After another ill-advised trip to the Clearspring Produce Auction on Friday I came home with 5 pecks of Roma tomatoes, 3 pecks of tomatillos, and 6 quarts of serrano chiles.
Then having lost all restraint I went to the Columbia City Farmers Market on Saturday and picked up cucumbers, red bell peppers, and green chiles.
I made pickle relish and ketchup today.
Ketchup and Relish
That 3 pints of ketchup took 8 pounds of tomatoes.
It’s somewhat ridiculous to make this stuff yourself. I spent about 4 hours (although a lot of that was unattended soaking and cooking) making 3 pints of ketchup and 4 pints of pickle relish.
But when you look at it you see vibrant real colors. Even in the photo above you can see the ketchup is a rich red, something you can only describe as the color of a ripe tomato. The relish is a rainbow of everything in it, green and white from the cucumbers, white from the onions, red and yellow and green from the peppers.
On the other hand a commercial ketchup is this weird dark red color that didn’t come from nature but from a chemist’s imagination. And commercial pickle relish is even worse, an homogeneous off green with a few flecks of carefully colored red pepper.
And the difference in taste is even more dramatic than the colors. The homemade stuff is fresh and bright, tart and sweet and spicy, and bursting with fresh vegetable taste. The commercial stuff? In comparison it’s heavy and cloying and way, way too sweet.
Well, I don’t want to get all preachy here. It’s just ketchup. After I canned tomatoes last week I was talking with my Mom. I remembered her telling me that her Mom, my Grandma Farris, canned 1000 jars of food a year. After I had canned 80 jars of tomatoes I thought that had to be hyperbole.
“No,” Mom said, that was right. A 1000 jars a year. Mom said her job was to clean the jars as she was one of the youngest of her 10 siblings and had the smallest hands.
Then she went on to say, “there was no running water of course.” Every drop of water had to be pumped by hand outside and carried into the house and heated on the stove.
One of the onerous parts of canning is all the cleanup.
This is 3rd batch of dishes I’ve done today. Now I’ve been doing more than just the few pints of food above, but still. I can’t imagine carrying all the water in to clean these dishes and heating it on the stove.
My rambling point is that I’ll never criticize anyone for buying a bottle of store-bought ketchup. I’m just a dilettante playing at preserving food in the comfort of my air-conditioned house with hot and cold running water.
My Grandma Farris was old and sick by the time I was old enough to remember her. I never really knew her. What I wouldn’t give to sit with her now and ask, “how did you do it?”
1. That only leaves me about 55 pounds of tomatoes to figure out what to do with. What was I thinking! Actually I’m going to make it into paste. 15 pounds of tomatoes makes just a couple cups of paste.
2. But as a corn grower I hope people keep gobbling up that high fructose corn syrup!