A Bushel a Day

       By: Bonita Anderson
Posted: 2006-11-09 00:06:37
Growing a vegetable garden has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. It was an essential part of survival for my ancestors. How well we ate during the winter months depended on how much the garden produced. Root vegetables were generally stored in the root cellar. Years ago every family had one. The vegetables that did not keep well were processed in glass jars. Tomatoes fit that category.The year was 1976, I had spent much of the winter planning what I would plant in my garden. Some things I started from seed in the house. Tomatoes were a priority as I used them frequently. I would start more plants from seed than I was going to need as quite a few would die before it was time to put them in the garden. I usually liked to plant 2-dozen plants, so I started 50 from seed. I expected at least half would not make it to the garden so I could be assured of 24 tomato plants.Six weeks went by and I had only lost 5 plants, but I was certain a lot more would die off. No such luck. I had 45 healthy, strong tomato plants. I managed to give some away so I only planted 36. For reasons unknown the garden did exceptionally well that year, especially the tomatoes. I canned plain tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and tomato juice. I even made tomato jam for myself. There was no end to those tomatoes. For many weeks I picked almost a bushel a day. I was running out of things to do with tomatoes so I decided to try tomato soup. This how I make it.I cut up about 15-quarts of tomatoes, skin and all, a whole stalk of celery, 8 onions, a handful of parsley and a few bay leaves. I put all of those ingredients into a large enamel pot and cook it until the celery is tender. I stir it occasionally so it will not burn. When cooked I run it through a sieve or potato ricer. I then measure to see how many quarts I have. There should be 7-8-quarts. I add 3-tablespoons salt, 8-tablespoons sugar and 2-teaspoons pepper. Bring to a boil. For each quart of soup I measured, I use 2-tablespoons butter and 2-tablespoons flour for a paste. Thin it out with a little soup and add that to the pot. Bring the soup back to a boil, stirring so it does not burn. Then put it through a sieve again to remove any lumps. I pour it into my jars and process in a water bath for 15-minutes.This soup has the store bought stuff beat by a mile. I ended up with 28-quarts that year and it did not last through the winter. It is now one of the first things I make with tomatoes.
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