The taste of summer

October 3, 2014

This half-bushel turned into tomato relish.

This half-bushel turned into tomato relish.

By my count, I’ve put up about two and a half, maybe three, bushels of tomatoes this summer.

I have tomato soup, marinara sauce, chili base, tomato relish, and just plain tomatoes (for when I’m doing red beans and rice or bean soup or vegetable soup or such stuff). I have frozen oven-dried tomatoes. I ought not to have to buy a canned tomato all winter.

And they all taste like summer.

Relish getting ready to cook.

Relish getting ready to cook.

My tomato soup is a take-off on one I found in the Pioneer Woman blog a while back. If you’re going to make it just for dinner tonight, with a p’minna cheese sandwich (I ALWAYS have the homemade version of that in my fridge), here’s how:

  • 1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, or a pint of the home-canned variety, or two or three fresh ones
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 or three cloves of garlic, diced (or a spoonful of the garlic confit you keep in the fridge, if you’re me)
  • about 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream (or 2 percent milk if you’re counting calories or fat grams), or 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

Saute the onion in a sauce pan in the oil until tender and translucent; add the garlic and saute for another two minutes. Add the wine and cook until the raw alcohol smell is gone. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice,and basil, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Puree with immersion blender (or in your big blender if you want a smoother texture) and return to saucepan; add cream and heat just to boiling. Serve immediately.

When I’m canning this, I leave out the cream, and add it when I’m ready to warm it for serving. Add some more herbs and spices and additional cream and some parmigiano, and it makes a lovely pink sauce for pasta.

I don’t salt and pepper it because I love the summery sweetness of the tomatoes. Your mileage may vary. You may want to add thyme or oregano or any other herb; have at it. All I add is some grated parmigiano on top, if I’m ambitious. And a pimiento cheese sandwich.

Tomato relish is another throwback to my childhood. Mama used to make a relish she called “ripe tomato pickle.” As opposed to green tomato pickle. We ate it on purple hulled peas and on pinto beans and with fried potatoes. I purely loved it.

And I didn’t have the recipe. I knew it had onion and yellow banana pepper in it, as well as vinegar and sugar. I experimented around until I got it just pretty doggoned close to the way Mama made it. I started with a recipe from and adjusted a couple of the proportions.

  • 1/2 bushel tomatoes, peeled and cut up
    6 lg. onions, chopped
    8 lg. banana peppers, chopped
    1 hot pepper
    1/2 box pickling spice
    2 c. vinegar
    2 c. sugar
    3 tbsp. salt

Peel, chop and drain the tomatoes. Dice the onions; seed and chop the peppers. Tie the pickling spice up in a piece of cheesecloth (or put it in a tea ball) and add. Add the vinegar, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for three or four hours, until thick.  Remove the spice bag. Can in pint jars, processing for 20 minutes in a water-bath canner.

I love to add this stuff to any mayo-based dressing, like for potato salad, too. Adds a zing that you can’t really identify, but it’s good.

Marinara sauce and chili base are time-savers. I start out with a bushel of tomatoes, about six big onions, and a cup of garlic confit (or a couple of heads of regular garlic). I saute the onion in some olive oil, add the garlic confit and the tomatoes; I let it cook a while and separate it into two pots. The marinara gets chopped basil, thyme, oregano, a stick of butter,  and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. The chili base gets chili powder, cumin, seasoned salt, ancho chile powder, and cayenne. They all get simmered for a while (the chili base longer than the marinara) canned in pint jars. If you have a big family, you may want to can in quarts; I’m generally cooking just for myself or myself and Child A, and if I’ve got a bigger group than that, I can open two of ’em.

A pint of chili base, a can of pinto beans, a pound of hamburger  and a bottle of beer makes a quick pot of chili. I love to put the marinara in the crock pot and simmer meatballs in it, or I may use it in lasagna or some other pasta prep.

I’m about half proud of myself over all my tomatoes. (I guess I’d be prouder if I grew them, but let’s don’t overdo this Suzy Homemaker thing.) And now, I’m about to make some vegetable soup with the leftovers from my locally-raised pot roast, with some of my corn from the freezer and green beans from the canned stuff shelf. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come on over and eat this weekend.




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