Posts Tagged ‘farmers markets’

Old-Fashioned Tomato Ketchup, but I made mine spicy.

It has been a great summer for tomatoes.  Last year was awful.  I only had the small cherry types.  This year they are everywhere, big heirlooms, new roma types, all colors of cherry tomatoes, hybrids that actually taste good.  I’ve canned about 12 quarts of quartered tomatoes but the thing I have really wanted to do since last summer, is to make ketchup.  I never buy regular ketchup, it just seems like the total opposite of what I am about; high fructose corn syrup, highly processed, coming from who knows where.  There are probably organic versions out there, but it just did not seem worth it.  But every now and then someone eats with us who asks for ketchup and I have none to offer.  Well, now I do.  I can also put it on my purple hull peas and dry beans like my daddy did.  It is not hard to do; it just takes a really long time and a lot of stirring.  The tomatoes, bell peppers and onions came from the local farmer’s market.  The lone jalapeno came from my garden.  After finishing my batch, I read on the internet about someone who used a crockpot with the lid off, to do the long slow cooking.  I think I will try that next time.   The recipe I used was from Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan.  I made a few changes, but not much.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Ketchup

For Spice Bag, gather:  2 cinnamon sticks, broken; 1 tsp whole cloves; 1 tsp whole allspice; 2 Tbsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp celery seed.  Tie all up in a cheesecloth bag.

10 lbs Roma type tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup red or green bell pepper, chopped

1 red jalapeno pepper, chopped with seeds (this was my addition)

The cooked tomatoes in the food mill.

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp salt

Quarter tomatoes and put them and peppers and onions in large pot.  Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Let cool some.  I actually put mine in jars in the refrigerator at this point and went to bed.  It was late.  The next afternoon, I put all the veggies through the food mill into the heavy enameled dutch oven.  You could go for the crock pot at this point.  Add the brown sugar, salt and vinegar, put the spice bag into the pot and cook.  The recipe says 1 hour, but I must have had mine at a much lower temperature than they did.  I cooked it for at least 5 hours.  I did not want to have to stand over it constantly to keep it from scorching.  When it as thick as you like it, take out the spice bag, spoon into half pint jars and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.  I got 7 half pints.  The recipe says 6.

Spice bag in place.

The ketchup is delicious, much better than anything out of a bottle.  I may actually come to like ketchup.

The lids have popped.

The Farmers Market in Cartago, Costa Rica

My sister-in-law at the market in Cartago.

Back in January, my daughter and I visited my brother’s home in Costa Rica for a family reunion.  No better place for a family reunion in January!  They live in the mountains near Cartago, and have a 15 acre coffee farm.  They moved down there 10 years ago after retiring from teaching school.  They have banana trees that shade the coffee, so there are fresh bananas all the time for the picking.  The workers hang a stalk near their porch and you can just get one whenever you want.  The porch is where most of the living is done.  Where they are, the temperatures run in the mid to high 50’s  at night and up to 80 degrees during the day.  It is like perpetual spring.  It was coffee picking time while we were there and so we got to see how that was done and how it is processed at the co-op that buys their coffee.  Local food is mostly the way of life there.  Unfortunately, Wal-Mart has infiltrated and is bringing more industrial food into the area, but the old ways are dying hard, such as the local farmer’s market.

On Saturdays in Cartago you can go to the local farmers market and apparently, everyone does.  I went with Becky, my sister-in-law, who goes every week and takes several folks from her housekeeper’s family who do not have a vehicle.  (Many people there ride bicycles and walk what would seem to us enormous distances up and down mountains, every day.)  I would estimate that there are at least a hundred booths in each of two streets on either side of a park.  the booths run down each side of the street with a double row in the middle. 

View of the Farmers Market.

There is an enormous variety of food available.  The climate varies as you go up and down in the mountains, so that vegetables with warmer needs grow in the valleys and cooler season vegetables grow up in the mountains.  All kinds of cruciferous vegetables were there, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, chard and lettuce, as well as tropical fruits and vegetables.  I saw green beans, tomatoes, celery, pineapples, gourds, and berries of all kinds.  There were roots and stems of plants I did not recognize, and we could not understand the description of how they were cooked.  There were melons, watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydews and some I did not recognize, but they offered tastes and they were delicious.  Many fruits can  also be purchased along the side of the road.  There were also fresh eggs from non-industrial chickens.  Those are just as tasty as the ones we get from our chickens.

Mixing with crumbled local cheese.

The best part of all was the lovely cheese tortillas made by Maria.  Apparently, this is a regular treat in Becky’s week; Maria knew her well.  She makes these huge thick tortillas on a propane fired grill set up in the market.  She brings prepared masa with her which she brings out in batches.  She mixes it with whole kernel fresh corn and a local fresh cheese, that looks something like homemade cottage cheese or quesa fresca.  After they are completely mixed, she forms it into large balls which are put on the griddle and pressed out with a big spatula.  They cook for a few minutes on each side and are turned a couple more times to complete the cooking.  Then she takes one up, cuts it into about 8 pieces and puts in a styrofoam box for you.  Styrofoam is everywhere.  I wish it would go away.

Cheese Tortillas cooking on the grill.

We took the tasty creation and found a place to sit and enjoy it and watch the busy market.  Becky says that by late afternoon, almost everything is sold.  People from the city of 156,000 and the surrounding area buy up all the food available.  Cartago, which was founded in 1563, is located at the base of Vocano Irazu, which over many millenia has covered the area with volcanic ash which contributes to the high fertility of the agricultural area surrounding the city.  The main agricultural products of the surrounding region are potatoes, milk, onions, coffee and orchids, but as you can see lots of other foods grow in the area. 

And, Maria, the lady who makes them.

I enjoyed my time there, but it started me on a fruit binge that I have just now gotten back under control.  The tropical fruits there were so good and when I got back here, I found that the local Kroger had Costa Rican bananas and pineapples.  They were not quite as good as the ones down there, but they were pretty good.  And then those ruby red grapefruits had come in from Texas.  Ok, I know none of that is local, but it is traditional, at least in my family from way back, to purchase tropical fruits in the winter.  You get those lovely oranges and such from Florida, and that is not so far from me.  But Texas has the best grapefruit, I think.  Anyway, I have been eating a lot of fruit and it has slowed down my weight loss somewhat, although, I have gotten no colds or anything like that, even though people around me at work have been dropping like flies.  I guess it could be worse.  I did allow myself some absolutely wonderful coconut flan at a restaurant we went to.  I haven’t made any flan since I came back.  A fruit binge is much better than a flan binge.