We are knee deep in the tomato-growing season. I dare say almost at the end, really.
I called Mommy and asked her if she wanted to go running around a little. Her answer, no matter what she’s doing is always the same. “Yeah, just give me a minute to finish this and I’ll be ready.” I don’t think I’ve ever called her and she wasn’t elbow deep in some cleaning project she needed to finish up. So that’s knee deep and elbow deep, I believe I’ve used all the body part adjectives to describe what my morning has been like.
The only thing different about today than other days is I’m not elbow deep in bread dough. Not today. No, I’m going to go running around with Mom and we are going to catch up since we haven’t seen each other for at least four days. I picked her up at her house and we went immediately to the tomato patch to pick up a few boxes of tomatoes. I can tomatoes - or “put away” tomatoes, as Granny always said - for both of us. We had our usual conversation about the excitement we both shared when we talked about how winter chili and goulash were not the same unless we had fresh canned tomatoes. We have become a little bit persnickety since we both agree it just doesn’t have the same fresh tomato flavor using anything store bought as our quart jars of slightly processed tomatoes.
Even though my goals for this year’s winter canning are grand and come with declarations of at least 40 jars a piece, I do not neglect my love for fresh salsa. I always pick out a few red ripened tomatoes and even grab a few pints of cherry or grape tomatoes to make some salsa. This is more than a tradition; it has become our legacy. I know my sons are hooked on the fresh tomato laden chili I make in the winter and Chayton will drop everything when I tell him I’ve made a fresh quart of salsa. Years after I’m gone, they’ll say, “Boy, I wish I had some of that salsa Mom used to make.”
I love this harvest time and look forward to storing the bounty of the vegetables we watched grow from the ground. It’s the food life cycle that cannot possibly come full circle until you’ve canned or “put away” the excess to prepare for a dark and dreary winter. Hearing the seal give up its gasp when you unscrew the lid of the quart jar is the sound of a year well-spent preparing and working the land.
It screams thankfulness and smells like a summer stroll in the garden.
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup cilantro
1/2 sweet bell pepper
1 cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion
Juice of two limes
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the cilantro.
Once mixed to a chunky or smooth consistency, add in the cilantro and pulse the processor until it’s slightly chopped.
Serve with chips, vegetables or over a salad.
Janet McCormick is the author of “10-Minute Meals” and owner of Let’s Eat in Huntington. She lives in Lawrence County, Ohio. She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.