Now, at last, I have enough tomatoes to can them, and make sauce, and produce a favorite condiment, Chili Sauce, which isn’t anything like what you think it will be. I could’ve sworn I put the recipe for it in this column already, but can’t find any trace of it in my record, so since I made two batches of it this week in order to help work through goodness-knows-how-many pounds of tomatoes I picked, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.
I found this recipe in a manuscript collection from circa 1885 or so. The seasonings are what you’d expect for a spice cake instead of something with the name chili: cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. No capsicums in sight. Sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, a pile of tomatoes, plus onions and peppers, cooked for hours, making the house smell perfectly wonderful. I love this stuff on fishcakes, corn oysters, zucchini fritters, even hot dogs. It is one of my all-time favorite historic recipes, a real Golden Oldie.
Don’t fret about the quantities. Just select fifteen big tomatoes or their equivalent. I sometimes take five of my biggest and line them up on the table. Then I line up more tomatoes to match the length and relative size of the big ones, which means sometimes I have two standing in for one. You need six onions–any old medium ones–and five green bell peppers. If you like the heat of jalapenos, or hot Hungarian peppers, well, be my guest. Add to taste, or sprinkle in some red pepper flakes.
The only tedious thing about this recipe is how long it takes to make it. I even reduced the original recipe by one cup of vinegar in order to cut down on the overall liquid to boil away. I usually plan to make this when I am in the kitchen anyway, canning tomatoes or making pickles, so that it can cook while I am on hand to stir to prevent sticking. I haven’t tried it yet, but I suppose pouring it into a roasting pan, and putting it into an oven might be a lower labor-intensive way of cooking it down. If you did that, I bet you could ignore it for an hour between stirs.
As a test for thickness, I put a spoonful on a small plate, and tip it to see if liquid seeps out. When only a little appears on the edge of the sauce, it is ready to can.
15 large tomatoes
5 green bell peppers
¼ cup pickling salt
2/3 cup white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 cups cider vinegar
Chop all the tomatoes, onions, and green peppers fairly coarsely. Put the vegetables plus all the rest of the ingredients into a large non-reactive pan, and cook for two to three hours, stirring often enough to prevent sticking. When thick enough that very little clear liquid seeps out, put into sterilized, pint-sized canning jars, put on a lid and ring, and process in a boiling-water bath for about ten minutes.
Makes about six pints.