"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

August 30, 2011

Homemade Catsup

I have been canning like a crazy woman. I've always canned a slew of fruits and vegetables each year since we've been married, or a few items, but never to this extent. It's almost as if an instinct for provision has kicked in: line your shelves, stuff your freezers, feed your young, winter's coming. It makes me think of a passage from one of my favorite Anne Sexton poems, "I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods..." 

I'm just here filling our cave.

The fruits of our labor: 80 plus jars of various things and 12 hours later...
So busy, I forgot: yesterday was
 Farmwife Monday. Here she is!
I haven't done a cost analysis of this process and I don't dare. I'm already an expert sale shopper and it's likely I'd save more that way for most products. But here's the thing about putting your own food by: you know what's in it, it's (usually) locally grown or right from your own garden, you will have to shop less in winter months, you can hunker in for a while if necessary. Besides, it is immensely therapeutic whether solo or with a friend or family member. The process is its own reward.

The makings of ketchup  simmering in a big old kettle on the stove.
This is a catsup recipe I've made now in two batches. The first was not quite as thick so I wanted to tweak it the second time before posting. You may just never buy bottled ketchup again (or 'catsup': it's how my grandparents would have spelled it.)

Homemade Ketchup
  • 8 quarts tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. pickling spice
  • 4 cups sugar (I used 2-3 cups)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground clove (you could also use allspice or ginger)
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 24 Tbsp. Perm-Flo**
  • 2-3 cups vinegar

Cook together the first nine ingredients for 1 hour, uncovered, in a large kettle. Press through colander or Foley Food Mill (the Victorio Food Strainer works like a charm, too, and I'm finally overcoming my fear of all of those parts). 

Return mixture to kettle and bring to a boil. Add the Perm-Flo to vinegar, stir, Add slowly to hot mixture while stirring. It will start to thicken almost immediately. Boil 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into hot, sterilized pint or quart jars and boil sealed jars in hot water canner for 15 minutes [I time it for 15 minutes at the boil; then I turn off the kettle and let it rest, covered, for 15 more minutes. This avoids pressure release of the hot juice. If the mixture has cooled you need to pack it in hot sterilized jars but put jars in cold water and bring them to a boil to avoid breakage.]

Oh, and here's the best part: I got 14 pints of nice, fairly thick catsuppy goodness out of this recipe. I also made another batch before this last week that is not quite as thick but that will be great in meatloaf, chili or whatever.

**Or 10 Tbsp. Clear Jell. I used that in my salsa last year and it gives a somewhat chalky taste. Perm-Flo does not and it also works well when canning and freezing. Both are corn starch products and natural thickeners. Surprisingly there isn't much on-line about these products. I get them at our local Old Order Mennonite bulk foods store, Sunny Valley Country Store in Liberty, Kentucky. 

Actually from a 1950s ad for aluminum. But yeah, she can make it,  too.
The above recipe was modified from one found in the Community Collection Cookbook published by the Evona Volunteer Fire Department in Casey County, Kentucky. It is attributed to Mrs. Aaron N. Hoover.

You come back when you're ready!


More from the Chickabiddy Canning Kitchen: I love this website: Canning Across America. Canning has become this cool foodie thing, not that it ever died out, really, in rural areas. But it is a great thing to be doing and promoting, even more self-sustaining and benevolent than knitting. But I figure the more I put up now, the more I can knit, read and write in the winter. Right?

August 27, 2011

Louis Bromfield's "Vegetable Compound"

"Vegetable Compound" on the left and straight tomato juice on the right.
It was the agrarian and back-to-the-land writings of Louis Bromfield put into practice at his Malabar Farm outside of Mansfield, Ohio that prompted my grandparents to flee the New Jersey suburbs in post-war 1946 to a farm in New Hampshire. His writings, such as Pleasant Valley, have likewise inspired us and we've made a few pilgrimages to Malabar Farm over the years.

Louis Bromfield at his famous farmstand at Malabar Farm [Mansfield Tourism].

In a recent browse through some favorite cookbooks I came upon this recipe for his famous "Dr. Bromfield's Special Vegetable Compound and Celery Tonic" in Heartland–The Best of the Old and The New from Midwest Kitchens, one of several cookbooks by Marcia Adams [Clarkson Potter: 1991]. She was one of the second wave of television foodies, at the end of Julia's era, in the late 1980s with her PBS show, Cooking from Quilt Country, among others. I never saw it back in the day but would have enjoyed it. I have all of her cookbooks and they are beautifully photographed with excellent Midwestern fare and food history. [Sadly, in looking for her website I found her obituary.]

I liked that we didn't have to peel the tomatoes, first! Just chop and simmer.

The only thing I did differently was to add some spare lettuce leaves that I had kicking around the fridge (as well as the spinach). And, I doubled the recipe and got about 12 quarts. A Victorio® Food Strainer is ideal for making tomato juice, sauce, catsup and other things: we will use the special pumpkin attachment to do butternut squash and pumpkin puree in October. You could use a Foley® Food Mill but it would take much longer. My chickens enjoy all of the waste, which is minimal, that is forced out when you turn the crank.

The pure tomato juice was made with a lot of flavorful heirloom tomatoes.

We also made basic tomato juice by boiling down the tomatoes and putting them through the strainer. My husband had requested it. However, I'm fairly certain he will want me to put more of this special juice up next year. At the very least I think he'll appreciate a Bloody Mary made with it!

I made this juice with the following local ingredients, too: tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and my own Italian parsley. That was gratifying in itself!

Louis Bromfield's Tomato Juice (aka "V-9")

  • 1 peck tomatoes (about 17 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch celery (tops and all)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium onions
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 green or red bell peppers
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach (and I added lettuce, too)
  • 1 large bunch fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsps. mustard seed
  • 2 Tbsps. sugar
  • 2 Tbsps. salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used a few shakes of Tabasco and also added fresh ground pepper)
Wash, core and chop the tomatoes very coarsely. Clean and coarsely chop the rest of the vegetables. Divide all the vegetables and remaining ingredients between two large, deep kettles (this is especially important if you double it). The recipes says it makes about 4-5 quarts but I got 13 when I doubled it.

You press the softened mixture through the strainer and it separates the good stuff from the chaff.

Cover and bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely softened. Stir once or twice, if needed. Let stand until just cool enough to handle, but still very hot. Force the mixture through a sieve or food mill then return the juice to the kettles and reheat if necessary.

Pour the hot juice into hot pint or quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal and process in a hot-water bath for 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. [I did this for 15 minutes only at a boil, then another 15 minutes sitting in the hot water with the lid on; it may be that with the added low-acid vegetables the cookbook writers were advised to err on the side of caution––after all, I was canning with my Mennonite friend Anna who has been doing this all of her life.

Remove jars to a towel-covered rack to cool; store in a dark place.

You come back when you're ready! 


August 23, 2011


So I missed 'Farmwife Monday' this week––that's OK, I never seem to keep any routine so she may be more of an occasional addition. I have included some vintage images of women canning here today so they can fill the void. I've also been canning like crazy. I've got the fever after six full and part days spent canning and freezing. So much so that I have vertigo today and I'm taking a needed break and puttering with some paperwork and blogging. [Ha! Or maybe my body was just sensing the oncoming 5.8 earthquake in Virginia today––even though we did not feel it here in south-central Kentucky.]

I enjoy sorting and inventorying things and I love to make lists even more. I see this blog as an expression to the world as much as it is a scrapbook of our lives here on the farm. So I will be referring back to my canning list, below, on occasion to update it with amounts and other information I wish to record from year to year. You are welcome to check, too. In the coming days I will be posting about specific recipes and techniques that I have learned or shared with my friend Anna.

Canning can be a hard, but gratifying job, and always with a positive outcome. Writing does not have quite the same reward for me unless I've posted a blog or published an article (and holding my book, The Pantry, for the first time was almost as amazing as holding each of my children after they were born). When work does not produce tangible results it can be harder to justify and more nebulous. However, an array of canning jars with different creations in them, whether cooling on the table or sitting on the shelf of your pantry or cupboard––now that's a job well done. Creating something you can hold, feel, use or eat, there's just something quite remarkable about it.

This is my 'to do' list for the rest of the season. I have a friend here in Kentucky who calls it a food psychosis, food obsession or food hoarding, depending on the day. She has it and I suppose that I do, too. Another friend in New Hampshire has stocked her cellar full of grains and beans and other things for her family. Providing good nourishing food for one's family is a good thing to be obsessed about, I suppose. I don't want to go to the store much this winter if I can help it, for many reasons: budget, gas prices, not wanting to buy produce that isn't local if we can help it, and often bad roads. And, I'm a squirrel that likes to hibernate in her nest. [I do need to state here that I am not this bad, yet: this recent episode was the worst case of hoarding that I've seen on the program Hoarders to date.]

My goal is to better plan our meals for the week in advance, perhaps on Sundays, so to free me up more for other things, like writing. Our canned food stores will also supplement our freezers full of our own beef, pork, chicken, sale items from various places, and our own fresh eggs. If we lose power for several weeks because of an ice storm and our freezers thaw (which has happened here on the ridge in the past), we have plenty to share with the neighbors. We have food to use up now and there's no reason to shop unless for something unusual or something I need for a recipe. Putting food by is also something we can all do together on occasion and there is comfort in that, too: just like when we all put up cords of wood in the woodshed together. It's also a kind of therapy for me: working with my hands and lining those shelves with jars and jars of foodstuffs.

All of this produce is from local produce, with the exception of 'Baby Gold' peaches that I've ordered from Pennsylvania and Concord grapes from New York state. I will come back and periodically check my list off and add quantities––as if I put them on a slip of paper, it will likely get lost or shoved into a cookbook:

I'm not sure the origin of this image but believe it is from a current illustrator.

Canning/Freezing √Done and 'To Do' List:

    • Strawberry Jam                          
      • 20 pints/half-pints: May
    • Strawberries, freezer                    
      • 24 quarts: May
    • Corn, freezer                                
      • 16 quarts: 8-17
      • 15 quarts: 8-26
    • Tomatoes, whole Roma               
      • 45 quarts: 8-18
    • √Tomatoes, quartered
      • 9 quarts: 8-29
    • √Tomato Catsup                           
      • 12 pints: 8-18
      • 14 pints: 8-29
    • Tomato Juice                              
      • 35 quarts: 8-19
      • 24 quarts: 8-29
    • √"V-9" Juice                                 
      • 13 quarts:  8-26
    • √Cream of Tomato Soup
      • 25+ pints: 8-29
    • √Bread and Butter Pickles              
      • 25 pints: 8-26
    • √Chunk Sweet Pickles                    
      • 14 pints: 8-20
    • √Mixed Sweet Peppers, freezer      
      • 12 quarts: 8-21
    • Stuffed Peppers, freezer              
      • 20 peppers: " "
    • √Zucchini Relish
      • 13 pints: 8-29 
    • 9-day Gherkin Pickles
    • Banana Peppers
    • Mexican Peppers
    • Nectarine Jam
    • Pickled Beets
    • Beets, freezer (if possible)
    • Peaches
    • Peach Butter
    • Peach Jam
    • Sauerkraut
    • Grape Juice
    • Grape Jam
    • Apple Butter
    • Applesauce
    • Pumpkin
    • Butternut Squash, freezer (pre-seasoned)
And anything else that might become available to can or freeze or pickle or preserve!

You come back when you're ready!


August 21, 2011

The Ponds Put Up Some Pecks of Peppers

Since our boys started back at school last Wednesday, August 17th, it has been a nonstop can-a-thon around here: "Incredible" corn for the freezer at our friends Melvin and Anna's farm on Wednesday (a five person job); canned tomatoes here on Thursday; and tomato juice and "V-9" juice here on Friday, as well as the start of three kinds of pickles (Bread and Butter, Chunk and 9-day gherkins). But more on all of that in future blog posts (including recipes).

My husband and Melvin, left, load our auction wins onto a palette
while our boys wait to pull it. [One of the auctioneer's sons helped.]

We made time after school on Thursday afternoon to go to the Casey County Produce Auction at 5pm. You never know what you will find or what price you might get. Of course, as a grower you want the bidding to go high; as a buyer you want to pay a fair price but you also want a good deal.

Twenty peppers await stuffing for winter meals from the freezer.
I ended up with six pecks of locally grown peppers–red, yellow, orange and green–for the unbelievable price of $2 a peck! There was a lot of 12, or you could take six for the money. I thought twelve too much, even though 12 pecks (or three bushels = 24 gallons) of local sweet peppers would have been only $24 (I realized later I could have made more stuffed peppers or given a few boxes to friends). As often happens at produce auctions, when the second lot of six was offered after my bid, those pecks went a bit higher.

Henry and Eli were amused that the last time I made stuffed peppers
was when I was pregnant with Henry and made dozens of them for the freezer.

I also purchased a combined lot of five pecks of varying sizes of cucumbers (or "pickles" as they say here) and one peck of small-medium zucchini. As our friends Melvin and Anna Hurst had grown them and put them out, and because I had saved so much on the peppers, it wasn't hard for me to go as high as $8 a peck, which is still a bargain. It has been plenty for pickling and I still have one more peck to pickle, and will also be making zucchini relish tomorrow. And, finally, we got several more flats of tomatoes to make juice, after having gone earlier in the week when I got some hard-to-find Romas for canning and catsup.

Seed removal is the hardest part.
Anna has been a huge help, especially with the initial push on those tomatoes and pickles. Now I'm going to do things in smaller doses although we plan to do some pumpkins and butternut squash together in a month or so. Let me just say that this woman can cook, clean, can and quilt circles around me. She can multi-task better than anyone I've ever met. It is good to have a friend working alongside who is better at focusing on a task than I am. And it helps to pass the time and monotony––as with any task there can be a Zen-like rhythm, too. It's also a kind of therapy!

We sang crazy made-up arias while chopping and I also cranked Beck's "Guero" CD.

This afternoon my boys asked to help me with the pepper production and I was glad to let them––delegating or asking for assistance with anything is not my strong suit but it is so rewarding to be able to allow one to help, especially my children. We had a blast working together–a nice treat for me as they are often helping Dad on the farm (you know, more fun 'boy stuff' like driving tractors and haying). I was impressed by their willingness to help and their desire to spend time with their "Mama Goo."

My fat little German hands
are not as agile as I'd like them to be!
Yes, canning season is now in high gear at the Pond household. And now that I am started there may be no stopping...it's the squirrelly nester and pantry girl in me.

You come back when you're ready!


Three kinds of sliced peppers:
For stews and roasts;

and, best of all, for fajitas!
For casseroles and Mexican dishes;

August 16, 2011

What Makes It Cottage: Random Flowers

A painted magazine or sewing caddy, c. 1930s, was a great find in a shop. 
My English porcelain flower collection is inspired by
admiring them on night stands at my grandmother's house in Ohio.
A painted medallion
on our guest room beds,
once my grandparents'.

A breakfast-in-bed set that my father gave me long ago (it was his grandmother's).
It includes a plate, bowl, lid/cover, small plate, coffee pot, milk pitcher and egg cup.
The cover to the porridge dish.
A coffee or teapot for one.

Another antique shop find: a cake tin, with geraniums on top.
The first African violets
that have thrived in my care––
A gift from a friend this spring
in a green McCoy pot.
A print of a morning glory from our old house.

I've had this painted bottle of violet perfume forever––it came from England.
I just purchased these painted vanity jars in Ohio as they reminded me of
the jars, with floral motifs, that my grandmother used to have in Ohio.
I was also delighted to find the label from The Halle Bros. on the bottom of one!
[I know that she shopped at this former Ohio dept. store for housewares and linens.]

A c. 1930s painted laundry hamper, also has
a matching wastebasket and tissue holder.
These came from my grandparents' Ohio house.

A gift from my father many years ago:
a small yellow ware cookie jar,
possibly made by Robinson Clay Products,
once a family company in Akron, Ohio.
A recent pitcher purchase, probably
from an Ohio pottery, c. mid-20th century.
In mint condition, it was under $30–
the kind of find that makes the hunt worthwhile!

I love my spice grinder with its floral decal, picked up for less than $10.
An unused nasturtium tinware match holder.
The price still on it!
[This was an eBay find.]
A nasturtium bread box in the same pattern (I also have canisters),
from a flea  market. I'm guessing this pattern is from the 1940s: it also came in yellow.

A sampler that was given to me by
the former owner of the cottage. It hangs
in my laundry room and I just love it.
A morning glory tin canister holds soap.

Two of the many pitchers in my pitcher collection, all from Ohio potteries,  early-mid 20th century.

Old novels with flowers in the title are fun and decorative.

A German dessert plate with jonquils
from my husband's family.
You come back when you're ready! 


We left the floral wallpaper in the parlor
from the former owner's tenure.