Monthly Archives: August 2014


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.


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.



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).










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.


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.


 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.


 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.



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:


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.












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.



 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.









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.


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.


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!





If I had done a little more searching through my bookshelves, I would have discovered quite a few more books on subjects already mentioned in Part One—and I think I will have to do one topic entirely on tomatoes; I have been collecting tomato cookbooks for quite some time (and love to can tomatoes and make my own salsa).

I came across FOUR more lemon cookbooks on my shelves. First is a lovely little book called “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” by Sarah Schulte and LaLitte. Sarah is a full-time artist. Lalitte is a professional calligrapher who is interested in horticulture. Both women live in NYC, enjoy cooking and love lemons.

There are all kinds of recipes using lemons, ranging from Guacamole (which I wouldn’t attempt without having lemons on hand) to a recipe for lemon marmalade, that I think I would like to try.

While I didn’t find “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” on—I was nonplussed to see how many other kinds of books are available –not just cookbooks but mysteries and (I hate to admit it) lemon cookbooks that I don’t have. Just to be thorough, I checked on and DID find “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” starting at $4.00.

Another little cookbook – this time shaped like a lemon, is small enough to be overlooked. “TOTALLY LEMON COOKBOOK” by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham was published by Celestial Arts in Berkeley, California in 1999. This is a winner – it contains my favorite recipe for Lemon Chicken, Lemon Curd, (which I love making) and Preserved Lemons—which I made one time when I was living in Arleta and we had three lemon trees. There is a recipe for Lemonade Wafers that I think I will have to make soon. has “TOTALLY LEMON COOKBOOK” for 99 cents. has the book pre-owned starting at $1.49. Do I want to know that the author created another book called “TOTALLY CHEESE COOKBOOK” but the price on that one starts around $20.00, so I won’t be buying that one anytime soon.

Another book on lemons is “LIVELY LEMON RECIPES, for Gourmet and Everyday Dishes”, by Joyce Crumal. This book was published by Howell-North Books in Berkeley, California in 1967. This is a hardcover book with loads of lemon recipes and an in-depth introduction to the history of lemons. I don’t really remember buying “LIVELY LEMON RECIPES” but I think it may have been one of the books I inherited when two of my girlfriends passed away and I was given a lot of their books.

I have one other lemon cookbook from the Country Garden Cookbook series that I believe I received when I was reviewing cookbooks for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange newsletter. has “LEMONS, A Country Garden Cookbook, by Christopher Idone, and prices start at only one cent for a pre-owned copy. The county garden cookbook series are all the same size, with beautiful illustrations. You really can’t go wrong with any of these lemon cookbooks.

While searching for more one topic cookbooks—and fortunately, all of my fruit and vegetable cookbooks are in the same bookcase—I realized I had more apple cookbooks – and the first one is a small spiral cookbook in the shape of an apple. The title is “THE BIG FAT RED JUICY APPLE COOKBOOK” edited by Judith Bosley and published by Grand Books in Middleton, Michigan. You wont believe how many recipes are in this little book! has this cookbook for about $5.00 for a new copy and starting at 21 cents for a pre-owned copy.

Favorite Recipes from America’s Orchards is a soft-cover cookbook titled APPLES, APPLES EVERYWHERE by Lee Jackson. On the back cover we read, in part, ‘Outstanding recipes from some of America’s finest orchards, cider mills, and fruit growers are shared in the collection” – the author has collected recipes from various apple places, many which are featured in their restaurants. You will want to try all of these recipes.

APPLES, APPLES EVERYWHERE is on and can be yours, new, for $11.00 or pre-owned starting at one cent. (remember you will pay $3.99 shipping and handling for all pre-owned books that you purchase).

Next is THE APPLE BARN COOKBOOK FROM THE APPLE BARN AND CIDER MILL from Sevierville, Tennessee. This cookbook was published in 1983 and printed by Wimmer Brothers, a famous cookbook publisher—but I noted at the back of the book, order forms. You can write to THE APPLE BARN COOKBOOK at Riverbend Farm, 230 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, Tenn 37862.

Nevertheless, I checked with and found the same cookbook, a later publication date by Bill Kilpatrick, published in 1998, paperback $4.95, pre-owned starting at one cent.

APPLE CELLAR is a spiral bound cookbook compiled by Ruth Blackett with illustrations by Karen Walker Porter. This has a fairly substantial collection of apple recipes. APPLE CELLAR is featured on, with a price of $7.50 for a new copy—no other copies are listed and it doesn’t provide a picture of the cookbook but since my copy was published in 1981 and so was the one in Amazon, I think it’s a fairly reasonable assumption they are one and the same. There is an apple spice cake featured in the cookbook and someone wrote “good!” alongside it. Since I just finished canning applesauce and the recipe calls for a cup of it, I think I will try this one myself.

Back in the 1970s, Penny, my penpal in Oklahoma, introduced me to Farm Journal cookbooks. We strived to own all of them – they were a cook’s bible. COOKING WITH APPLES by Shirley Munson and Jo Nelson with the Food Editors of Farm Journal produced this small soft cover cookbook which features dessert recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere. At the end of the cookbook a character doll, made by hand by a pioneer mother, is featured. The head of the doll was made with an apple. That’s one I haven’t seen anywhere else.
COOKING WITH APPLES took some deep searching on – I finally found a copy listed at $15.99 for a new copy and $3.32 for a pre-owned one. It was only $2.95 when it was brand new—so you may want to do some more searching depending how much you want a copy.

A larger lovely cookbook titled AN APPLE HARVEST/Recipes and Orchard Lore by Frank Browning & Sharon Silva is a beautiful hardcover cookbook. My copy was published in 1999 by Ten Speed Press and it appears to have been reprinted with a different cover. AN APPLE HARVEST took a bit of searching to find it. Amazon has it for $15.29 for a new copy and pre-owned copies available starting at $3.05.
There are several berry cookbooks in my collection. One is shaped like a basket of berries. It was compiled by Judith Bosley and published in 1991 in Livonia, Michigan. The book is divided into four categories—take your pick of strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries or Cranberries. Recipes are mostly easy to do—like Raspberry Cordial—4 ingredients, or Raspberry Liqueur (something I love to make) –another easy to do with 4 ingredients. There is one recipe to a page and with wire spiral binding, it will lay flat on your kitchen counter. I’m in love with Judith’s Blueberry Cream Puff Pie, having made cream puffs not long ago myself.

A VERY BERRY COOKBOOK is not very big in size but it contains 117 recipes. It is available at both and and neither website shows a true depiction of the book, which puzzles me. offers the book for 2.26 new or starting at one cent for pre-owned. offers it for 99c or for $2.26 new. This appears to be part of a “grand cookbook series”—in which the Big Fat Red Juicy Apple Cookbook was featured. Also in the series (but I don’t have any of the other books) is a book about cherries, another about potatoes, another on fish food and one about cheese.

Another berry cookbook is one called BERRY-GOOD RECIPES/Strawberry Patch Cookbook. This appears to be a fund-raising project by Allegan Dollars for Scholars and is a spiral bound cookbook. Strawberries are in season in the high desert where I live, so I am looking forward to trying some different recipes. Generally, I make strawberry jam or strawberry and blueberry jam, my granddaughter’s favorite.

Finally—not to be overlooked—A Country Garden Cookbook titled BERRIES was written by Sharon Kramis with photography by Kathryn Kleinman. The introduction is one of my favorites and there is a color glossary of all the different kinds of berries, which you will surely treasure. I love the recipes but confess I am most partial to recipes for jam, which is a favorite pastime of mine. You will love all the recipes—so, so mouthwatering from beginning to end. And—BERRIES was the first title to pop up when I began a search on You can own a copy of BERRIES, a Country Garden Cookbook for $1.99 new or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy. (and while I am on the topic—there are other books in the Country Garden Cookbook series—more about those later!)
Amongst the cookbooks in my fruit & vegetable files are a few of which I have just one copy. One of these is the SPHINX RANCH DATE RECIPES, compiled by Rick Heetland and published by Golden West Publishers (A publishing company I am familiar with). Sphinx Ranch Date Recipes by Rick Heetland is available on for $8.95 for a new copy, or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

2. THE PRUNE GOURMET compiled by Donna Rodnitzky, Jogail Wenzel and Ellie Densen was published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco. THE PRUNE GOURMET is available on for $5.35 new, or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

3. Marvelous Maple Masteries Cook Book compiled by the American Maple Museum is a New York State Cookbook and is not listed on or Marvelous Maple Masteries is listed in the introduction located on Main Street, Croghan, Lewis County, New York. This may truly be one of a kind; I couldn’t find it on Amazon, Alibris, or on Google—but I can’t wait for Christmas baking and candy making! There are several pages of maple candy recipes I want to try!

4. THE VIDALIA SWEET ONION LOVERS COOKBOOK by Bland Farms is a spiral bound cookbook which you can order at 1-800-VIDALIA. This appears to have been compiled from recipes submitted by Vidalia customers all over the USA. Vidalia onions have a very short lifespan in your supermarket, if you don’t already know this—a girlfriend from work and I ordered them by the case directly from Bland Farms for several years, sharing the expense. I’ve learned to peel and finely dice the onions and pack them in 1 or 2-cup zip lock bags to freeze. (I have a Vidalia onion chopper that is absolutely dandy in the kitchen, not just for dicing onions (fine dice or larger) but good for so many other vegetables that are easy to chop, like bell peppers. When bell peppers are in season and a good price, I stock up on those and dice them up to go in zip lock bags, as well. I dice red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers to freeze and have on hand.

This concludes part 2 of Single Topic Cookbooks – but look for part 3, soon as I get myself in gear and start writing it. (I am busy canning right now, too and have developed “sources” here in the desert. A girlfriend’s sister brought me pears and apples, as well as Asian pears; another friend brought me two little buckets of figs; my son has been bringing tomatoes and other vegetables to me—and I may have another source for tomatoes).

A thought crossed my mind as I was preparing this article to put it on my blog–any time I tell you about a cookbook being available on or –if you want to SEE the cookbook, they are almost always illustrated on the websites. I am incapable of downloading/uploading the covers–but you can see them on Amazon or Alibris.

–Sandra Lee Smith