Late summer is a time of many changes. Nights are chilly and mornings crisp, days grow shorter, the clouds take on a different character.
And, rather than compulsively checking that first brave, green cherry tomato on the vine for ripeness, you’re grumbling about the fruit’s overwhelming surfeit. Slogging through an endless jungle of tomato vines, harvesting pounds and pounds of insistently ripe fruit, blanching and shocking and peeling and jarring and water-bath processing is enough to make you wish for the end of tomato season.
Because soon it will be winter, memories of summer will be thin and distant, and you would trade your favorite pair of shoes for the glory of a single ripe tomato.
The next best thing, of course, is one that’s home-canned. When the world is frozen and you’re hungry for fresh foods, a tomato you’ve canned yourself is nearly as different from its commercial counterpart as is a home-grown tomato from an anemic, plasticky store-bought impostor.
Canning, of course, represents mess and labor and commitment – but the enjoyment of bright warm tomatoes in winter is all the more piquant for it.
Winter consolation-prize tomato soup
1 medium garlic clove
1 jar tomatoes
A pinch of dried herbs
Salt and pepper
A splash of cream
Two thick slices of good bread
Puree the tomatoes (a food processor or blender-on-a-stick work well) and set aside.
Finely mince or crush garlic clove and sautee in olive oil in a saucepan til translucent; add the bread slices and fry until crisp and golden; set aside.
Add a pinch of dried basil, oregano, rosemary or whatever dried herb you fancy to the saucepan. Add the tomatoes and heat gently (don’t boil). Add a splash of cream and salt and pepper to taste; cut the bread into croutons and place on top of the soup before serving. Serves two.