We’re headed for cold weather. I don’t claim it’s here just yet but the cool (borderline frigid) mornings, shorter days, and turning leaves don’t leave us much hope for more really warm days for months to come. The squirrels are scurrying around hoarding nuts to get through winter. I’m thinking about putting my flip flops away until it’s warm again — just thinking.
This is the time when serious cooks, or those with lots of mouths to feed, set aside time on the weekends to cook in big batches. We cook, therefore we freeze. Anything worth cooking and eating is worth freezing in meal size batches.
The sweet summer tomatoes that we’re getting tired of because there are so many right now will taste amazing along about the end of January in soups and casseroles or all by themselves stewed as a side dish. When we thaw them to use later, they may be watery but the flavor’s there, just as it was at the end of August when we picked them ripe and ate them an hour later.
Zucchini, that most prolific of squash, can be used in almost anything edible. It can be shredded to blend right in with almost anything. You get lots of fiber and nutrients, as long as nobody’s picky about the occasional green speck. Zucchini bread freezes like a dream, and only gets better with age.
Squash casseroles are good throughout the colder months. (Aunt Mary always took one to any family get-together. We’d roll our eyes, then proceed to eat every last crumb.) How can anything that’s creamy and topped with crumbled Ritz crackers and shredded sharp cheddar cheese be bad?
Kept in a cool, dark place potatoes and onions will keep for months and be good all winter long. Remember grandmother’s root cellar? My grandmother Clark’s version of a root cellar was her pantry, unheated on purpose, accessed by a door off the kitchen, and cool all winter long. Shelves of canned vegetables, homemade ketchup in jars, strawberry and blackberry preserves and bread and butter pickles lined one long wall. Half bushel baskets of potatoes and onions were at the end. Odds and ends of dry goods took up another shelf. We thought of it as a treasure trove, and I guess it was.
Grandmother’s homemade ketchup was better than anything brought home from a grocery store, in a bottle with a mass produced label. As children, we wanted grandmother’s ketchup on everything. I still would, if I had the time to make it.
Ketchup takes most of a day to make. It’s a lot of work and messes up nearly every bowl and large pot in the kitchen. You have to store the jars once they’re processed. And nothing was ever more worth it,
Use up some of the last of the tomatoes and peppers this way and you’ll be glad all winter long.
GRANDMOTHER CLARK’S RIPE TOMATO KETCHUP
1 gallon ripe tomatoes
6 medium onions
6 large apples
1 quart vinegar
1 quart brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon mustard
1 small pod red hot pepper
1 green sweet pepper
1 red sweet pepper
Cook 4 hours after mixing all together in a large pot. After cooking run through food saver (strainer).
Store in the refrigerator or process in a canner and store in pint jars in a cool, dark place.
Makes about 12 pints.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.