Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homemade Canned Tomato Soup

October is my favorite time of year to can. The house can be chilly, so the canning heat is welcome.  The children are at school and while I would probably get them to help me otherwise, it's also so luxurious to focus solely on my project in a quiet house by myself.



Plus, the farmers have lots of produce yet and no one else seems to want it, so they practically give it to me.  See this sinkful of organic, local, seconds tomatoes?  I had to convince the farmer to take $2 for them.  He wanted to give them to me.  In August, I would pay $10 or more for tomatoes like these!


I decided I didn't have enough tomato soup or ketchup to get through until next fall, so I made a batch of each.  Ketchup recipe is here.  Tomato soup method is below.




 Thrift at Home Canned Tomato Soup

Use 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part onions and 1 part celery.  I usually add a few garlic cloves too.  I usually do at least a dishpan of tomatoes and end up with 9-12 quarts, but this "recipe" is made to work with what you have, so the individual jars are seasoned after the veggies are cooked.

Once the vegetables are assembled, core tomatoes (no need to peel - big time saver!) and peel onions.  Roughly chop veggies.  Puree in food processor in batches, making sure to mix onions and celery and tomatoes to get a juicy puree.  Pour into stockpot.  Add 2-3 bay leaves.

Bring to boil with lid on.  Remove bay leaves.  Puree again with immersion blender.  Ladle into quart jars, leaving at least an inch of headspace because tomatoes really siphon out during canning.  Add 1 tsp. salt and a scant tablespoon sugar to each jar.  Seal by pressure canning at 10 lbs. pressure for 35 minutes.

To Make Homemade Tomato Soup:

Pour a quart jar of home-canned tomato soup in a saucepan and heat; I do this uncovered to concentrate the soup a bit. Sometimes I add a pinch of dried basil.

Meanwhile, make a white sauce.  I do this in my microwave in a big glass measure.  Place 3 Tbsp. butter in glass measure and heat for 1 minute. Whisk.  Add 3 Tbsp. flour.  Whisk.  Heat again for 1 minute.  Whisk.  Add 2 cups milk.  Whisk.  Heat again for 1 minute.  Repeat the heating and whisking until the white sauce is thick.

Once you have a hot, thick white sauce and hot tomato soup base, slowly pour the tomato base into the white sauce, whisking.  Do not reverse the order and pour the white sauce into the tomatoes!! Return the soup to the saucepan and heat gently if needed, but do not boil.  Taste to adjust salt or add pepper/basil/sugar according to your taste.  Serve hot with grilled cheese or crackers.

Notes: 
It's not recommended to waterbath tomato soup because it is a low-acid food due to the added celery and onions.

You can make the white sauce on the stovetop in the classic way, which involves lots of stirring.  More on the microwave method in this post.   It's a great job for a child.

Microwaves vary.  Mine is old and slow, so adjust times accordingly.

Sometimes I add a minced mushroom or two and some minced onion to the butter when I'm starting to make the white sauce.  Not usually.  I like my tomato soup pretty classically plain.  That's also why I only add a pinch of basil, no more.

I discuss the phenomenon of curdled tomato soup and why you must pour the acid (tomato) into the base (white sauce) in this post.  Pin It

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Nightie

Suddenly, as it happens with children, Genevieve's summer nightie was tight across the chest.  I decided to go ahead and make her a new one because this fall has been so mild.  I used the same pattern as this nightie (the outgrown one) and this one, just made it a bit wider and a lot longer.  I'm hoping it will last for several years.




This fabric is adorable laundry line fabric that I bought new because I fell in love with it, something I hardly ever do.  I was thinking of a dress for Genevieve, but I kept hesitating because the light background was bound to be grubby and stained in no time.  I love it as a nightie, and she particularly loves the long swishy length.


Genevieve is nine now, and I'm way behind because I have no photos of her birthday  (the grandmas do) or her exquisite new bangs.


My dear pretty girl.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For the Museum Store

Just a new batch of things to consign at the museum store, at the request of the manager (local readers are welcome to email me to get more details).  I'm really slow at sewing these days, with my energy going mostly to other projects.

I do so enjoy working within the limits of my stash.  Here I used a stained vintage chicken-scratch apron to line a clothespin bag, carefully working it to avoid the stains and get the apron pocket to peep out of the opening. And I used another page from the vintage children's fabric book on the back.




And when I made the hotpads, I limited myself to my small-scraps box.  I sort my scraps into two boxes:  big scraps (approximately a half yard) and small scraps.  The rest of my fabric is yardage, folded on shelves. I usually put my hand in, pull out a small scrap and see what else I can scrounge to go with it.  This time, the lavender with the earth tones was a pleasurable surprise.



After the French press cosy and the hanging hand towels, I managed to squeeze out a new hand towel for the shop.  A nice red-and-white towel for your Scandinavian or Christmas longings.  See it here.




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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Mended Hanky

Hankies get ragged pretty fast around here, seeing as most of them start out vintage already and some people approach this life as a vale of tears (someone small sobbed all through breakfast this morning - oh my).  When the hankies start to look shredded, I remove them from the drawers and stash them in a dark corner of a shelf.  They've got such interesting colors and pretty patterns that I want to use them somehow in the future - I have several ideas on my Pinterest boards.

But for some reason, I wanted to mend this hanky and keep using it.



 It's a plain white cotton one, so I used soft blue-grey striped cotton and pale yellow perle cotton.  I enjoyed myself.  I thought maybe I wanted to add just a little something more to the mending job. . . maybe a running stitch on the edge. . . green leaves and a stem to the yellow starbursts. . . . But I couldn't decide.  So I stopped, based on the mantra that a dear sister at church explained:  when she's deciding something, she moves from clarity to clarity.  If she doesn't have clarity, she doesn't move.



I'm sure most people would apply this idea to much larger decisions, but I have found it incredibly helpful in the dozens of decisions in my path every day.

I saw a cast-iron skillet this weekend and I thought of buying it, but I didn't have clarity, so I didn't.  I wanted to try spiritual direction, but after two sessions, I have only murkiness, not clarity, about continuing, so I'm not going to.

Sometimes the murkiness only means "wait" and then the decision comes into sharp focus with a little more time.  This process has brought me such peace in large and small decisions, including, yes, whether or not I am "done" with the design of my mended hanky.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daily Life

(Joining up with Leila and Rosie's roundup of pretty/happy/funny/real)

Here are some pretty glimpses of Rebecca's farmhouse.  Photos taken while the ladies relaxed inside on the fishing trip (see below).




This was happy.  I read Molly Wizenberg's fascinating book, Delancey, and immediately decided to make the Vietnamese salad.  I put the components on a platter - so pretty!  I even made fried purple onions, which are surprisingly easy and stupendously delicious.  The whole salad is excellent and quite easy.




This was funny.  Ben had begged to go fishing, but we don't fish.  Finally, my husband had the bright idea to ask Rebecca's son to help Ben fish.  Ben loved it, but he was repelled by the cleaning part that readied the fish for the frying pan.


But he couldn't look away.  Maybe the basic human response to gore?


Here is the real (which is also pretty).  My cousins showed us their cabin in a holler in Virginia. It is a charming spot full of memories, but the cabin needs extensive, expensive work to keep it functional.  The cousins are taking it on, but the old melting away before the new makes me melancholic.  My uncle and aunt are facing similar decisions about the cabin, I know.

 I don't know what I would do if I owned one of these beautiful, dilapidated old memory houses that relatives considered sacred without being responsible for the upkeep.  Sacred usually gives way to pragmatism and safety.

Well, I snapped some photos for the memory bank.



1940s linoleum the cousins are hoping to match


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday Supper: Updated with Method

Inspired by this post, I made beans for Saturday supper.  Before we went to a fancy event that morning, I put beans in the crockpot on low with a few garlic cloves, a bit of sage, and some olive oil.  I was betting that we wouldn't be very hungry or energetic at suppertime, but still need something.


I was totally surprised at the success of the supper!  I think it's going to be our standard Saturday supper! Cheap, easy, customizable, delicious.




We had the beans in soup plates with more olive oil and salt.  Then there was good sourdough bread (from the market), thin slices of Parmesan, and sliced tomato.  It was so perfectly, elementally balanced.




On other Saturdays, I could swap out the fresh tomato for a home-canned tomato in the soup plate, or a wedge of fresh crunchy cabbage or even a dish of dried figs.  Something pickled would be delicious here, or even a bit of prosciutto or salami.


The fancy lady even put down her Bible and joined us.

More Details on How I Cooked the Beans:

I do not buy commercially canned beans.  I put 2 cups dry beans in my slow cooker, add 5-6 cups water, and turn it on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours (this varies depending on the time I have and the age of the beans - I don't know how old the dry beans are, but I've read that older ones take longer).  Then I let the whole cooker cool until I have time to portion the beans/liquid into jars and freeze them. This is a habitual task in my kitchen, but I see that I have barely blogged about it!  I will try to remedy that.  (Here are simple black beans, starting with dry beans also).

These supper beans were a variation on the basic method I just described.  I started with the 2 cups dry pinto beans and water, but also added 3 whole garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp. dried sage, and 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil.  A few hours later, I stirred the beans and added some salt.  At the table, we added more salt, pepper, and more olive oil.  The simplicity of the beans meant that they were a great base for whatever accompaniments I had on hand.  It's lovely to mop up the salty bean juices and olive oil with bread. Pin It

Friday, September 26, 2014

Old Cell Phones for Kids

My children are digital natives.  They speak the language of computers and accept their presence as unquestioningly as I accepted telephones and record players when I was a child.  I have deep worries about the way screens seem to absorb us and distract us while real life unspools in front of us.  I want to shield my children from screens for a while as I teach them (hopefully by example!) how to use computers and technology for good purposes in disciplined ways.

One of the teaching things that my husband and I stumbled into began when he cleaned out a drawer of stuff.  Ben asked if he could have the old cell phone.  There was no sim card in it, so my husband handed it over with the charger.  It still plays a few ring tones, takes pictures, and has a few simple games.  Ben adores this little dose of adult screen time.  Then Genevieve got the next old cell phone, which can also make short videos. She adores making little films of her life, filled with kid jokes, inappropriate noises, and strange blurry angles.



Any time they use the phones inappropriately (usually when specifically told to put the phone away, bringing it to the table, or playing on it instead of doing chores), my husband and I confiscate the phones.  One child had a phone removed for three weeks.  That child is a much better listener after that loss of privilege!


No need to buy DS systems or other electronics for kids like their friends and cousins have!  The children love controlling their own little cell phones.  It's a very thrifty way to let kids interact with screens!

What access do your children have to screens and their own personal electronics?  I'm sure this only gets complicated as they get older. Thoughts and advice, please.




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