It's the end of July already. Are you ready for this? Next weekend, we will be into August. Ready or not, time marches on. Most schools around here start the latter part of August, so if you haven't done something for a vacation with the kids, do something quick. Anything out of the ordinary will be a treat for your young ones. Have the older ones write a summary of what they have done over the summer. That will get them in the "school mode" and might make the adjustment from playing all day into using their brains for learning. School should be enjoyable for students, but often is looked at as a punishment on their "fun" time.
Canning time is in full swing. Since I am not doing much of that this year, it slipped up on me. If you haven't started your canning and freezing for fresh food this winter, now is the time to get started while the veggies are at their peak. If you don't have your own, go to one of the local Farmers' Markets, or to the vegetable wholesale auction in Chesterhill, Ohio, on Thursday afternoons (starts at 4 or 4:30). This isn't the place to get just one melon or one small basket of tomatoes - it is a "wholesale" market, and the lots are for more than one Sunday dinner. I love it - which is why I didn't grow a large garden this summer. Husband Norm convinced me neither he nor I are spring chickens, and he, especially, is not suited for heavy garden work. I enjoy gardening, but bidding on produce at the auction is fun, also, and easier on my bones. (I love auctions of any kind.)
Have you ever had a computer kidnapped? I know it wasn't intended for me, but sibling rivalry can cause many strange things. I couldn't find my laptop. All the connections were on the new desk, but the computer was nowhere to be found. The house was searched several times, even the barn and garage. No computer.
And no one could remember ever putting it anyplace but on the desk. I decided to offer a ransom, and it was amazing how fast one grandchild's memory returned. She had hidden it in an argument with her sister. I haven't told the parents about it yet, and probably won't, but I have a "willing" house cleaner for keeping still. Oh, what money will do.
We are still cleaning up after the damaging storm, as I know many of you are. We don't realize how much we depend on energy in our homes until it is interrupted. Summer is a bad time to lose power, but it is even worse in winter when one doesn't have heat because of it. Being hot is uncomfortable, but freezing is a lot worse. We just have to remember we could have it worse, no matter what happens. We don't have "dug" wells and a container to let down into it for a refrigerator any more, but we do have stores in driving range to get fresh food, even if it is not our closest and regular store. It makes us appreciate how our ancestors lived when they settled this country.
The young ones about had heart failure with no TV. They just can't believe life before it was invented and every house had it. "What did you do?" Telling young ones that we made our own entertainment and worked along with our parents is a foreign thought for them. We need the rain, but not in torrents. Too bad some of this water can't be shipped out to the Midwest where crops are being destroyed for lack of rain.
The Interstate Fair continued even in and around the rains here. That is one of the best fairs around and has something for everyone. I hope you made it, and if you didn't, make plans now to go next year.
Same with the River Roar in Marietta. Anyone who likes fast boats and a carnival atmosphere has to enjoy that. We really have great events in our valley.
Next weekend (Aug. 4) is a Horse Fun Show at the Barlow Fairgrounds at the crossroads in Barlow on Ohio 339. It is free admission and is for anyone who likes horses. If your young one has a horse and likes to ride, this is a fun happening for them in which to take part, or even just watch. The show starts at 6 p.m. and sign-up for events starts after 5. There will be food and drinks available on the grounds. This is a family-oriented event, and everyone has fun.
The recipes today are by request - the old standbys that I use here on the hilltop to can our supply of tomatoes.
Twelve quarts tomatoes finely chopped or pureed
Six cups onions, finely chopped
Three cups green bell peppers, finely chopped
Three cups red bell peppers, finely chopped
One-and-one-half cups banana peppers, finely chopped (any sweet pepper)
Three cups celery, finely chopped
Nine cloves garlic, minced
One-fourth cup pickling salt
One-and-one-half tablespoon celery seed
One-and-one-half tablespoon mustard seed
One-and-one-half tablespoon dried oregano
One and one-half tablespoon dried basil
One-and-one-half tablespoon Italian seasoning
Three cups sugar
Four cups vinegar
Peel tomatoes, quarter and let drain in colander. Do not use juice that drains off tomatoes. Chop tomatoes and put through food mill to remove seeds. (To make chunky style, do not put through food mill.) Put tomatoes into 18-quart electric roaster with all other ingredients and cook down to desired consistency. Hold back some of the tomatoes until all other ingredients are in to make certain you have room in the toaster. If all the tomatoes won't fit, add the remaining tomatoes as it boils down some. The cooking down process normally takes about three hours, but may be less if the tomatoes are drained well in the first step. Fill hot, clean jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 30 minutes.
To peel ripe tomatoes, plunge tomatoes into boiling water for one minute, than immediately plunge them into cold water. Do not use any tomatoes that have bad spots on them for any canning - whole, juice, sauce, etc. The bacterium from a bad spot goes through the whole tomato and will ruin the entire batch of whatever you are making.
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 food processor 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 the dried, use three times the amount listed. Adjust seasonings to your own taste. I use more garlic than one clove!
One-half bushel ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut up
Four large green peppers
Four large onions
Four stalks celery
Two to three cups sugar, either white or part brown and part white
Four to eight hot peppers or banana peppers
Four cups vinegar
Four tablespoons 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 3 hours. (The easiest way to cook this is in an electric roaster - 18-quart size.) If not thick enough at that time, mix some cornstarch with some of the juice and add. Cook another 15 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Jars of this make great gifts.
NOTE: I always add garlic to mine, but it isn't necessary. It just depends on whether you like garlic or not. I chop the tomatoes coarsely in the food processor - not pureed like for pizza sauce or even spaghetti sauce. The amount of hot peppers added determines the "heat" of the salsa, so I usually make both mild and hot. We use this for spaghetti sauce either alone or with half regular spaghetti sauce, Just add some Italian seasoning to it when you use it for that.
NOTE # 2: I use this recipe for canned spaghetti sauce. I just chop the tomatoes much finer, add more minced garlic and Italian seasoning, chopped fresh basil and oregano, chopped fresh parsley, and ground coriander. Taste to get the flavor your family likes.
MOM'S TOMATO JUICE
Six quarts tomato juice
One-half cup sugar
Two tablespoons salt (kosher or canning)
One teaspoon onion salt
One teaspoon celery salt
Two-thirds teaspoon garlic salt
Four tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
Combine all ingredients and boil 15 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal.
OR - Combine all ingredients and pour into clean jars and process in hot water bath 30 minutes after water comes to a boil, just like you would for canning tomatoes.
Eight pounds tomatoes
One cup chopped green pepper
One chopped medium onion
One teaspoon celery seed
One-fourth teaspoon cayenne pepper
Two tablespoons white vinegar
One tablespoon sugar
One teaspoon pickling salt
Wash tomatoes and remove stem ends and quarter. Let tomatoes stand in a colander to drain off excess liquid. In large pot, combine tomatoes, green pepper, onion, celery seed and cayenne. Bring to a boil and cook about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Put this pulp through a food mill or coarse sieve. Add vinegar, sugar, and salt to the tomato puree. Return to kettle and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes or to desired consistency. Stir to prevent sticking. Pour hot sauce into hot jars, leaving inch headspace. Seal and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes for pints.
NOTE: For all tomato recipes, I add lemon juice since the new varieties of tomatoes don't have the acid content of the older varieties. If the recipe has lots of vinegar, it doesn't need the extra acid. Vinegar does the same trick as lemon juice.
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for the Parkersburg News & Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org