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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm scared of my tomato plant. Green Tomato Ketchup-Catsup. Whatever.

 Scared yes. Did you ever see the movie "The Ruins?" I'm going to wake up one morning and the damned thing is going to be eating my legs.
 I started two plants from seeds in January. Usually I don't have much luck here in Phoenix with tomato. Our spring goes from mild to radioactive within 30 days. Not this year.
 We've had a long- long cool, wet spring. The plants got beyond huge. They grew over their cages and now drape over all sides cascading with fruit.
 Disaster. About 2 weeks before Memorial Day we had a crazy rain and wind storm that blew over one of my cages and broke one plant off at the stem. I had all this unripe fruit of different sizes in danger of going to waste. Most unsuitable for fried green tomato simply because it was too small. What could I do to rescue them??? Good friggin' question. 
 Luckily I'm me and had some old cookbooks that provided answers. "Joy of Cooking" from 1960 and "Betty Crocker" from 1962. Back when cookbooks were written by and for  home-cooks not by stupid celebrities for rich folks' coffee tables. 
 The art of preserving is not dead. Heck, I found everything I needed in my neighborhood store. Bet you can too. Stupid easy. Just takes some time and effort. 


Mise en place: All about ratios. 

 I love my deep cast-iron pot. I know you love yours too. Do not do not use it for cooking the tomatoes. Why? It's composition will react to the acids we're playing with and create a bitter mass of yuck. Use a stainless steel, porcelain or enamel pot. 

I used about 5 pounds of green tomatoes so...
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 jalapeno peppers de-stemmed,  including seeds. Entirely optional.
1 cup of Kosher salt
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 TB pickling spice* more about this later
a square of cheese-cloth

 White Vinegar and Cider Vinegar. I used half and half of each

4 jars. Ball Mason is a great brand. The lids have a fool-proof dimple that lets you know when it's sealed. 
Food processor 
1 big pot, big enough to hold jars and lids
1 large pot for cooking
Wire strainer. 

OK, put all your jars and lids in a big pot. Cover over 2 inches with water and put it over high heat. We need to sterilize them. Bring to boil, let it simmer, let it go for 30 minutes. Leave them in water until we're ready. 

 Slice your green tomatoes thick. 

See? like I said, all different sizes

 Put tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and jalapeno peppers in a large pot. Add vinegar until just covered. Add pickling spice tied in cheese-cloth. Bring ALMOST to a boil (but don't boil them) then turn down your heat to LOW. Let this steep for 4 hours. 

  O WAIT. We need some words here. 

 *PICKLING SPICE. No, you don't have to make this from your own spice supply. It's available commercially. It usually includes allspice, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, coriander, mustard seeds, dill seeds and peppercorns. Whole or crumbled. 

 Gather some (2TB) into a square of cheesecloth. Tie up into a sack. 
oo look it's my handy-pandy

 Look for a transparency in the tomatoes and onions.

 Once you've achieved that. Remove sack of picking spice. Pour out carefully any remaining liquid, reserve one cup just in case. 

 I love my food-processor. My Mom and Dad gave it to me for Christmas years ago, I use it almost every week. 

 Using the grinding blades. Work a ladle full at a time and grind your mess until smooth. you cannot fuck this up. If it seems too thick; it won't but just in case it does, add a little of your reserved liquid. 
  Remove to a large bowl. Here comes the bitch part. We need to strain this out to remove any skins and seeds. CHINOIS time. 
Place your wire strainer over your now-empty pot that you cooked everything in. By ladle full start straining your mess. Use a spatula and PRESS. 

sorta done

what you removed

  OK, so the bitch part is really a bitch but now you've got a smooth product back in your pot right? RIGHT? 
 Put your pot back over medium heat and add the brown sugar. 

 Stir until sugar dissolves. 
Now it's time to jar up your mess. 
 Remove one jar at a time and ladle the ketchup (catsup) while hot. Screw on lid. 

Place jars with lid back into hot water (off heat) for 5 minutes. Remove and let sit somewhere outside of drafts until the dimple on top the lids is completely depressed. 
 You're done. 

The rose was from one of my neighbors. The note says "thanks for all the tomatoes"

Store it at room temperature or if you insist, in the fridge until needed. Use it just as you would regular commercial ketchup (catsup). I had it with my Birthday steak, butter-roasted mushrooms with tater-tots. That's right, I love tater-tots. The only processed food you're ever likely to see me eat. 
And O yes, it was my Birthday this week. 

Why yes, there IS a candle on my steak. 
 Now with love. Go get your grub on. CIAO.

here's some pics of the very coolest present I got. Thank you Maggie Mom. 

awww you think THAT'S COOL? wait for it....

To Nick with warmest wishes on your birthday. Maggie Mom rules. I love you. 

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