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Good tomato crop a many-splendored thing

October 26, 2012 - Don Williams

It was a “tomato summer.” Our tomatoes outdid themselves — they were firm, and ripe, and delicious.

The “big boys” grew large, round, smooth-skinned, and solid inside. The tiny, round, yellow, acid-free tomatoes were mild and sweet and could be eaten right off the vine, much like candy. The tomatoes came early, and we kept on picking into October. At one point, they came so fast that we donated a batch to the North Main Street Methodist Church soup kitchen; I think that I ran out of ways to cook them.

One of my sons saved me the back-breaking job of spading up the tomato bed. He dug up the soil, shook out the sod, and prepared a soft bed for the plants. It eliminated all that weeding later on in the growing season — another back-breaker. Those kind of jobs are not as easy for me as when I was younger.

At the peak of the tomato-growing season, it becomes a real challenge to eat them up before they get too ripe. We like fried green tomatoes, tomatoes on sandwiches, tomatoes in spaghetti and meat loaf, tomato omelets, open-faced toasted tomato sandwiches, and pickled tomatoes.

They can be eaten raw, cooked, pickled, canned, deviled and crushed into juice. And we make a year’s supply of hot dog relish out of the green tomatoes.

Our family’s hot dog relish recipe that was passed down to me is somewhat easy to put together. It requires grinding four cups each of onions, cabbage and green tomatoes. These are soaked overnight along with 12 ground-up green peppers and six red peppers and a half cup of salt. The next day, add to the above six cups of sugar, four cups of vinegar, one tablespoon each of celery seed and dry mustard, and a half-teaspoon turmeric, with up to two cups of water, if needed. The final step is to boil it for three minutes and can it in sterilized jars. It is very good on hot dogs and anything else that takes an old-fashioned relish.

The tomato, an annual herb, originated in South America and came to the Indians in North America. When the Europeans found the tomatoes, they considered them poisonous and thought that only Native Americans could eat them without dying.

They eventually were introduced to Europe as a curiosity and they found them to be a welcomed part of their diets, calling them “love apples”! (I do not know why.)

Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes in 1781 and had his favorite way of eating them. He salted sliced tomatoes for one hour, poured off the liquid, cut two more tomatoes in quarters and put them in a bowl. He added a three-inch onion cut in quarters, put in the salted tomato slices, added four tablespoons of olive oil, pressed it down and filled the bowl with vinegar. After twenty-four hours in a cool place, he served his tomatoes in a bowl with some added pepper.

One of the most interesting tomato recipes that was passed down through the years is for a special tomato soup. Possibly, it evolved during the long Adirondack winters or in the remote hunting camps. Tomatoes were cooked until they were medium thick and then poured into bowls. One level teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce was added to each bowl, followed by a shot or more of Gin. “Do not stir.”

It must have been good, as the recipe stated, “You’ll never have to apologize for this soup!” And, remember, tomatoes were always in use when an Adirondacker tangled with a skunk to dissipate the odors. Tomatoes were better than any commercial deodorants of that day.


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