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Some of the old things worked just fine |

Some of the old things worked just fine

By Rennie Phillips

Last year I grew some plum regal tomatoes and was really impressed by them. Plum regal is a Roma-type tomato so it has very few seeds and is quite meaty with very little juice. Most of the tomatoes will be 2 1/2 to 3 inches long by 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. They are big. I probably only planted half a dozen plants last year so I didn’t have that many. This year, I probably planted 20 or 25 plants, so we have quite a few of these big Romas. I had in mind they’d be good tomatoes to process and put in canning jars.

From the time I can remember I have loved ketchup. When we first got married Marge used to buy ketchup in the gallon cans because I ate so much of it. When I became diabetic we started to buy a low-sugar ketchup and it is as good as the high-sugar stuff. So we decided to try making ketchup out of the Roma plum regal tomatoes. We needed a recipe.

So I put a piece on Facebook in search of a recipe. Lisa, a dear friend of ours back in Nebraska, said she had her Aunt Pauline’s recipe. Awesome. This would mean the recipe had to be old. So now she looks for the recipe but it’s nowhere to be found. Bummer, but she is going to keep looking.

So I Googled recipes and we used two of them to make about 10 pints of ketchup. However, it lacks something for me. One thing is we need to cut out some of the seasoning and let the tomato taste power through. That’s a definite. But one other thing that I find disappointing is it’s not made from an old-time tested recipe. To me, that would make the ketchup special. And if it was Pauline’s recipe, that would make it even better.

When Marge and I made sauerkraut a month or so ago we did it kind of like they used to 50 or 100 years ago. Marge used her food processor instead of an old kraut cutter. Next year we need to clean up our old kraut cutter. We made one batch in a crock I’d bought at a local store probably 30 years ago. The other we made in an old crock that we bought at a garage sale. I’ll bet that crock is 100 years old, and that makes the sauerkraut special. It probably doesn’t make the sauerkraut taste one bit better, but it makes me feel better just because we are using the old crock.

Every year we grow a bunch of cucumbers that we eat fresh, but we also turn a bunch of them into pickles with most of them being dill pickles. Our family loves dill pickles. Marge and I opened a quart of Pop’s Dill Pickles the other evening. Pop’s Pickles are from a recipe that Shirley G. sent me. Shirley is a good friend of mine down here in Missouri. Marge probably ate one or two; I ate almost a half a jar. Good! Really good! I ate almost the other half a jar the next day, leaving only two small pickles for the next day. They are good, but they still aren’t like the ones I had when I was little.

Grandpa loved to go into a pool hall and play cards, drink beer and smoke a cigar. I loved to watch him play. I also loved beer nuts and the pickles they had sitting on the counter. Man, I’d like to find a recipe for those old pickles. They just sat on the counter in a big jar, and they were big pickles. I guess the part that is calling to me is the memory I have of eating them watching Grandpa.

Marge and I only use old cast-iron skillets. I don’t think we have anything else. We also have an old waffle iron that works like a champ when we take the time to make waffles. Part of the reason I like them is the fact they work better than the new supposedly improved skillets, and part of it is the fact that they are old. There is something about using a 100-year-old cast-iron skillet in an age of iPhones and technology.

Our younger son has been wanting to either raise or buy a hog to butcher like they did back in the early 1900s. We use to shoot the hog, skin it and then cut up the meat. We’d hang a good bunch of it in a smokehouse. We probably put a mix of curing salt, pepper and brown sugar on the hams, and probably put this mixture on the bacon. Then we’d have to render the fat into lard and cracklings. We kind of did this when I was a kid. Dad would shoot the hog, gut it and then skin it. Most people down here scrape their hogs, but Dad would always skin his. Dad would sugar cure the bacon and the hams. Mom would render the fat into lard and cracklings. I always loved eating the cracklings with a dab of salt.

Maybe as I get older the old times and old ways are calling me. A time when there was far less stress and strife. A time when neighbors visited face to face. A time when kids could be kids and play cowboys and Indians.

Today I enjoy a wood stove on a cold day. I also enjoy a wood fire on a cold evening. I really don’t need hot dogs, but a marshmallow would be nice — really nothing special to do, just enjoying the moment. I enjoy a good cup of coffee from an old, thick coffee cup that must weigh a quarter of a pound. I also enjoy sitting with a good friend listening to the crickets and maybe a coyote, or watching for lightning bugs.

I kind of wonder if we as a society don’t need to slow down a bit and enjoy life. We might need to lay aside the technology and just chill a while.

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