Do summer things now

Hello, all you fellow Leos. You know the horoscopes all say we are the strong ones. Strong headed, anyway. Personally, I have always enjoyed being a Leo. It has given me an excuse for doing lots of questionable things. My parents added to it by giving me a name that fits the sign so I have embodied the personality, at least most of the time. My family has always had another way of describing it, like bull-headed, strong-willed and unbending. I don’t pay any attention to them anymore.

If today is a nice, sunny day, it will make me happy. Since this is written earlier in the week, guessing the weekend weather is pretty much just that – guessing. Mother Nature and I aren’t always on the same page, so I am keeping my fingers crossed and trying not to anger her too much. Our family reunion is today, here on the hilltop and the house isn’t big enough to handle lots of people and all the good food they bring. The kids are talking about a wet balloon fight, and that surely won’t happen if we are all in the house.

My neighbor and I attended the Chesterhill Auction this past Monday. She had blackberries to sell. I think everyone in the community brought in blackberries, too, so if you wanted some and didn’t have your own, you missed a good chance to get some really nice ones. The berries this year are the biggest I have seen for many years, thanks to all that rain and hot days combined. They are still coming on, so you still have a chance to get some for jelly, jam, cobblers and pies to have now and next winter.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t do any canning or freezing this year, but I have changed that statement to not much freezing and canning.

By the way, the tomatoes and fruit – peaches, plums, and apples – were beautiful and went for much less than in the grocery stores. It is all raised locally, so you know it is fresh and you are helping local farmers, too. They even had canning tomatoes, so you can get a head start on all the things you make with them, like salsa, juice, spaghetti sauce, and canned tomatoes. Usually, I put in recipes for putting up those various things later in the month, but seeing canning tomatoes sold caught my attention. Of course, sweet corn, beans and melons were plentiful. The auction is on Mondays and Thursdays, starting at 4 p.m.. Amish baked goods are available, also.

The cat population has been reduced. One kitten got a home and the other four got homes at a working farm where they were welcomed. I hate to see them go, but we just had more cats than feasible, and it wasn’t fair to them not to get the attention they needed. Butterscotch, also known as Diablo, got transferred to that farm, too. He had acquired too many nasty habits because of his dislike of the rules.

There is still time for a quick vacation before school starts, but hurry. Our local schools start the middle of August and that time is coming up fast. Unreal, isn’t it, how fast the seasons come and go. The ads for Christmas cookbooks have already started coming and they look so neat that it is a real temptation to order them. Like I don’t have any. They are great to read and always have some new ideas, whether I use the recipes or not.

The retail stores know about school starting; they are outdoing each other with “back to school” ads. The students are getting anxious, too, and want that shopping trip right now, so they can get first pick at school clothes. There is a lot to say about the convenience of school uniforms – takes the pressure out of trying to get the “best” and “I want what the other kids are going to wear.” Little kids are easy for which to buy school clothes. It is those preteens and teens that can give you headaches. I hope yours that are that age are still reasonable and haven’t caused you to run out of Prozac.

Most of the local county fairs (and state fair) will be finishing up this month. One local fair, Barlow, is the end of the fair season and it is the middle of September. If you have never been to a real country fair, that is one to take in. That one is also the final fair for 4-H and FFA youths in Washington County to sell their projects that haven’t been shown and sold at other fairs. Waterford has the hog sale; Washington County has goats, chickens, and certain bovine categories; Morgan County has all divisions for the youth in that county. Ritchie County just advertised its county fair. If you haven’t been to one, there are still fairs in the area to visit.

For those who are “faired out,” the fall festivals will be going strong, starting this month. You don’t have to cook your own Apple Butter in a kettle outside – just visit one of the festivals that feature that activity and buy a few jars. It is easier than doing it yourself, and the kids still get to see how it is made. These festivals and craft shows are great places to pick up that unusual Christmas gift for the person who always returns what you get them, making you upset about trying to please them. It is impossible to return a purchase made at one of those. “Oh, really, I just don’t recall where I did find your gift.” Of course, you can always make a gift yourself, like jar of jelly or pizza sauce. Those are never returned.

Following are some old stand-by recipes that have passed the test of time and will enhance your winter cooking. Don’t try to do too much, even if you enjoy the “putting up” of the harvest. You are more important than rows of canned food. Do some “summer things” these last few weeks of the season to make precious memories. Take care, and God Bless.

SALSA

One-half bushel tomatoes, skinned and cut up

Four large green bell peppers, chopped

Four large onions, chopped

Four stalks celery, chopped

Two to three cups sugar, either white or part brown and rest white

Four to eight hot peppers or Banana peppers, chopped

Four cups apple cider vinegar

Four tablespoons Kosher or canning salt

Garlic cloves, minced, to taste – optional

Chop peeled tomatoes and drain in a colander to reduce cooking time. Chop all other vegetables. Combine all ingredients and simmer until cooked down and thickened, up to three hours. The easiest way to cook this is in an 18-quart electric roaster. If not thick enough at that time, make a slurry of cornstarch or flour and some of the juice and add. Cook another 15 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Jars of this make great Christmas gifts.

NOTE: Garlic is optional. Chop the tomatoes COARSELY in the food processor and let drain some more for thicker salsa. The amount of hot peppers determines the “heat” of the salsa. We use this for spaghetti sauce with the addition of some Italian seasoning since we like the chunkier sauce.

NOTE: I also use this basic recipe for canned Spaghetti Sauce. Chop the tomatoes much finer and add Italian seasoning, more garlic, fresh (or dried) basil, oregano, parsley and cilantro (or dried coriander). Taste to get the flavor your family likes. If you use the Salsa recipe for your Spaghetti Sauce, you can always use a blender to make it smoother for the pasta.

MOM’S TOMATO JUICE

Six quarts tomato juice

One-half cup sugar

Two tablespoon Kosher or canning salt

One teaspoon onion salt

One teaspoon celery salt

Two-thirds teaspoon garlic salt

Four tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar

Run ripe tomatoes through a juicer or a food mill to get the juice. Combine all ingredients and boil 15 minutes. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. OR combine all ingredients and pour into clean canning jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 30 minutes after water comes to a boil, just like you do canned tomatoes.

RIPE CUCUMBER RELISH

Ten large, ripe cucumbers

Twelve medium onions

One sweet red pepper

Three sweet green peppers

Two pounds brown sugar

One teaspoon celery seed

One teaspoon turmeric

Pickling salt

Vinegar

Peel, seed and scrape cucumbers. Chop all other vegetables fine. Mix and sprinkle with salt – about three or four tablespoons – and let stand one hour. Drain well, mix in turmeric, celery seed and sugar. Add vinegar enough to just cover. Cook 20 minutes after mixture comes to a good boil. Seal in hot, sterilized jars.

NOTE: Combine this with your best hot mustard recipe and you will have the best ever hot dog relish.

PIZZA SAUCE

One-half bushel tomatoes, peeled

Two green peppers

Three hot peppers

Three large onions

One clove garlic

Four cans (12 oz.) tomato sauce

Six bay leaves

Two teaspoons dried oregano

Two teaspoons dried parsley

Two teaspoons dried basil

Two cups vegetable oil

One-and-one-half cups sugar

One-half cup pickling salt

Process vegetables in small batches until all have been pureed. Combine all ingredients and cook for one hour after it comes to a boil. Pour hot into hot sterilized jars and seal. If you use fresh herbs instead of dried, use three times the amount listed. Adjust seasonings to your own taste. I use more garlic than listed.

MOM’S SANGRIA RECIPE

(Tastes great after a day of canning n a hot kitchen.)

Fill a large pitcher with ice. Pour over it a bottle of ordinary red wine, a quarter of a cup of brandy, and a small (10-oz.) bottle of club soda. Sweeten to taste with a quarter to one-half cup sugar. Garnish with slices of apple, lemon and orange.