Obviously you may can your tomatoes, but that means dragging out pans, jars and lids for maybe one or two jars worth of tomatoes. Consider making stews and spaghetti with all your tomatoes. You can freeze and label smaller portions of your stew and spaghetti and have it last through the winter. It makes for a great “emergency” meal, when you don’t feel like cooking or you get home late and everyone is hungry.

Even though you may lose some of the nutrients by skinning them, skinned, garden fresh tomatoes are still better than buying them in a can. Just put several in a metal sieve, dunk them in boiling water for thirty seconds and then rinse them in cold water. They should peel easily.

Cut them up and place them in a crock-pot for stew. I like to add a half-pound each of hot Italian sausage and either lean pork or chicken to the pot, along with a couple cans of Great Northern beans. If you’re in a hurry, brown and cut up the sausage and other meats before adding to the pot. If using canned beans, just read the label to make sure the contents don’t have a lot of sugar, fructose or other stuff.

Add a whole cut up red onion if you like. Stir-fry the onion in a little olive oil to speed up the cooking. What really makes this a special stew is the addition of 3-4 sliced parsnips. Their nutty flavor complements the white beans and lean white meat. Use Italian spices, some fennel and a little molasses for a smoky flavor. Let simmer on low or high, depending upon how quickly you want results. You can stick the crock-pot in the refrigerator and let the flavors soak into the meats and then cook it on low the next day. Let it cool and then place it in containers for freezing. Adjust the recipe for your own needs. Beans have protein and are a great filler, so you can easily add another can or two.

Spaghetti sauce is equally as good, although the sauce can taste too sweet with fresh garden tomatoes. The Italian sausage helps here also or you may sprinkle them with a bit of cayenne pepper if you dare. Once again you can stir-fry your ground beef, add sliced tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste and the Italian spices. Add extra oregano. The sauce can seem thick, so you can easily expand it by adding additional tomato or spaghetti sauce. That works very well when you underestimate what you might need or you find you have some neighbor kids staying over. It also helps if you think the sauce might be too spicy for the younger crowd.

Freezing can strengthen the cayenne flavor and diminish the Italian herbs. To combat the acidic nature of tomatoes and cayenne, add just a pinch or two of sugar. Perk up the Italian spices by adding more to your defrosted batch of sauce or stew.

If you hate to waste food, using up the garden tomatoes in a stew or with spaghetti sauce is a great way to put those tomatoes to immediate use and make you feel better. You might even get an extra hug at bedtime, too.

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