A good part of my summers are always spent trying to capture the fruitfulness of summer, hoping to keep up with the fruits and vegetables as they ripen in the garden and appear at the farmers' markets. Last year while I was away in London, I didn't do any gardening or canning, and I really missed it! I made up for it perhaps too much this year, having made ten different kinds of jam, frozen and canned tonnes of fruit, and put by so many pickles, that my freezer is full and my store of empty jars is very depleted, and the season not finished yet. I hope my near and dear ones look forward to holiday gifts of jam, relish and pickles, because I can't possibly consume it all alone!
I planted my own cucumbers this year because I love French cornichons, and wanted to try my hand at making my own. This entailed picking tiny cucumbers (about 5 cm long) every other day, and storing them in the refrigerator crisper until there were enough to make one jar. I used fresh tarragon from my herb garden in these pickles, as well as in the pickled radishes I made. Just trying to keep up with the cucumber plants, I made a ton of dills, piccalilli, and mustard pickle relish, just because I didn't want any to go to waste. In the end I had to stop picking them because there is no way one lady can eat that many cucumber sandwiches!
By late August, the whole vegetable garden, including my patio herb garden, is totally out of control, and I feel a little overwhelmed! I prune the herbs and hang them to dry for later use in cooking, infusions and herbal tea.
To keep up with the tomatoes, I've resorted to not only canning, but also oven-drying or freezing all those I can't eat. Oven-drying couldn't be easier. Simply halve small tomatoes, such as plum, paste or cherry tomatoes, or slice larger tomatoes, such beefsteaks or heirlooms. Place in a bowl, drizzle lightly with oil and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer skin-side down over parchment lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and any herb you desire (thyme, rosemary or basil are my favourites). Place in a preheated 275 F oven, and leave for 1 1/2 to 6 (yes, six) hours, depending on the size and juiciness of the tomato, and desired dryness. I like to leave them semi-plump (about 3 hours). You can pack them in oil, but I prefer to freeze them on a tray and then place them, once frozen, into a freezer bag, to use in sauces and as pizza toppings in the winter for a taste of summer.