At least I think it was a peck, it certainly wasn’t a bushel – I’ve dealt with bushels of tomatoes before and this was a smaller basket than that. I remember back in the day when my kids were little going to the “you pick it farm” and picking bushels of tomatoes to can. My son John was little and was wandering around the field – there was a muddy place and he wandered into it and got stuck. What a mess! One of my friends went into the mud and rescued him and his shoe that came off when she pulled him out. Hey, Callie, are you reading this blog? Ahh, memories.
Anyway, the peck of tomatoes. They certainly weren’t grown in my own yard – despite planting 7 tomato plants this spring. My meager crop was two medium tomatoes and two cherry tomatoes. You see the wildlife has discovered our yard. I think I’ve told you about the juvenile delinquent deer that hang out in our yard but we also have other marauders – I’ve seen raccoons, I see the squirrels carry off apples and I am sure they did that with the tomatoes too, and then there are the chipmunks. All of them were very well fed off of my garden this year. Nice of me to plant it for them wasn’t it. Soo, I went to the farmer’s market every Friday and last Friday I bought my peck of tomatoes. We’ve had a freeze here so I wasn’t hopeful of getting any but I did and for a good price too – as long as I was willing to deal with imperfect and “have to use Now” tomatoes. I’m experienced at using stuff that isn’t perfect. We grow apples and prefer not to use very much insecticide but that’s another blog post. By the way, you can cut off the bad parts of both tomatoes and apples and the rest is good. Don’t try this with citrus fruits though, they are bad through and through when one part is bad.
I thought I was getting enough tomatoes for a batch of salsa but I was wrong. I had enough tomatoes for salsa and then some. So I went searching and found a tomato soup recipe on the internet. I had had some wonderful homemade tomato soup when we visited RyKy and so I was looking for something similar. Should have written down the recipe when I was there but I didn’t.
The soup involved cooking 4 cups of chopped tomatoes, a slice of onion, 4 cloves, and 2 cups of chicken broth for about 20 minutes. Then the mixture is run through a food mill or in my case my handy dandy food presser outer. I have no idea what it’s called but it works like a charm, and I got it for a song at a garage sale. (Don’t you just hate it when people tell you all about the wonderful things they got for a song at a garage sale?) I’ve used it for many, many years and discovered that I have a couple of bowls that fit exactly underneath it. It’s one of the precious items in my kitchen. I’m easily charmed I guess. Oh, by the way, throw away the stuff left behind after you've pressed all the good stuff through.
After the tomato mixture is pressed out or milled or whatever, you melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan you used for the tomatoes and then mix 2 tablespoons of flour into it. This is called a roux. Cook the roux for a few minutes until it turns medium brown and then whisk a little of the tomato into it so that it doesn’t lump up. Then add all the rest of the tomato to it. Season it with salt if needed and sugar if you want. I tasted mine and it was bland, bland, bland. So I added some of our homemade curry to it. And that you’ll have to wait for another blog post to learn more about too.
I served it to the Compadre and asked him what he thought about it. I had already decided that I liked it. A lot. Well, the Compadre hesitated, I’ve been married long enough to be able to see the wheels turning in his head, he was thinking about a way to gently, diplomatically, say what he needed to say. I preempted him and said “you don’t really like it do you”? He agreed. Proof that the Compadre doesn’t always like what I make. So we agreed that I would eat the double batch of soup that I really liked for my lunches and he would eat something else for his lunches. I think that he just expected Campbell’s tomato soup when he sat down. This was soup with tomato in it but it also had that spicy taste and the chicken broth in it. He knows that one should always keep the cook happy if one wants her to keep cooking so he was very, very careful about what he said J. I was in a group recently and one of the women said that she doesn’t cook anymore because her husband always complains and doesn’t like anything that she makes. Foolish man. The Compadre is much wiser than him. Abe Lincoln said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.
The rest of the tomatoes went into salsa. I got this recipe from Bernie, one of the other cook manager’s at the school district where I worked. I’ve used this recipe for years and we love it. I always have trouble judging how hot to make it. The recipe calls for 2 cups of hot peppers!! That, I know is too much, but peppers vary in how hot they are and so this time I had the Compadre taste one of my peppers and he decided that they weren’t too terribly hot. Big mistake. His definition of hot and mine are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. I was hoping to aim for the middle. Nope. I put in 1 cup of these peppers (the wildlife left these alone in garden – I wonder why?) And I included the seeds. Wow! We’ve got fiery salsa here. But I know people who like it that way so it won’t get wasted – I just won’t eat any of it!
9 cups chopped tomatoes (Roma’s work best but use whatever you have)
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup or more)
1 T. of salt (or to taste)
1 cup vinegar
4 cloves of garlic
4 cups chopped bell pepper
2 cups hot pepper (use your judgment here!!)
¼ cup sugar (I never add this)
1 can tomato paste
Cook everything but the sugar and tomato paste until the peppers and onion look slightly done. Add the tomato paste and the sugar if desired and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste it to see if it needs more cooking or sugar or salt. Then process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes 7-8 pints. Enjoy!