Food for Soul and Body

The word was everywhere--on restaurant billboards along the highway, in bakery windows, in conversation one day as they cooled on the kitchen counter--"kolaches." They are fruit-filled pastries beloved year-round in Czech and Polish communities.

Lutefisk. Polenta. Sweet potato pie. What is the food that takes you back to family celebrations and gives you a sense of history? One of my memory foods is tomato preserves. Even the words bring back stories of my grandmother's rural upbringing, when a good portion of the summer was spent putting up food for the spartan times of year. Canning quarts of beans and peaches, making jam, sorting eggs in sawdust, skimming the sauerkraut crock every 24 hours--all had to be fit into those long, hot, busy summer days.

I would like to do more food preserving myself, but admit that the "hot" and "busy" parts stump me. I have promised myself that I will put up more tomatoes (not only my grandmother's sweet preserves, but also sauce, whole tomatoes, juice, and salsa) this year, no matter how hot it gets at harvest time.

My big discovery this summer is pickles, one of the easiest and safest foods to can because the acidic vinegar and the salt give an extra margin of safety against bacteria. Best of all, cooking times are minimal so you're not stuck at the stove. And pickles--including pickled carrots, okra, beets, as well as the traditional cucumber pickles--taste delicious on a hot day.

I recommend to you one of the recipes I have run across this summer (by word of mouth, the best way) that I have made, eaten, and enjoyed. And I'll also pass on Grandma Winegar's recipe for tomato preserves.

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