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.

Carla's Catsup

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.


Martha said...

I've never made catsup -- you may have just inspired me to do so.


Prudy said...

I used to make homemade catsup. I too have romantic notions about getting away from it all. And yet, I think I'd only be able to do it for a while and then, like you said, would want to move along to something else. What is the name of this book? Did I miss it in the post?

Mary Bergfeld said...

Sorry, Prudy. I've been playing with the photos. They didn't center properly and need big time attention.I've included a link to the book which is called "The Encyclopedia of Country Living'

Jersey Girl Cooks said...

This is great! I wish I would can but i am afraid to.

Anonymous said...

I tried to make catsup once. Turned it to a truly messy venture. This recipe looks much more doable. By the way, I have the exact same countertops as you. Have a great weekend.

Jenny said...

What a great post! I've never attempted my own catsup, but your post is inspiring! Looks and sounds great!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I thinnk I would love to move away from civilization and raise my own everything, but I bet I wouldn't last long. It's fascinating, though.

I've never thought of making my own catsup, but this recipe sounds doable.

Melissa and Zack said...

Mom, is this THE catsup I always fantasize about having again?

Mary Bergfeld said...

Indeed it is baby girl. There'll be a jar in your Christmas basket.

Allie said...

Haven't attempted to make my own yet, but might need to give this a try.

Crystal's Designs said...

I used to have Carla's early edition book, it was held together by 3 big rings, there was no binder. I learned how to make catsup with her recipe. Somehow I lost my copy of her book in one of several moves, and I have missed it so!! Thank you so very much for posting her recipe, this one is getting copied into everything!!

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