches. These slicers will produce fruit weighing less than a pound. It’s the first time trying them both.

With seedlings planted, next is mulching. I need to harvest grass clippings for that, which got pushed off because of the heat.

Farmers Market Asparagus

After planning to skip the Solon Fire Fighters Pancake Breakfast, I showered and went to town after five hours in the garden. The morning crowd had dissipated so there was no line and plenty of food.

The big news was announcement of a $5 million fund raising goal to build a new fire station near the Dairy Queen. According to the handout, the building will be funded by private donations, donated goods, services and labor, and via loans. The goal is to raise the money by Jan. 1, 2020, although $5 million is a lot for our community comprised of a small city and four townships. “We’ll donate something,” I told first assistant chief Scott Wolfe.

It’s been a bad spring for asparagus with none from the farm this year as the farmer tries to reclaim her asparagus field. To make up for it, I went to the farmers market in the county seat on Saturday and found some. We featured it for dinner last night — steamed with butter and a seasoning mix. It was fit reward for a hot, tiring day.

Categories
Environment

September Has Been a Pisser

Backyard Fire After Irma

Last week was stressful as Hurricane Irma passed through central Florida over our daughter’s home.

They boarded the windows, sandbagged the doors and laid in water and shelf stable food for when the electricity went out.

“The whole house has been playing Settlers of Catan, which we never get to play enough,” she texted. “Next up is Fluxx, a rules changing card game. The lights have been flickering slightly, but we still have power and water. Every so often, the outside sounds a bit like a car wash.”

She and her housemates weathered the hurricane, suffering minimal property damage. Her final message in the hurricane series was

Stay safe out there. If anything, I am reminded that everywhere in the US, there is some kind of emergency that can happen. Please, pack a Go Bag, prepare a plan, know where your evac locations are. I love you. Stay safe. Be prepared.

It turns out the previous board of directors for our sanitary sewer district failed to communicate new requirements to comply with ammonia nitrogen standards when they all resigned without notice. I emailed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to learn more and there is a multi-year process for compliance added to our agenda. Stress level kicked up a notch with this.

The week ground down with efforts to meet my tomato contract. Farmer Kate and I traded my labor for her tomatoes. To finish the deal, I prepared seven quart jars of diced tomatoes each morning and water bath processed them in the evening. The work is not hard but it blocks out other things. A deal is a deal and she met her part of it with an abundance of organic tomatoes. On Friday before work at the home, farm and auto supply store I delivered two cases of canned tomatoes. We each should have plenty to make it until the next tomato season.

At Thursday’s county board of supervisors meeting a zoning application for a farm near here was considered and rejected unanimously. The controversy involves people I know in government and in the local food system. None of it is good for any of us.

“In one respect farming can be considered a tedious series of lawsuits, disputes and legal struggles,” I posted on Twitter. “Versaland bares that for all to see.”

I’m trying to understand the context and situation with more clarity and plan to write a longer post about local food in light of it.

September is always busy so there’s no surprise in any of the week’s activities and developments. Last night a group called the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition lavished praise and support for the 45th president. That was a pisser too.

Categories
Cooking Environment Local Food

Hurricane Weekend

Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station on Aug. 25, 2017. Photo Credit – NASA European Pressphoto Agency

Rain tapped the bedroom window this morning on the fringe of Hurricane Harvey.

It was a reminder of our connection to the oceans. They are absorbing heat from the atmosphere on a planet experiencing some of its warmest days in living memory. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and the result is intense storms like the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey.

In Iowa we adapt easily to hurricanes because of our distance from the coast. Needed rain benefits our gardens and farms. It recharges our surface aquifers. As the weather pattern moved over it seemed normal, not as devastating as it was when Harvey made landfall in Texas Friday afternoon.

Overcast skies and a slight rain depressed attendance at the orchard on Saturday. There were enough visitors to keep busy, especially in the afternoon when the sun came out. Sales seemed steady if light.

One of my favorite August apples is Red Gravenstein, a Danish cultivar. It was introduced to western North America in the early 19th century, according to Wikipedia, perhaps by Russian fur traders, who are said to have planted a tree at Fort Ross in 1811. Red Gravenstein is tart, juicy and crisp — great for eating out of hand.

The cider mill made the first press of apples for the sales barn. The gallon and half gallon jugs sold well. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the changing flavor of our cider as we move through the apple harvest. I bought a gallon of cider and a dozen Red Gravenstein apples at the end of my shift.

I’ve been reading recipes for tomato catsup in old community cookbooks. After reviewing a dozen or so I went to the kitchen and created this sauce from the abundance of red bell peppers and tomatoes:

Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

Half dozen cored and seeded red bell peppers cut in quarters
Equal amount by weight of cored tomatoes one inch dice
One cup of malt vinegar
One teaspoon salt
One tablespoon refined sugar.

Process

Pour the vinegar into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add tomatoes and peppers.
Add sugar and salt.
Bring back to a boil and cook for 10-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Strain the mixture. Retain the liquid to use as vinegar in salad dressings.
Run the vegetable mixture through a food mill and either serve immediately or bottle and refrigerate.

Recipe notes

To make a thicker sauce, either reduce it in the saucepan or add tomato paste.
I used malt vinegar because it was on hand. Absent malt vinegar I’d use homemade apple cider vinegar.

Categories
Cooking Local Food

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Bell Pepper Seconds

A gardener and farm worker has access to lots of summer vegetables, especially “farm seconds.” It is difficult to use them up before they turn to compost.

The recipe for roasted red pepper and tomato soup is simple and the results are sweetly tasty. It was born of an abundance of bell peppers and tomatoes.

I wouldn’t expect anyone to go to the market and buy ingredients for this dish. If one has the peppers and tomatoes, almost everything else is on hand in a well stocked kitchen.

Roasted Red Peppers

Make a batch or two of roasted bell peppers for the soup and to use in other dishes.

Preheat the oven to 450 Degrees Fahrenheit with the shelf in the middle position.

Cull the best red peppers from the lot, halve them and remove the membrane, core, seeds and any bad spots. Using a melon baller makes it super easy and more precise in removing all of the membrane. Peppers needn’t be perfectly halved. Put them skin side up on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet with sides. Nestle them close together to get as many as possible on the baking sheet.

Bake at temperature for 25 minutes and remove from the oven.

Using tongs, move the roasted peppers to a bowl and cover it with a plate. This process helps loosen the skin. Let them sit until they can be handled without burning fingers.

One-by-one take the pieces of pepper and remove the skin. Place them in a refrigerator dish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Roasted red peppers are an ice box staple during pepper season. For longer storage there are recipes for oiling and preserving them. They are so sweet and tasty they won’t last long in most households.

Roasted Red Peppers Before Removing Skin

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

This recipe makes two quarts, enough to serve four – five people.

Add one cup vegetable broth to a Dutch oven and bring to a boil.

Add:

  • Equivalent of 5-6 large tomatoes, one-inch dice.
  • Enough roasted red peppers to approximately equal the weight of the tomatoes, maybe a little less.
  • Two tablespoons salted butter.
  • One six ounce can prepared tomato paste.
  • One teaspoon each dried spices including smoked paprika, granulated garlic and thyme. Fresh is better if you have it. Double the amount if you do. Herbs and spices are always to taste.
  • One tablespoon dried basil. Fresh basil is better. Double the amount if you have it.
  • Two tablespoons dried onion flakes.
  • One tablespoon sweetener. I used sugar because it was in the pantry.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Teaspoon of red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or your favorite pepper spice (optional).

Stir to incorporate the ingredients, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften. Don’t cook the tomatoes to death. You will want some bits of recognizable tomato granules in the final product.

Either transfer the mixture to a blender or use an immersion blender to smooth it to a pleasing texture. As mentioned, I like little bits of recognizable tomato and pepper.

Add one cup half and half and stir constantly until the soup is well-mixed and up to temperature.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil, a dollop of sour cream or snipped chives. Whatever looks appetizing and is available.

This recipe was fun to make and better than manufactured roasted red pepper and tomato soup in aseptic containers. Leftovers, if any, will keep for a couple of days.