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Have you heard all the talk about Indian summer? It seems to be everywhere lately. But the chatter is premature.

Our recent warm temperatures are typical of September and October in Northern California in late summer and early fall. Indian Summer comes later, after the first killing frost. If we're lucky, this won't happen until sometime in November.

Does this even matter or am I simply being pedantic? It matters to me, in part because I can be a bit of a pedant and, more importantly, because the foods of late summer and of Indian summer are quite different.

By definition, fresh tomatoes, fresh chiles and ripe melons are not part of Indian summer's harvest. That killing frost ends their season. For Indian summer, think pumpkins, winter squash, celery root, apples, quince, cranberries, pomegranates and, if it comes late enough, persimmons.

Now, in early fall, many foods we associate with summer are just hitting their stride. The delicious yellow watermelons of Bernier Farms, the best I've tasted this year, are just coming on. Finally, there are plenty of poblanos and other chiles, including Padrons and Shishitos, at our farmers markets. My trumpet plant — a Brugmansia Feingold, I think — has had just two blossoms so far; by the end of the season last year, it had more than 50.

Tomatoes are still glorious. Just last week I discovered a variety new to me, the Indigo Rose, which Preston Vineyards is growing on their farm. This tomato is fairly small, bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than most Early Girls. Its skin is two-toned, a mix of very dark purple and warm reddish orange. At first glance, they don't even look like tomatoes but at first bite there's no question. They are not super sweet, they a have a fair amount of acid and a beautiful tomato-y flavor. I haven't yet cooked with them because I ate all that I bought. You'll find them at the Healdsburg farmers market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and, possibly, at the winery's tasting room.

The Indigo Rose and the Garden Peach tomato grown by Nancy Skall of Middleton Farm have been my two favorites this season, though it's been a great year for local tomatoes. I haven't had a single bad one and I've brought them from every tomato vendor I've seen at every farmers market I've visited.

So, to the point of today's column, what's the best strategy for enjoying the harvest now, right this minute?

First, it's canning season. Canning has become enormously popular in recent years and hardware stores are full of all the equipment you need right now. If you have tomatoes or have a neighbor with tomatoes, get to work! You can also get great deals, especially toward the conclusion of market days, from vendors who might not want to lug unsold boxes of tomatoes home.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of actually canning tomatoes, you can sear them over an open flame, pack them in sturdy plastic bags and freeze them.

Chiles, too, can be seared and frozen.

Second, keep doing what you've been doing all summer: Enjoy our farmers' glorious bounty until that first killer frost makes it all a memory until next year.

This is the simplest way to can tomatoes and the recipe I have used for many years. Use the most flavorful tomatoes you have, at their perfect moment of ripeness. All winter and spring, you'll be thanking yourself.

Canned Tomatoes, Raw Pack

Makes about 6 quarts or 12 pints

— Canning jars, sterilized (see Note below), with self-sealing lids and rings

— Boiling water

15 pounds ripe tomatoes

3 cups, approximately, freshly-made tomato juice (recipe follows)

? cup fresh lemon juice

Keep the canning jars hot. Put the lids and rings into boiling water, remove from the stove, cover and set aside.

Fill a canning kettle half full with water and set over high heat.

Peel the tomatoes by spearing each one through its stem end with a long fork and rotating it over a high blame or hot burner to sear the skins. Use your fingers to remove the skins; cut out the stem cores.

To can whole tomatoes, simply pack them into jars. For wedges, cut each tomato into sixths and then pack into jars. Add enough tomato juice to each jar to just cover the tomatoes. If canning pints, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to each jar; if canning quarts, add 4 teaspoons.

Use tongs to extract the lids and set them on each jar; add the rings and just tighten.

Remove the canning kettle from the burner, set the jars into the kettle and add as much water as needed to cover the jars by 2 inches. Return the kettle to high heat and when the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and set the timer for 45 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints.

When done, remove from the heat and use tongs to transfer the jars to several layers of tea towels to cool.

After the tomatoes have cooled, check for the seal. There will be a slight indentation in the center of lids that have sealed properly. If a lid is raised, press it down; if it stays down, the seal has works. If it doesn't stay down, either reprocess the tomatoes or refrigerate and use them within a few days.

When fully cooled, store in a cool dark cupboard. Use within one year.

Note: Many dishwashers now have a "sterilize" option, which is ideal. Jars may also be sterilized by boiling them in water for 10 minutes.

This recipe is for fresh tomato juice, not tomato juice to be canned (though it is perfectly fine for canning tomatoes), which involves a slightly different technique. For that recipe, visit Eat This Now, Seasonal Pantry's companion blog, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

Homemade Tomato Juice

Makes about 4 to 6 cups

5 pounds juicy tomatoes

— Kosher salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Peel the tomatoes as described in the recipe above.

Set a large strainer over a deep bowl.

Cut each tomato in half through its equator. Squeeze the seeds, gel and juice from each tomato half through the strainer. After all the tomatoes have been squeezed, stir the seeds until all of the juice drips into the bowl. Discard the seeds and return the strainer to its position above the bowl.

Chop the tomatoes as finely as possible, reducing them to a pulp. Use the flat side of a broad knife to transfer the pulp and juice to the strainer. Stir in about 2 teaspoons of salt into the tomatoes and stir every few minutes to release as much juice as possible. Continue for about 30 minutes, until the pulp is concentrated and nearly dry. If the juice rises up to the bottom of the strainer, pour it into another container and continue. Work in batches as necessary.

To finish, stir the lemon juice into the juice, taste and correct for salt, if needed.

Reserve the tomato pulp — or concasse, its correct term — for another use.

Refrigerate and use within 2 to 3 days.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.

E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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