It is finally that time of the year when the farmer’s markets are brimming over with fresh produce. There are lots to choose from, but peppers and tomatoes are my favorites. I have tried a home garden for years, but when you add up what it costs to keep a garden going in south Mississippi, it’s a whole lot cheaper to buy at the market. There is the cost of the bedding plants themselves, fertilizer, and the chemicals you need to fend off early blight, rust and the funguses that are so common down here. Unless you are a much better gardener than I am (and I am sure many of you are), the market is also where you should be buying produce.
What’s the difference between grocery store-bought produce and what comes from the market? Grocery stores must worry about shelf life, so produce is picked as much as three weeks too soon. What you get at the market was most likely picked the night before. Besides that, isn’t it nice to know the farmer who grew what you are making for supper tonight?
Are all farmers’ markets the same? No sir. If the market you are shopping in is not a certified market, then what you buy may very well have come from a produce house, the same place most grocery stores get their stuff. To sell at a certified market, you have to have grown or made what you are selling.
So, what are you going to do with all that fresh produce? I love making tomato sauces, chow-chow, and stuffed peppers—three of my favorite things. You can also can those tomatoes or your favorite pasta sauce for use in the fall and winter when that garden-fresh goodness is not available.
It really is pretty easy. Sterilize jars and lids by boiling submerged in water for ten minutes. Fill with crushed tomatoes (and a few leaves of basil) or the sauce you have made, seal with the lids and place back in boiling water for an additional then minutes. Make sure they are fully submerged.
Here is one of my favorite sauce recipes that you should try canning:
4 to 6 ripe red tomatoes
1 chopped onion
1 chopped jalapeno pepper
1 chopped bell pepper
Red pepper flakes
Sauté the onions and peppers in olive oil for 15 minutes, season as you go. Add the tomatoes that have been cored and simmer until the sauce is as thick as you like. Whether you remove the tomato skins or not is a personal preference. If you want to remove them, drop the tomatoes in boiling water until the skins start to peel. Remove cool and remove the skins. Just before serving, add chopped basil leaves and copious amounts of imported Italian Parmesan Reggiano.