There’s only two things that money can’t buy – and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes.
I’ll agree with the enthusiastic lyrics of Guy Clark’s song: money just can’t buy anything as tasty as a homegrown tomato picked right from your backyard. (Locally grown heirlooms, like the ones on sale this week at the Co-op come pretty close, though.) Several summers ago, when we were remodeling our kitchen, we put up 50 quarts of soup and 50 quarts of salsa in our outdoor makeshift kitchen. Which had some benefits – not heating up the kitchen on a hot August afternoon being the primary one. Now we’re empty nesters, so we don’t need those huge amounts, although we still can enough to give our kids the taste of summer in a jar (Greg Brown song) as Christmas presents.
Here’s my two favorite recipes for tomato season, adapted from Putting it up with Honey by Susan Geiskopf. You may want to check with your county extension agent for recommended processing times as these may have changed since the 70’s when this book was written. Personally, I still use these times and they’ve worked for me.
This is a yummy soup, and there is nothing like it on the shelves you can buy that comes near to the rich flavors. Eat it as soup, or use it as a base for chili, spaghetti sauce, etc.
Outrageous Tomato Soup
12 quarts quartered tomatoes (If you don’t have 12 quarts worth of tomatoes, just cut up what you have and reduce the other proportions accordingly.)
6 medium onions
14 sprigs of parsley
1 head of celery – the whole bunch
Garlic coves to taste – I use a whole bulb
Basil to taste – I pick about a quart of basil leaves
Hot peppers to taste – I use the equivalent of one cayenne with seeds. Gives it a nice kick.
¾ c olive oil or melted butter
2/3 c cornstarch
6 T honey
2T non-iodized salt
Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Chop the onions, celery, parsley and add the garlic, peppers and basil into a BIG pot! Cook until the celery is tender; I let it simmer for a couple hours. Put it all through a sieve, food mill or Squeezo Strainer. (This year my daughter had my Squeezo Strainer, so I used a food mill to get the liquid out and then ran the pulp through my juicer. It worked great!)
Mix the cornstarch with the oil or butter to make a smooth paste. Thin with some of the strained tomato mixture. Add this to the soup; stir in well. Add the honey and salt. Heat until boiling. Pack hot soup into hot sterilized jars to within ½ inch of the tops. Complete seals. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 7-9 quarts, depending on how long you let the tomatoes cook down. Sometimes I’ve let the tomato mixture cook long enough that I haven’t needed to use the cornstarch to thicken it.
2 quarts peeled & chopped tomatoes – use paste/roma type, remove seeds and squeeze out the juice before chopping.
1 quart chopped peppers – I use a combination of sweet and mild to very hot peppers. For a hotter salsa, use more hot peppers. Wear gloves or oil your hands for protection when handling hot peppers, and don’t rub your eyes. Ouch!
2 cups chopped onion
2 tsp non-iodized salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Pack into sterilized jars. Complete seals. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. Yield is approx 6 pints. Recipe can be doubled.