August 18, 2010
I’m at my friend Jan’s house just north of Topeka, Kansas. It’s a beautiful place that was her parent’s farm. This is our annual August “make tomato soup and salsa and can it for the year” project. It’s a wonderful time for me, getting back to my roots. I feel as if I’ve gone home.
Jan has a good-sized garden with tomatoes and peppers along with the okra for her husband Warren. It’s a short walk from the house to the garden. The humid Kansas air moves in a slight breeze and the sun warms the face as you go to pick tomatoes. It’s hard work, bending and picking all that fruit. There are some rotten tomatoes – ick – and bugs and tomato worms. Still, it’s satisfying.
We also go to the local farmer’s market to supplement our tomatoes and other veggies. It’s fun to walk along the stalls checking out the fresh produce, bargaining with the growers for “canners” – those tomatoes that are dead ripe and need to be used immediately. There are dozens of shoppers, some coming on their lunch hour to buy just a few items. We carry away quantities of tomatoes. There’s also local honey, fresh-baked breads and even jewelry. The energy is good.
Back in the kitchen, we blanch and peel and chop and cook. Tomatoes, peppers, celery and onions combine in a heavenly scent. It takes half the day to make the soup and the other half to can it. Steam rises from pots on the stove. Feet begin to ache. We canned 28 pints of soup and about 24 pints of salsa. It took four days. Now the pantry shelves are full and we are ready for another year!
In the photo Jan is wearing her purple custom hand-dyed T-shirt, from the DyeSmithy of course. She loves purple.