The end of summer arrived in our house like a dinner guest who shows up 20 minutes early, just as you’re getting dressed. Hi! Come on in! We had vague plans to do tomatoes, since we’ve spent the past two winters enjoying a home-canned supply, but were starting to doubt we’d have the time.
Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend called to say she had a surplus of crabapples, and would we like any? We were expecting a little basket of them, and got a 5-gallon pail.
It was like being given a puppy. We had no idea what to do. The crabapples sat in a corner of the kitchen and listened to us debate their fate for a week. We don’t like jelly. Maybe we can freeze them and add them to protein shakes. Do you have take the seeds out? Let’s take them out back tonight and compost them. No. They were a gift. We can’t just throw them out.
Then one night we stewed some plums to serve alongside a seared duck breast, and tasted in their purple the glory of late summer. We decided to stop everything, take two days off, and get as much of the season into jars as we could.
We discovered a trick this year that makes skinning tomatoes much easier: cut the top off the tomato and make a fine line vertically down the length of the tomato before you put it in the blanching water. You’ll be able to see the skin of the tomato start to peel away from the flesh. That’s the sign it’s ready. Remove the tomato to a cool water bath to help make handling easier. You’ll see that the skin slips right off.
The crabapples have gone whole into a syrup of cider vinegar and brown sugar, with cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom. They are reminiscent of Julia Child’s ‘curried’ cranberry chutney, and wonderful with cheese. The syrup also makes an interestingly sour and snappy cocktail.
The apples were about as hard to do as Saturday night dishes, so we did plums the same night. Water, sugar, and plums, boiled in jars for 15 minutes. We felt pretty silly for spending so much energy avoiding our Mason jars for the past month. So we went to Jean-Talon market and scooped up what was surely the last of the year’s tomato harvest. A bushel of Romas and a bushel of a hybrid called ‘Samarsanne’ – which when pronounced just the right way sounds just like ’summer sun.’