THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION BY BEATRICE ROSS BUSZEK

THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION by Beatrice Ross Buszek

While I was still mulling over the multitude of single topic cookbooks, I found a few more to share with you.

Three of these, about berries, were written by the same cookbook author, Beatrice Ross Buszek, of Nova Scotia.

The author tells of leaving her home in Nova Scotia and spending thirty years in different parts of the USA. However, in the introduction to The Apple Connection, Beatrice writes about her childhood in Nova Scotia, how everybody in the town had at least two apple trees and there were orchards as far as the eye could see.

Beatrice recalls how her father would put a barrel of Northern Spys and a barrel of Winter Gravensteins as well as a box of Russets in their basement.

Beatrice writes that in the thirty years before she returned to Nova Scotia, she was fortunate to live in apple country—Massachutsets, Washington State, Michigan, Northern California, and up-state New York (which is where I got the idea that her first cookbook was the apple connection—but I was mistaken). She says it was her experience to find such a similarity between the cooking customs, temperament, attitudes, and values of apple country people. She thinks the link was not so much the climate as the rural ambience, plus an unconscious reaching out and finding familiar traits and ways when far from home.

In the Introduction to the Cranberry Connection, the author writes, “Someone asked me where I got the idea for a cranberry cookbook. It was a simple question but with a not so simple answer. I thought on the many events of the past year and it occurred to me to put them together, to write the story of the bog adventure before getting into the berries…”

She continues, “As the tale unfolded the pages soon outnumbered the recipes. It would fill a second book to recount the many beginnings, diversions and intrigues of the cranberry caper; for example after many years away, I returned to the land of my childhood and bought a little old house overlooking a deserted cranberry bog in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. What a wonderful spot! I shall always remember the first time I stood in the yard and looked all around me…”

The author recounts that the house sits on a knoll alongside the post road just off the main highway. Her nearest neighbor was an old Baptist church and the earn morning sun rising out o f the mist and shining through its windows, blessing the little house with its golden rays.

In June [of that year] the author moved into the house and in October came the Crimson harvest. Beatrice fired up the old kitchen range and began to cook and experiment, beginning with a spiced version of cranberry sauce. The cookbooks were not much help as, like herself, most cookbook editors thought of the cranberry mainly in terms of the turkey but here and there should found creative and tested ideas using this inexpensive native fruit .

Beatrice goes on to write, “some Nova Scotia mothers still believe that a daughter who goes off to the “States” is automatically neither interested in nor skilled in kitchen happenings…” She says her mother was amused at the sudden cranberry craze but she was also astounded. She thought it was silly to bother with “those sour berries” when “everybody knows they are only good to make sauce”. Her mother became a cranberry convert.

“And”, Beatrice continues, “there are things that only obscurely relate to the origin of the cookbook”, like the day she climbed into the attic of the little house and found a bundle of old diaries. (Be still my heart! What I wouldn’t give or just to be able to READ such a find!) Beatrice read and read; the diaries upset her. She began to feel very close to the woman who wrote them. Her life was a yearly repeat of the same routine and the only diversion from her duties were Church and the cranberries. Beatrice writes that she now thinks she only had no choice about Church and cranberries either. She was glad when she read that the author of the diaries like to walk across the lane in the wet early morning July grass to find spots where the cranberry blossoms were most plentiful and pinkest and that she would pick a sprig and put it in a jar on the windowsill in the kitchen. (I had, perhaps, a sensation of kinship while reading the above—after spending the last two summers canning tomatoes and tomato juice from the produce in my son Kelly’s garden).

Beatrice writes that the cranberry quest opened many old and new doors to the past, revealing, for instance, the many links between the “Boston States” and Nova Scotia. She read of the planters from New England, prior to the coming of the Loyalists, who developed this section of the province, sowing seeds of their culture wherever they settled. Beatrice read of old Cape Cod and how the cranberry was first cultivated in Canada. Now, over a hundred years later, Beatrice found herself in the midst of another cranberry adventure. (*note: Beatrice’s cookbook, the Cranberry Connection, was first published in Canada in 1977; a second Canadian printing took place a year later, in May of 1978).

In November of the Beatrice’s first cranberry adventure, she spent a few hours in the botany laboratory at Canada’s Arcadia University where, among other varieties, the large American cranberry and the wild foxberry, were well researched. Her mind wandered, she writes (still in the introduction) as she wandered across the campus, pondering all that she had learned about the cranberry—its colorful past and even brighter future*. As she wandered, a cranberry cookbook took shape in her head and she could imagine the pages with bits of fact and folklore as could be fitted in between the pages. (*It should be noted that the beautiful sketches in Beatrice’s cookbooks were created by her daughter Christine and Jeanie, a friend from Ontario

Beatrice continues to explain, in the Introduction. “How the long winter weekends at Cranberry Cottage were spent collecting, sorting, testing and printing recipes”. (It should be noted that all the recipes in Beatrice’s cookbooks were handwritten).

Beatrice recalls “the country smell of the wood stove in the kitchen and the apple wood flames in the Franklin* filled the house and me with a feeling of warmth and excitement.” (*a kind of wood stove. I have one in my living room–sls)

Beatrice continues, “it was uncanny how accurately my mood or liking for the recipe, or time of day or night was reflected in the handwritten recipes. Later I could easily spot those recipes printed over the holiday season when I was snowbound for eight days or those printed during a long dreary rainy spell…”

Beatrice also explains how many recipes were discarded,keeping those she liked best and hoped would win over cranberry skeptics.

THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION reads very much like a kitchen diary; the recipes are all hand-printed; the drawings done by her daughter and a friend. It wouldn’t be fair for me to copy any of the recipes but I hope that readers who love cranberries will get a copy of the Cranberry Connection. There are many cranberry recipes in the cookbook—all tested by Beatrice. It is a testament to the Cranberry Connection that it went through more than one printing.

I found it on Amazon.com for various prices, new copies are available for about $18.00; pre-owned are available on different websites starting at one cent & going up. I recommend this book.

–Sandra Lee Smith

COLLECTING COOKBOOKS OR COMPILING THEM

The Friends of the California Lancaster Library book sale that I wrote about the other day was especially profitable from my point of view—I have been collecting cookbooks since 1965, little dreaming how the collection would grow, little imagining how many cookbooks are published year after year. Somewhere in my files is buried an article about how many cookbooks are published every year—but the author was writing about published cookbooks, those with a copyright and meeting requirements for publication—not included are the thousands of little church and club cookbooks wherein the good ladies of the church go around collecting favorite recipes from parishioners of the church and frequently published by a member of the church who works for a printing press. Many others are put together by the ladies of the church themselves, typed up and put together by whatever means available to them.

When the San Fernando Beachy School PTA ladies decided to put together a cookbook, I immediately volunteered my services—based on the fact that I collected cookbooks myself AND had a working knowledge of how to go about getting the cookbook published. By this time I was aware of cookbook publishers who often published their ads in women’s magazines.

Several PTA ladies collected the recipes and delivered them to me. I was too busy with four young sons, two of them toddlers, plus a home typing job, to do more than type up the recipes as they were collected and delivered to me. I held a meeting at my house and told the women how we could go about putting together a cookbook and this was how I became acquainted with Mary Jaynne (who drew the illustrations for our cookbook), and Rosalia, who both became lifelong friends.

In time all the recipes were typed, the illustrations drawn, and submitted to a cookbook publishing company. The year was 1971. Our little cookbook has stood the test of time; I refer to it occasionally when I want a particular recipe.

Years passed and I was involved with several other cookbooks being published but none to the extent of that first cookbook which we titled “Recipe Roundup”.

And years after that, I was involved with the compilation of an office cookbook that, after being referred to as the Office Cookbook for years before it was officially published, was given the title of The Office Cookbook.

In the 1990s, my sister Becky and I began compiling a family cookbook that we named after our paternal grandmother—who had managed to make each grandchild firmly believe that he or she really WAS Grandma’s Favorite. My sister Becky died from breast cancer but lived long enough to give copies of our cookbook to her children and grandchildren. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks, because so many of the family favorites, including some of grandma’s recipes, are in it.

This has been a long round-about way of wanting to tell you about some of the cookbooks I found at this week’s Lancaster Friends of the Library’s booksale which I am especially delighted about. (You can never have too many cookbooks!)

The titles of the books are as follows:

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS by Patricia Quintan

LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller

THE MINIMALIST ENTERTAINS by Mark Bittman – and –

HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H. J. Muessen

All of the books are in good-to-fine condition—in fact, Tammy Algood’s FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is brand-new, with a plastic wrap sealing it. Someone had donated this cookbook to the library without ever opening it. The cost to me was a dollar for each cookbook. (If I had waited one more day for the half price sale, I could have gotten the books for fifty cents each—but they might have been sold to someone else, if I had been patient enough to wait another day.

First on the list was CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS, subtitled “The authentic seafood and vegetable cookery of Mexico”, by Patricia Quintana with Jack Bishop. Published by Simon & Schuster, I was surprised to discover that Patricia Quintana   has also published The Taste of Mexico and Feasts of Life (plus 6 additional titles published in Mexico) and is a name unfamiliar to me and took me by surprise (not that I am any kind of an expert in any foreign cuisine—but several of my bookshelves are packed with Mexican cookbooks—you can’t live most of your adult life in Southern California and not be well acquainted with Mexican cuisine!

In the Introduction, the author explains “This book is somewhat different from the works we traditionally call ‘cookbooks’ and therefore needs some words of explanation to readers.”

She goes on to say that five years ago, she set out to write about the regional cuisines of coastal Mexico that rely o n seafood, vegetables and grains. She writes, “As I explored the coasts, rivers, and lagoons of my country, learning about the ways of Mexico’s first inhabitants, I felt an irrepressible connection with the past.

Although I make my home in Mexico City the inland capital of the country,” she continues, “I found myself drawn back to the sea for sustenance. It became the source of my spiritual and intellectual inspiration…”

When it was time to write, Patricia could not decide where to begin—how to capture her feelings and thoughts and put them into words. The scope of her project—to catalog the indigenous coastal cuisines and the changes that have occurred as a result of the introduction of new peoples and ingredients over the past five centuries—was massive.

As she tried to develop a logical organization for the book, it dawned on her that the shape of Mexico’s coastline, which swings south from the California border along the Pacific, then curves east to the Yucatan, and eventually rides back north along the Gulf coast to Texas, matches the mythical icon of Mexican culture, the snail. Water quite literally surrounds and encircles Mexico, with the Aztec capital—the sacred kingdom upon which Mexico City was built—at the center of this spiral.

Patricia continues to write that “the silhouette of the snail has inspired me to organize this book along somewhat unusual lines. The book is divided into sixteen chapters, each devoted to one coastal state…” (she adds that she has added the central region, which includes Mexico City, because of its role as disseminator of Mexican gastronomy and culture). She continues, “I also wanted to write about the customs, traditions, and culinary specialties of each coastal state, but found that a standard descriptive approach did not suffice…” Instead, Patricia created a number of characters—local individuals who relate their personal and cultural histories—at the beginning of each chapter. They speak in their own language  about their own experiences and describe how the waters of their lands have shaped their lives. “I invoke,” she explains, “among others, the spirits of a Seri grandmother from Sonora, a young Mayan from the Yucatan, a knowledgeable cook from Tamaulipas, and the learned Spanish friar Bernardo de Sahaguin (who witnessed the Conquest   firsthand) to tell their stories..l..”

This is just a portion of the Introduction—at the end, Patricia writes, “My goal is to awaken in each reader a sense of this history as well as an understanding of the unique gastronomy of each coastal region…” -and if she hasn’t whetted your appetite, she certainly has mine…not just for the recipes, but for the history of Mexico as well. (Coincidentally, just the other day I watched a program on Nova about Machu Picchu—not, of course, in Mexico, but high in the mountains of Peru—but it awakened in me a deep desire to learn more about South America).

“CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS” is a cookbook packed, literally, with recipes, history and much more.

Patricia Quintara is an internationally known Mexican culinary expert and teacher, whose students have included many of todays most prominent young chefs. Her cooking has been featured in Newsday, Bon Appetit, Connosseur, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.

Jack Bishop is a food writer and the author of two other cookbooks . He is a senior writer for Cook’s Illustrated and has had articles published in EATING WELL, THE VILLAGE VOICE and other publications.

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS was published by Simon & Schuster in 1994 and I am the happy recipient of a like-new copy with dust jacket with a clear plastic cover over the dust jacket. I will be reading the recipes for weeks to come. I checked with Amazon.com and found they have a hardbound copy of a new book, priced at only $12.79. (The original book price was $25.00! this is about half). I’m sure you will be as excited as I was with CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS.

Next on my list of bargain finds is LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson. (I intend to send my copy to my Oregon penpal Bev, who was born in Alaska))—but in the mean time, let me share Lowbush Moose with you.

I am fascinated with Alaskan cookbooks—as evidenced by my purchasing Alaskan cookbooks when I was a new collector. Nelson provides Alaskan recipes ranging from clams, shrimp and other deep sea creatures, to moose, caribou, fresh water fish, salmon, and many other Alaskan recipes—not necessarily animal or seafood proteins. There are recipes for berries, soups, sauces, sourdough bread—and a variety of other foods not generally found in southern California where I live. What I like is Nelson’s chatty. Friendly manner of writing that precedes the recipes. His introduction is titled “How to Write a Book and Like it” which I was able to immediately relate to. Some of the recipes were his family’s favorites. His recipe for Latta Potted Shrimp is introduced with the story that after his parents passed on, a number of his mother’s recipes came to him. One recipe in particular was on very old and dry and yellowed paper; Nelson believes that the recipe, for potted shrimp, came from his great-grandmother who came from Nova Scotia and is over a hundred years old. Will I attempt to make Latta Potted Shrimp? You bet! I have a particular fascination with old-time recipes for making food-things when there wasn’t any refrigeration.

But recipes for fish and seafood isn’t all that Nelson has to offer. There are plenty of other recipes, along with Nelson’s friendly chatter—such as a recipe for making your own sourdough starter. (I had a sourdough starter back in the 70s when making sourdough bread was very popular). If I had to make an educated guess what happened to the sourdough starter, I would venture to guess that it went the way of the fruitcake I was aging and periodically dousing with brandy. When I asked my ex (then not an ex) what happened to my fruitcake, he said he didn’t know what it was, so he threw it out. I didn’t attempt to make another fruitcake until we were no longer married—and Bob, who was my companion for 26 years, never threw ANYthing out, no matter WHAT.

LOWBUSH MOOSE is available on Amazon.com—you can buy a new copy for $5.50 or a previously owned copy starting at one cent. Just remember, when buying pre owned books, there is a $3.99 shipping charge that goes to the vendor offering it for sale. **

The third book on my list of cookbooks to share is FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood—no question about it, this book came to me brand-new and sealed in a plastic cover—AND I just discovered that it was published in 2012. Tammy Algood is a “food personality” on Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates, as well as state wide on PBS; we can hear her food reports on Nashville radio networks, Clear Channel and NPR. Tammy also conducts cooking schools at various Tennessee wineries and has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. (I don’t know how I missed her when I was spending weeks at a time at my sister Becky’s, from 2000 to 2004, unless Tammy wasn’t “out there” at that time.

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is packed with tempting recipes, all presented in a friendly easy-to-follow format, whether it’s a recipe f or appetizers (from Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms to Fresh Peach Salsa –and what did I find but a Green Tomato Salsa after Kelly removed all the vines after I told him I had enough with green tomatoes this year—mind you, I canned over 40 quart jars of tomato juice or blanched tomatoes in tomato juice. Well, I’ll be ready for green tomatoes next year! Actually was thinking I could fill a notebook or a blank cookbook with green tomato recipes)

There is a wealth of recipes using fresh ingredients in Tammy’s cookbook. Just for openers, also in the appetizer category you will find a wide range of recipes; Lazy afternoon Fresh Salsa, Spring Green Spread, Pickled Figs*, Roasted Eggplant Dip and more. (*We had 3 fig trees in Arleta and I can’t begin to tell you how much they are missed. I entered pickled figs in the L.A. County Fair for several years, winning blue ribbons for them). I am also tempted by a recipe for Roasted Bacon Pecans and Good to the Core Apple Chutney.

Under the chapter for Soups are recipes for Gulf Coast Corn and Shrimp Soup, Fall Squash and Sausage Soup, Roasted Sweet Potato Soup—and Smoked Tomato Soup that I will want to try when I get a new grill.

Tammy offs nearly twenty salad recipes—plus one for making your own Mixed Herb Croutons. Salads include Fresh Spinach and Bacon Salad, Cherry Rice Salad, Grilled Corn Salad (I have been making one for this for several years—will have to try Tammy’s recipe) – plus a variety of other salad recipes.

Under Sides you will find a wealth of recipes—count them! There are nearly fifty side recipes from which to choose—just a sampling might be Black-Eyed Peas Stew with Rice Waffles, Setting Sun-kissed Parsnips, Pocketbook Zucchini, Summer Breeze Carrot Souffle, or Pan-Roasted Poblano Corn—but you could make a different side every day for a month and still have recipes left to try.

Under Breads, I confess to being partial to muffin recipes so I would surely have to try Pack a Picnic Pepper Muffins, Sage Cornbread Muffins, Sweet Corn Muffins and surely Cornmeal Yeast Muffins—but there are recipes for making Revival Strawberry Bread and Hot Water Ham Cornbread—surely something for everybody in your household.

Entrees offers a wide variety of dishes, ranging from an Easy Crust Chicken Pot Pie, to a Traditional Southern Pot Roast. I would like to try the recipe for Roasted Chicken Pecan Salad (Pecans in recipes is very southern!) as well as Spinach Stuffed Pork Roll. I also want to try Southern Catfish Cakes.

Under DESSERTS you will find much to tempt you—from Sweet Potato Caramel Pie, to Caramelized Strawberries with Meringue but there are many other very-southern favorites….FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING has so much to offer. I found it listed on Amazon.com—a prime copy is $16.74 but used copies may still be available starting at 24 cents.

The next cookbook in my recent find is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. The Jamisons are a name familiar to me. I have a number of their cookbooks, the most cherished being AMERICAN HOME COOKING which is amongst my reference books. I also have their book SMOKE & SPICE on the shelf with other barbeque books. The title alone – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS –is bound to pique your curiosity. It did mine. I was reminded of Myra Waldo’s travels to countries all over the world, resulting in dozens of cookbooks and along come Cheryl and Bill Jamison, traveling 50,000 miles, to 10 countries resulting in 800 dishes and—notes the dust jacket—1 rogue monkey. On the inside of the dust jacket, the publishers note, “after years of writing award winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready to take a break. So in the fall of 2005 they packed their bags, locked up their house in santa Fe and set off on a three month long visit to ten countries—all on frequent flyer miles.

Among their stops were:

Bali

Australia

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

And Brazil

And in the process wrote yet another cookbook (It should be noted that the Jamisons are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides—wait! Wasn’t that what Myra Waldo started out with, travel guides? And while the Jamisons do provide some recipes in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, I find their book is more of a travel guide itself; I’m going to be kept reading for some time. Around the World in 80 Dinners is available on Amazon.com; a hardbound copy that is new can be yours for $12.70.

That said, the next book on my list of the friends library books is LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller. It isn’t hard to figure out how Barbara came up with the title—the lily, after all, is related to the onion. (Many years ago, I wrote a poem about this). Barbara must have spent years collecting the recipes that make up Lilies of the Kitchen, whether Vidalia Onion Tarts or Spreme of Lees and Potatoes Gratinee—there are onion recipes for every dish and palate.

Barbara Batcheller has her own cooking school and at the time this book was published, she was living in Los Angeles. Lilies of the Kitchen was published in 1986. Amazon.com has copies for $19.99, (new) or starting at one cent (pre owned) – 9.95 for a collectible copy. This is a great reference book to have at your finger tips—if you like onions!!

The next cookbook I found is Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist ENTERTAINS, based on his popular New York Times column, featuring forty seasonal menus for dinner parties, barbecues and more. If this was any larger it would be considered a coffee table cookbook—but it isn’t that big.

I found the Minimalist Entertains on Amazon.com, hardbound coy for $4.43 (new) or preowned starting at one cent. Remember that shipping & handling for pre-owned books is $3.99.

Maybe I saved one of the best for last; HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H.J. Muessen offers over 375 tested recipes from all over the world Muessen provides recipes from the Pacific (Polynesia, Philippines, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand)—then he provides recipes from China, Korea/Japan, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Indocikna, Burma and Malaysia), then the Middle East—Iran, Arab Nations, Turkey, Israel, Egypt)

On to Russia, Africa, East Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Poland) followed by the Balkans (Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania)

And that is followed by Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) then to Spain and Portugal, the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland),Scandinavia, Latin America (Caribbean. Central America, and North America (United States and Canada) –I listed everything on the dust jacket because this book was published in 1980 and I’m not sure how many of these countries have changed hands or politics in thirty-something years—even so, this is one of the most comprehensive chicken cookbooks I have ever encountered. If you love poultry and enjoy cooking chicken – this book is for you.

Amazon.Com has a copy of HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN, a hard bound cover, for 55 cents.

–Sandra Lee Smith

THE LANCASTER LIBRARY’S FRIENDS BOOK SALE

The California Lancaster Library’s Friends of the Lancaster Library had its annual book sale this week and I ended up with making two trips and filling 3 of my heavy-duty cloth tote bags both times—I think I spent about $30 altogether and it was money well spent – the Friends of the Lancaster California Library buys computers and other well needed items for the library. In a recent newsletter sent to members such as myself, I learned that several members of the library staff went on a shopping trip to Barnes and Noble recently and were able to spend $20,000 on books and media for various sections of the library. They also added support to programs at the library. Can you imagine?  This is what the re-sale of books was able to do!

From the viewpoint of a book lover—the annual Friends’ sale is like finding candy in the candy store for a fraction of the regular prices—the Lancaster Friend’s book sale is very organized; the books are divided into categories such as children’s/young adult/cooking/biographies and fiction. The fiction category alone is huge but everything, such as mysteries and thrillers, are then divided into alphabetical order. The Friends volunteers spend an entire week getting all the books in order. Hard cover books are priced at a dollar each (but the sale on Fridays is half price day so those hardcover books I like so much will be 50c each. On Saturday, books are a “buck a bag”.

I’ve been to a lot of library’s Friends of the Library book sales in the San Fernando valley for over twenty years—and we donated two SUV’s-full of books to the Burbank Friends when I was moving to the Antelope Valley. After we moved and got settled, I donated six boxes full of more books. When you find yourself with too many books (if such a condition is possible) donating them to a library’s Friends of the Library organization is a worth-while way to go. The only reason I have thinned out some of my shelves was because my companion Bob’s taste in fiction wasn’t the same as mine. I’ve given dozens—maybe hundreds—of the books he enjoyed reading to the Lancaster Library’s Friends.

(I did give some of Bob’s special interests, such as his Mark Twain collection to a close friend who is also a book lover)

The reason I am sharing all of this with you is because maybe – just maybe – you love books and aren’t aware of the various Friends of the Library book sales in your area.

I know that our Lancaster Friends organization always needs volunteers; I think of this all the time, wishing I were in better physical condition to help set up the books. They always need help unpacking and sorting the books too.

This year I happened to find a Myra Waldo cookbook I didn’t have—the Art of Spaghetti Cookery (you might want to read my blog post about Myra Waldo—still one of the most fascinating cookbook authors I have ever encountered). I also found a book—in fine condition—titled HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN – that I think may be my next cookbook review.

I bought about a dozen children’s books for the children’s section of my garage library—about a dozen spiral-bound local cookbooks that feels like some one’s   cookbook collection. I bought perhaps thirty or forty paperback books with various titles and perhaps twenty or so hard bound books of fiction. Sometimes a title is one of “my” authors that I buy even though I have a copy – I am always trying to make converts out of my friends. (I have converted several friends to Robert Morgan’s books—he is one of my favorite authors—as is Adriana Trigiani; I found an extra copy of one of her early titles, “Big Stone Gap” that I am confident I can give to someone who will read it and like her writing style. I even got my soon-to-be twenty years old granddaughter reading some of Adriana’s books. It’s nice to have extra copies of some of your favorite books to give away when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I send some of my favorites to my penpals.

Well, I started this train of thought this morning primarily to share some of my convictions about a library’s Friends of the Library organizations and to let other book lovers know that while you can read a book on a digital device, such as a Book Nook—it isn’t the same as having a real book in your hands to read, to tell friends about, sometimes to share with. I remember when Janet Evanovich’s books first began to be published. I bought the books immediately and then would share them with co-workers. It was so popular that we had to have a list on the blackboard at work, so everyone would know whose turn was next to read the books. I think I may have converted some coworkers into reading.

–Sandra Lee Smith

CHRISTMAS WON’T BE CHRISTMAS

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, “We haven’t got Father, and shall not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was. – From Little Women.

It was the first book I ever owned, a copy of “Little Women” given to me by my mother when I was about ten or eleven. I read it over and over again, often enough to be able to recite entire paragraphs from memory. Owning a copy of “Little Women” caused something to explode within my heart. It was never enough, after that, just to read a book although I read library books voraciously. I wanted to OWN those favorite books as well. Perhaps a year or two later, my brother Jim gave me FIVE Nancy Drew books for Christmas. FIVE! What riches! What wealth!

Not surprisingly, you will have to agree, my house today is wall to wall bookcases filled with books throughout most of the house (ok, none in the kitchen or bathrooms) although you can often find a little stack of magazines or catalogues on the back of the toilet. And last year, Bob built a library that takes up half of the garage. I was unpacking books to go onto the shelves as fast as he finished a section. Finally, after two years, the rest of our books were unpacked and placed on shelves.(We moved into this house in November of 2008).  The garage library is primarily for fiction although I have a respectable collection of books – biographies and auto biographies about our first ladies and one entire section is devoted to American presidents. (I think I have more about John Fitzgerald and Jackie Kennedy than any other president. I think this is because he was the first American president – and she the first “First Lady” who really captured my attention. Next high on my list are books about President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.  We have made many trips to the Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley. But I also collect biographies and auto biographies about movie stars and this probably started when I began working at the SAG Health Plan in 1977.

I’ve also collected books – stories, biographies and—yes, even cookbooks—about African Americans (or Black Americans if you want to be more politically correct. I have found so many really wonderful stories written by African Americans. I believe this is an untapped resource of Americana fiction.

And yes, it started with an inexpensive copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. (I love Little Women so much that I have every film edition of this wonderful civil war era story. But, I have never figured out what pickled limes were; you may recall that Amy got in trouble at school for having a bag of pickled limes in her desk. The teacher confiscated the bag of pickled limes and threw them all out the school house window. I do a lot of canning  (and yes, I collect  cookbooks about canning, preserving, making jams, jellies and chutneys – but have never come across a recipe for making pickled limes!)

“Little Women” is one of those ageless stories that I enjoy watching during the holiday season – along with “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Elf”, “The Santa Clause” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

I have loved Christmas my entire life; when I was about ten years old I began taking my two younger brothers downtown – in Cincinnati – to do our Christmas shopping at the 5 & 10 cent stores. We did all our shopping in one day, along with visiting the department store Santas to get a peppermint stick – and then happily returned home on the trolley (or buses if they had replaced street cars by then) to surreptitiously slip upstairs to my bedroom and wrap our gifts – with wrapping paper my mother had saved from the year before. We ironed out gift wrap paper and ribbons to look “like new” again.  My two brothers and I have the most precious memories of those trips downtown. If we were able, we’d make another trip downtown to see the life-size nativity on display in Garfield Park.

And I think opening the presents, as wonderful as it was, might have been anti climatic to the trip downtown with my little brothers to buy Christmas presents for everyone in the family, with pennies and nickels we had saved or earned. We didn’t have an allowance and earning a bit of cash was always a challenge. My girlfriend Carol went downtown with us one year and in later years confessed that she was always jealous of us Schmidts, buying all our Christmas presents for about a dollar—total!  Well, there was also the five cent bus fare each way to take into consideration. And sometimes we even shared a grill cheese sandwich at the soda fountain counter in Woolworths.

How did we do it? I have no idea. Our little change purses were something like the loaves and fishes in the bible – there was always JUST enough to get something for everyone in the family – five of us children, our parents and our grandparents.

My love for Christmas rubbed off on Bob, my partner for the past 25 years. He became as enthusiastic as I, putting up trees (yes, plural – one year we had 8 trees up in the house in Arleta) and decorating everything in sight inside and outside of the house, while I baked cookies. One year we made a fantastic gingerbread house.  He was always as excited and pleased as I, when guests would arrive at our house and begin to ooh and ahh over the two trees standing on either side of our fireplace, the lighthouse tree in the dining room and the little kitchen-theme trees in the kitchen.   This will be my first Christmas without Bob to share it with.  Christmas won’t be Christmas without him.

I originally wrote this in November of 2011, two months after Bob passed away from cancer of the esophagus. This year will mark the third Christmas without him.

Sandra Lee Smith

September 7, 2014

 

 

 

CANNING SEASON – MAKING YOUR OWN SAUER KRAUT

There is, I confess, a kind of insanity that takes hold of me whenever I come into possession of any large quantity of fruit or vegetables—or, say, the owner of my favorite little grocery store in Burbank would offer me a couple of flats of ripe tomatoes for next to nothing. My freezer would still overflowing with frozen bags of pureed raspberries, from the last such windfall. It’s apparent, nothing else is going to fit into the freezer until I finish making up batches of jam. One wonderful holiday recipe is a chocolate-raspberry spread that I like to give away during the Christmas season.

Maybe I was a squirrel in a former life. What else can account for stocking up, canning, dehydrating, and freezing far more food than we can possibly consume?

Or, if not a squirrel in a former life, I would like to believe that this is something I inherited from my German/Hungarian paternal grandparents—who would butcher a hog once a year and make up lots of sausages. My grandfather converted one of their garages into a “smoke house” where he had the hams hanging from the rafters. (This isn’t something I remember – but my sister Becky did, and told the story often enough).    

Years ago, we acquired a very large stoneware crock. I believe it originally belonged to my younger sister Susie’s mother-in-law, Vera. It could hold something like over 30 quarts when it was filled. In March, to honor St. Patrick’s day, cabbage can often be bought locally for 10 cents a pound. (I lost this big crock when Bob backed the car into it turning my car around in the driveway).

Our first attempt to make our own sauerkraut turned out ok, although the finished product turned a little dark—undoubtedly from using regular salt instead of canning salt. The following year, some friends who moved to Texas but with whom I shared a love of canning and exchanged recipes, happened to find a close-out sale of canning salt, pickling ingredients and I don’t know what all, at their local Walmart store and bought everything they had. They sent me a big box of these things, and I believe I must have a lifetime supply of canning salt on hand, now.

 There is very little to making your own sauerkraut—what it does take a lot of is elbow grease. You have to shred the cabbage very fine and then for about every 5 pounds of shredded cabbage, mix in about 3 tablespoons of canning salt. Then it gets packed into the sterilized crock. You weigh it down—Bob made a round piece of wood with a handle that just fits inside the crock—but we wrapped the wood up in layers of plastic. On top of that we’d prop 4 or 5 filled 2-liter bottles of soda pop, stick it in a corner of the pantry and let it ferment for six weeks. At the end of six weeks, voila—you have sauerkraut.

 In colder climates, the crock of sauerkraut can be kept in a fruit cellar and eaten as is. But, here in Southern California, the summers get very hot (and we don’t have cellars) so that at this point, the sauerkraut needs to be canned. This means heating the sauerkraut in a big pot, while boiling quart jars in another large pot.

When the sauerkraut is simmering, (185 to 210 degrees), it can be packed into the hot sterilized quart jars, sealed, and then submerged in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

We entered our sauerkraut in the Los Angeles county fair in 1990 and won a blue ribbon for it.

People either love sauerkraut or they hate it—there doesn’t seem to be any middle of the road.

All the years I was growing up, my mother made sauerkraut and pork, with mashed potatoes and peas for New Years eve supper, which was served late, probably around midnight. According to William Woys Weaver, the author of SAUERKRAUT YANKEE”, sauerkraut with pork was eaten on New Year’s Day by the Pennsylvania Dutch people, for good luck. I remember one New Year’s Eve, when I was about 15—I was babysitting for neighbors a block away from home. Around midnight, there was a knock on the door; there stood one of my brothers, with a plateful of sauerkraut and pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, sent over by my mother. I cried in the sauerkraut as I ate my good luck supper.

Weaver says that sauerkraut was something one learned to make as a child, that for the Pennsylvania Dutch people, the art of sauerkraut was practically second nature.

He says that Philadelphia writer Eliza Leslie was one of the first to publicize Pennsylvania-German sauerkaut in her cookbook, but that the earliest recipes appeared in newspapers and agriculture journals. Ms. Leslie was a famous cookbook author of the 1800s, including “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”, which is now available in facsimile edition from Applewood Books.

According to Weaver, “…sauerkraut is so intermeshed with Pennsylvania-German ethnic identity, that it always makes it appearance anytime Pennsylvania German foods are specifically called for…” During the Civil War, it gave birth to the name “Sauerkraut Yankees”.

Weaver tells this following story: “There is a twist of irony in this because history turned the joke around on the South. When Confederate troops captured Chambersburg in the summer of 1863, one of the first things the famished rebels demanded from the inhabitants were barrels of sauerkraut. The Dutch could only smile and shrug their shoulders. No one in his right mind made sauerkraut in the summer…”

 I was enchanted by the discovery of a little recipe booklet called “ONE NATION UNDER SAUERKRAUT”, published by the people of Waynesville, Ohio for their annual Ohio sauerkraut festival. I’ve been to Waynesville—one of my brothers used to live near there, and my sisters and I spent one wonderful summer day visiting the many antique stores in Waynesville.

Ah, but I didn’t know about their sauerkraut festival! The author of “One Nation Under Sauerkraut”, Dennis Dalton, provided some fascinating facts about sauerkraut—that cabbage has been an important food crop to mankind for more than 5,000 years—that at one time it was so highly revered in Egypt that it was worshipped during certain religious rites—that the formula for sauerkraut (an Austrian word meaning sour cabbage) was invented by China’s Emperor Shih Huang-Ti. It was developed as a result of an economic need to stretch the rice diets of coolies constructing China’s Great Wall over 2,200 years ago. That third century sauerkraut little resembled the Teutonic variety of present times. Chinese cooks achieved fermentation by pickling whole cabbage leaves in wine.

 It was sometime during the latter part of the 16th century that someone stumbled onto fermenting cabbage with ordinary salt.

Sauerkraut reached American tables and became a part of the nation’s menu after the Dutch colonized New York.

However, it was the Pennsylvania Dutch who immortalized it in table fare, story and song, a people who have an old saying “He is as Dutch as sauerkraut”.

 We “put up” (canned) 30 quarts of sauerkraut in 2009. I swore this was it; that I was never going to make sauerkraut again. Bob always shrugged and smiled and said “you always say that”. I will say this, neither he nor I have ever had scurvy. **

Bob (who really was my sous chef) passed away in September of 2011. I think I opened the last of the jars of sauerkraut when my penpal Bev & her husband came to visit the winter of 2012—maybe, just maybe I will attempt making sauerkraut again next spring—if I can find someone to help shred the cabbage! A few years ago – maybe in 2010 – we bought a huge crock that has a specially designed lid that keeps the contents “sealed” while it is fermenting.

 This summer has found me canning tomatoes and tomato juice, with the bounty of tomatoes from my son Kelly’s garden. LAST year when we were tired of picking tomatoes, he and I picked all the green cherry tomatoes we could find before he pulled out all the vines to go into the trash. I looked up and found a recipe for pickling cherry tomatoes –

Ok, you can’t be too rich or too thin (or to paraphrase Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor back in the 1930s) …have too many pint or quart jars waiting to be filled.

 

– Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

KINGS IN THE KITCHEN BY GERTRUDE BOOTH

Published in 1961,  KINGS IN THE KITCHEN was a distinct surprise as I began turning the pages the other day—I could read a different cookbook every day for the next five years and never get caught up, thanks to my penpal in Michigan who keeps me well supplied.

In the dust jacket, Gertrude Booth explains, “the traditional rule of the pot and pan domain is woman. But when something really special is created in the kitchen—the piece de resistance, the chef d’oeuvre of a meal—it’s a man’s job and every woman knows it. Here, collected in one volume by Gertrude Booth are the favorite recipes of more than one hundred and seventy men of distinction…”

She notes that “Affluence has opened the spice boxes of the Indies and the teapot of the Orient. The invasion of conquers, notably gourmets such as Napoleon Bonaparte, left a trail of changed eating habits in every land they visited. And always it has been the man of importance who has been the inspiration or the creator of the dish delectable. Whether he is the head of a royal house or the man in a woman’s life, he is a king in his own right—in his own kitchen—who by pomp or circumstance has glorified the kingdom of the kitchen….”

(Before I continue, let me point out that this book was published in 1961, some time before Women’s lib came along. AND it should be noted that now we have the Food Network and a many female chefs as well as male—so take those comments in consideration with the decade in which Booth’s book was published).

Gertrude Booth collected recipes from men such as the President of the United States (Eisenhower), his cabinet, ambassadors, governors, military officers, heads of industry, writers, artists, television and radio stars, publishers, editors, doctors and “hosts of other famous men from America and abroad…”

Gertrude Booth has spent years selecting and testing these fascinating recipes—and while many of the recipe contributors are names I am no longer familiar with—the recipes themselves are a great collection. Note the publishers, “Not only is this volume an intriguing glimpse of the tastes of successful and distinguished men, it is also complete and comprehensive cook book which includes recipes for everything from hors d’oeuvres to beverages, soups to sauces, fish to pheasant. These are the dishes which are served at the most famous tables in the world—the drinks which are consumed at the gayest cocktail parties and the desserts which are prepared for the most important guests…”

KINGS IN THE KITCHEN is available on Amazon.com with prices started just under $4.00. I am fortunate that my copy is in like-new condition with its dust jacket intact. FYI—I checked for any copies Albris.com might have and unfortunately, they don’t have any at all.

This is a great addition to your cookbook collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

I SAY TO-MAY-TOE, YOU SAY TO-MAH-TOE

OR – (I say tomato, you say Tomah to–let’s call the whole thing off (song lyrics from long ago)

It has been some years since we had a glut of tomatoes (still living in Arleta, I think) where I canned quarts and quarts of whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, salsa, tomato puree, and my brother’s recipe for “sketti” sauce.

I haven’t had a good veggie garden for the past five years, being new to the area and having a back yard that was let go for many months and was mostly weeds. We began planting fruit trees a year or two after moving to the Antelope Valley and Kelly has proven that a fantastic veggie garden is do-able here in the dry desert

 My son Kelly has discovered he has a green thumb and has been growing lots of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot chili peppers, and some corn. He brings over plastic tubs of tomatoes and peppers. So far, I have canned 10 quarts of tomato juice, all made from cherry tomatoes that have taken over his garden. I’ve also canned fig jam given to me by a friend’s sister, and 5 pints of salsa.

I love tomatoes and enjoy canning them to have on hand throughout the winter months. Whenever we had a bumper crop of tomatoes, it was a beautiful sight to behold when there were a dozen or more lined up, ripening, on the glass panes of the louver windows in our valley kitchen. This particular window faced west where the bright afternoon sun shined through.  

The tomato is the superstar of the vegetable world (even if it actually is a fruit), the most popular and widely grown plant in our home gardens—and with good reason, when you discover how versatile it is. Here in the USA, more than 100 varieties of tomatoes are grown to suit your every need—whether you want to can tomatoes, use them in sauces and pastes and purees – or eat them raw. There is nothing on earth like walking out to your garden, picking a ripe tomato, brushing it off with your shirtsleeve – and biting into it! The second best way to enjoy a tomato might be to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. One of my favorite recipes is a marinated tomato recipe given to me by an Ohioan childhood friend many years ago when we were visiting relatives in Cincinnati.

Tomatoes are believed to have first been cultivated by the Indians of South America. Most food historians believe that tomatoes were probably first grown in Mexico and Peru (the name is derived from the Aztec xitomate or xtomatle depending on whose translation of Aztec you accept) though the picture is muddied by a 200 A.D. description by the Greek physician, Galen, of an Egyptian fruit which sounds very much like a tomato. However, most food historians concede the tomato’s South American origin.

Tomatoes are believed to have been brought to Europe by way of Mexico, probably by the conquistadors, where the fruit eventually found its way to Italy. The Italians called their early yellow variety of tomato “pomi d’oro”, or “apple of gold”. However, it was regarded by the rest of Europe as an ornamental plant and, perhaps in a distortion of its Italian name, was called “pomme d’amour”, or “love apple”.

Tomatoes were introduced into England in 1596 but were considered to be just ornamental plants. The vines were trained to grow on trellises where their bright colored fruit could be admired, but nobody ate the fruit, which was thought to be poisonous.

Not until the 18th century did the tomato begin to achieve a place in European cuisine, although Elizabethans still thought tomatoes were poisonous. The idea that tomatoes were dangerous is also most likely based on their being listed among the narcotic herbs in the deadly nightshade family by Pierandrea Mattioli, the Italian herbalist, in his herbal book first published in 1544. Mattioli called the tomato the golden apple and associated it with belladonna, henbane and mandrake. 

Early colonists are thought to have brought tomato seeds to Virginia; however, no record of its culture exists before 1781 when Thomas Jefferson mentioned planting a crop. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that the tomato seems to have made it way to market to become a fairly common ingredient in the Creole cooking of Louisiana. However, until after the Civil war most Americans still believed tomatoes were poisonous. Actually, the leaves and stems are toxic so this is probably where this belief originated. (Curiously, the potato also was once thought to be poisonous. Like the tomato, potatoes were first grown in Europe as ornamental plants – some of the Presbyterian clergy in Scotland maintained that potatoes, since they were not mentioned in the bible, were not safe to eat).

According to the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, published in 1949 by Wm. H. Wise & Co (and one of my favorite reference books), the exact origin of the tomato is still in doubt. Various legends say that it comes from Africa, from India, or from China. Some historians say that the tomato was first found in Peru where the Spaniards, searching for Inca treasures, saw it growing in gardens. Somewhere, sometime ago, I remember reading about tomato seeds being found in caves in remote parts of South America.

 If you’ve ever had a compost, you know that tomato seeds are the hardiest of seeds. Our compost, where we lived in Arleta for 19 years, was over 15 years old; Bob dug from the bottom to fertilize our flowers and plants and we were both  constantly surprised by volunteer tomato plants that sprouted up – in the middle of the marigolds, or where ever compost had been spread.

 Got a glut of tomatoes in your garden? To paraphrase Wallace Windsor, the former Duchess of Windsor from the 1930s, you can’t be too rich or too thin…or have too many tomatoes! Here are some recipes to whet your appetite—or fill the pantry shelves.

CANNING TOMATOES

15 lbs tomatoes

boiling water

14 TBSP lemon juice, divided or 3 ½ tsp citric acid, divided

7 tsp canning salt, divided

7 1-quart canning jars and lids, sterilized, kept hot

Dip tomatoes into boiling water until skins split; about 30 to 60 seconds; plunge under cold water and peel. Core; cut into half, if desired. Set aside. Add 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt to each jar; add tomatoes. Cover with hot water leaving ½” headspace. Remove air bubbles; secure lids. Process in a boiling water bath 45 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool. Check for seals. Makes 7 jars.

 

DRYING TOMATOES

Wash, quarter and blanch for about 5 minutes. Run through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Strain out the juice through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Use a little hand pressure to extract more water, then spread the remaining pulp on glass, cookie sheets or pieces of plastic. Turn the drying pulp frequently until it becomes dry flakes.

I made my dried tomato slices by simply slicing them very thin with a very sharp knife, and spreading them in a single layer on the racks of a dehydrator. I only washed and stemmed the tomatoes; I did not peel or seed them. When they were completely dry, I packed them into quart jars or ground them to a powder using a coffee grinder).

HOME CANNED TOMATO JUICE

20 LARGE RIPE TOMATOES

1 MEDIUM GREEN OR SWEET RED PEPPER, MINCED

2 LARGE ONIONS, MINCED

1 CLOVE GARLIC, CRUSHED (OPTIONAL)

2 STALKS CELERY, DICED

1/3 CUP SUGAR

¼ CUP LEMON JUICE

1 TBSP SALT

Combine tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic, celery, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a large heavy pot. Simmer covered, over medium heat, 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes cook down to juice. Put tomatoes through food mill or fine sieve, forcing out as much juice and solids as possible.

Pour prepared juice into clean, scalded 1-quart jars into which you have added 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt. Put a canning lid (which has been boiled in water and kept warm) and screw on canning rings. Process in boiling water bath 45 minutes. Makes 4 quarts.

 TOMATO BUTTER

2 LBS red tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 LBS green tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 lemons, halves and thinly sliced (including peel) seeds removed

3 cups sugar

½ tsp ground cloves

2 TBSP minced fresh ginger root or crystallized ginger

2 TBSP chopped candied orange peel

 In a large kettle, combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and cook over moderate heat until thick, about 45 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 pints.

 TOMATO SAUCE

 1 oz butter

2 lbs tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped

¼ – ½ tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low head. Add tomatoes and stir to mix with the butter. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the sugar. Partly cover the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until tomatoes have softened and the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cool and then refrigerate or freeze.

 MEXICAN SALSA (CANNED)

 5 POUNDS ripe tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions

1 ¼ cups chopped, seeded chili peppers

1 cup snipped fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup apple cider or apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP minced garlic

1 TBSP canning salt

5 pint jars with lids and rings, sterilized

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Plunge into ice water and slip off skins. Core and chop tomatoes.

 In a large 6-quart saucepan, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or to desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Immediately fill hot jars with mixture, leaving ½” headspace. Carefully run a non-metallic utensil down the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Wipe jar tops and threads. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. This makes 5 pints of a medium hot salsa.

BILL’S SKETTI SAUCE (WITHOUT MEAT, FOR CANNING)

 

30-40 lbs of tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

Minced garlic cloves, about 5 or use garlic salt about 4 tsp

1 cup chopped green (bell) peppers

5 tsp salt

1 TBSP red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped hot peppers (Bill uses banana peppers)

2 tsp black pepper

¼ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup brown sugar; dark is best but light brown will work

Little chopped celery is ok, maybe ¼ cup

If spicier is wanted, add another ¼ cup sugar or after it has cooked a few hours, add sugar to taste.

Go through the usual preparation of the tomatoes (He means blanch, peel, and chop them)

Put the tomatoes in a large pot; start with some in the pot at low heat and add all the rest of the stuff to the pot. Keep stirring frequently. Cook until at least half cooked down but Bill says he usually cooks it to about one-third cooked down. Don’t let it burn to the bottom of the pot; sugar will do this if you are not careful. It may take 16 hours or longer to boil down this far at low heat but high heat will burn unless you stir constantly

 (*Sandra’s cooknote- I bet you could cook this down in a large turkey roaster, the kind that is like a giant crockpot – with the lid off so it reduces).

Prep the jars in the usual manner (*this means washing them in hot soapy water and then scalding the jars in boiling water). Bill adds a tablespoon of lemon juice to each of the jars. It won’t affect the taste but helps keep the acid content high enough for canning. Bill uses a 20 quart pot to cook this sauce, and lo and behold (says he) it’s usually full when he starts and then he ends up with about 13 pints of sauce.

This is a lengthy and informal recipe but I have provided it exactly as it was given to me.

Bill’s sketti sauce is also excellent poured over stuffed bell peppers.

**

But, you say, you aren’t interested in CANNING tomatoes and just want to know how to use some of them when your garden produces a glut of tomatoes (along with that glut of zucchini?) -Here are a few recipes you can try:

ABSOLUTE SALSA (FRESH)

4 green onions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

4 ripe plum tomatoes OR  2 regular tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup peeled and diced red onion

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 cup chopped ripe olives

Salt & pepper to taste

6 dashes Tabasco (hot sauce) or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped, with seeds

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

 IN A BOWL, combine all ingredients, except basil. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, add basil. Serve at room temp. Good with chips, grilled fish or chicken, or as an omelet filling or on deli meat sandwiches.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

 

EL TORITO SALSA (FRESH)

2 CUPS DICED TOMATOES

½ CUP DICED ONION

1-2 TBSP FINELY DICED JALAPENO PEPPERS

1 TBSP OIL

1 TSP VINEGAR

1 TSP LIME JUICE

½ TSP MEXICAN DRIED LEAF OREGANO

¼ TSP SALT

¼ CUP FINELY CHOPPED CILANTRO

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Check seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve with tortilla chips. Ole! This is one of my favorite fresh salsa recipes.

 

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

 6 medium size tomatoes

4 unpeeled cloves or garlic

1 peeled onion, cut in half

Place tomatoes, garlic and onion on a cookie sheet with sides (or jelly roll pan) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cooled, peel   tomatoes and garlic and puree in blender with onions. Simmer in saucepan on stovetop to desired consistency. Cool completely and freeze in plastic storage bags. Sauce may also be canned.

 “MAKE YOUR OWN” SALSA

 1 LB RIPE TOMATOES (2 LARGE) SEEDED AND CHOPPED

½ CUP FINELY CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS

1 TSP MINCED FRESH GARLIC

1-2 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED HOT PEPPER (SUCH AS JALAPENO)

¼ C. CHOPPED FRESH CILANTRO

½ TSP SALT

JUICE FROM 1 LIME

Drain off excess juices from tomatoes; combine with other ingredients. The heat of the salsa depends on the type and amount of hot pepper you choose. Serve with tortilla chips.

PAN GRILLED TOMATO SALSA

3 large meaty tomatoes, cored and cut into thick slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 TBSP Sherry vinegar or Balsamic vinegar

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron or non-stick, over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase the heat to high and cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side, very lightly, about 1 minute. If necessary work in batches to avoid overcrowding the tomatoes. 

Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a large shallow dish and as the tomatoes are done, turn them into the mixture. Season and serve as a side dish or a sauce for grilled or roasted fish or chicken. Salsa can also be refrigerated for a day or two; bring to room temperature before serving. 

One more recipe – this is a simple tomato recipe you can put together an hour before dinner time and it’s always good. My girlfriend Mary, in Cincinnati, gave this recipe to me – back in the 70s.

 MARY’S HERBED TOMATOES

6 LARGE ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 tsp salt

coarse pepper

¼ cup finely chopped chives

¼ cup vinegar

2/3 cup oil

 Sprinkle layers of tomatoes with herbs and spices. Cover with oil and vinegar (mixed) and let marinate an hour or more.

**

People often ask me about my favorite cookbooks. I have three favorite tomato cookbooks.   One is “TOMATOES! 365 Healthy Recipes for Year-Round Enjoyment” by the editors of Garden Way Publishing. This is a nice spiral bound cookbook from Storey Communications, published in 1991. Another favorite is “THE TOMATO FESTIVAL COOKBOOK” by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, also published by Storey Publishing in 2004, and it’s packed with recipes and historical tomato lore. The Third is an older book (1976) “THE TOMATO BOOK” by Yvonne Young Tarr but along with recipes there is a wealth of information on growing and preserving tomatoes.

Happy Cooking!

 Sandy