Friday, October 17, 2008
Catsup, Carla and Me
I harbor a secret desire to homestead. I'm not a survivalist, but I'm drawn, at least conceptually, to the prospect of producing my own food. Not just jams and jellies or the odd jar of tomatoes, I'd like to be responsible for everything that makes it to my table for a year or so. Carla Emery, a leader in the modern homesteading movement, once categorized me as an urban homesteader. It was a fair assessment, not a shot. I'd excel my first year on a homestead, but I'm not temperamentally suited to the daily grind and "same ole, same ole" of a longer commitment. I know I'd eventually need a larger canvas on which to paint my dreams. Carla saw that, too. A recipe brought Carla and I together and we corresponded until her sudden death a few years ago. Her first version of The Encyclopedia of Country Living was a mimeographed affair and chapters were mailed to subscribers as they were completed. The book ultimately went through nine printings and Carla, whose down to earth mien and quick intelligence made her a natural, became a television personality. The early version of her book contained a catsup recipe that was simpler than any I'd seen before; unpeeled tomatoes, onions and peppers were pureed, baked for hours and then processed in a hot water bath. It was wonderful, but I mistakenly trashed the recipe during a bout of overzealous cleaning. It did not appear in later versions of the book so I began my search for Carla and her recipe. Once I found her we'd talk five or six times a year. I remember how touched she was when I recounted how my oldest daughter, sans my input, had found her book and enjoyed it as much as I had years before. I made catsup last week and want to share Carla's recipe with you. If you're tempted to farm or homestead Carla's encyclopedia will help smooth the way. If you're given to bouts of the Walton syndrome (i.e. a yearning for a simpler life) Carla's book will cure your romantic notions. Shortly before her death Carla wrote down how she wanted to be remembered. "She was responsible. She loved a job. She loved being a wife, a mother, and a writer. She worked hard and did her best." Blessings, Carla. Rest well.
8 pounds Roma tomatoes
2 large red bell peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
2 large green bell peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons allspice
3 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Hot pepper flakes to taste
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2) Wash and quarter tomatoes. Using a blender and working in batches, puree tomatoes, red and green peppers, onions with vinegar.
3) Pour into a large, shallow roaster. Add sugar, salt, allspice, mustard, cloves and pepper flakes to taste. Mix well.
4) Bake uncovered for 4 to 6 hours, or until mixture is reduced by half.
5) While catsup cooks, sterilize 6 pint jars, rings and seals. Set aside.
6) Pour catsup into jars, adjust lids and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Yield: 6 pints.