Friday, September 15, 2006

My Most Expensive Batch of Tomato Soup Thus Far

I was going to title that "My Most Expensive Batch of Tomato Soup Ever" but I still have a bushel of tomatoes left with which to do something involving canning and I'd rather not tempt fate.

It all started off well Tuesday morning. I was finishing up some work for Main Client and after having worked long days for like 15 days in a row, I was looking forward to taking Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday off. I ran over to the mini-farmer's market (it's one farmer with a very large display under a big tent in a parking lot on South Atherton) and picked up two boxes (= 1 bushel) of tomatoes and a large batch of onions. Later I went grocery shopping and got some organic celery. I cut parsley from the front yard. I put these things on the kitchen table and left them there.

On Wednesday I led a Small Delegation of myself and two friends to Belleville to the grocery auction. It was a cold, rainy day and the farmer's market was half-deserted, but we all got more onions, potatoes, green beans--and I picked up another half-bushel of Very Very Ripe tomatoes. There weren't very many tomatoes at all--the cold has really been doing a number on the tomatoes left on the vine.

A nearby lady at the grocery auction overheard us going over our tomato options and gave me some directions to a local Amish produce stand. I had to get back to State College to get the twins to piano lessons, but I tucked away the directions (which seemed rather sketchy anyway) and thought about giving them a shot later.

In the meantime, I gave one of my boxes of tomatoes to the friend who needed tomatoes because she was making salsa and since I was making soup, it would be much easier for me to use the juicy, sweet, but small tomatoes in the bags I'd just won at the auction.

I went home and shepherded the twins through piano lessons, worked for another two hours, then shepherded Max through piano lessons--then started tomato soup.

It was all going so well. I was 1/3 of the way through pushing the soup through a sieve (which sounds much worse than it really is) when I realized the sink was acting strangely.

Lordy. I'd put the skins of 20 onions down the disposal. What was I thinking?

I cleaned out the trap and established that the block was much further along the line. BAD. I called for a plumber, but noone considers a blocked sink an emergency and I was lucky to find someone who would come work on it by noon the following day.

I considered my messy kitchen, my pots of simmering soup, my unusable sink. My delima.

I pulled out the biggest pot I own--the pressure cooker/canner. I poured the processed soup into that. I kept pressing the remaining soup through the strainer (being sure the THROW THE WASTE IN THE TRASH) and finished straining the rest of the soup. I had 19 quarts of soup. Chris cleared out space in the downstairs fridge and we put it in there. I tidied up the rest of the kitchen as best I could without running water, and went to bed.

On Wednesday I cleaned nervously, supervised the plumbers when they arrived, and working without a break--it took them over two hours to clear the line. When they finally did--it nearly exploded. There was tomato soup sludge over half my basement (the concrete portion). They offered to clean it up, but I was paying by the minute at that point and I said I'd clean it up. I wrote them a check for $195.00 and they left. (But not before giving me the "no more onions and tomatoes down that drain, Ma'am!" speech like FOUR times.) Then I got out the wet/dry vac and went to work on the sludge. I was just about done when it was time to take Max to his music theory class.

We went to music, we went to football. It was 8:30 when we got home and I needed to go to bed. I cleaned some more in the kitchen and then went to sleep.

This morning I worked some, then went to get the twins from preschool. We headed out to Belleville again and found that produce place. We had a nice leisurely trip coming home, stopping at other produce places and basically taking time to explore some nooks and crannies of Amish country that I hadn't before. Ben and Milo are fantastic ice breakers and we were treated to some sweet conversations. My favorite was the Amish farmer who asked the twins how old they were (4! But I'm turning five in November!) "Really?" says the farmer as he moves potatoes around, "My birthday is in November, too! What day?" Ben dances around the topic. He can't quite remember. I prompt him, and Ben repeats the information. The farmer tells Ben the day of his birthday and Ben responds that of course he already knew that already. The farmer was tickled.

Back at home I did a little work and then it was time to go get big brother. We picked up Max from school, came home, and I did the final step in making the soup. But there wasn't time to get anything canned before Max had football practice, so I turned off the stove and let everything sit. I took both dogs and all three boys and headed to the park where Max had practice. He ran off to practice and the twins and I walked over to the new dog park. Emily exhausted herself deliriously chasing balls (thank-you, Chuck-It) and Thor enjoyed himself peeing on every nook and cranny he could find. There were a lot of other dogs there, but they were very well behaved dogs and Emily had no competition in the ball-chasing department. If only I could find a way to make that talent of hers pay . . .

When both dogs were walking around with their tongues to their toes, we left the dog park and headed back to the people park. Ben and Milo played on the playground for awhile and then they were hungry. We hopped back in the truck and drove to the closest grocery store where we got something cheap for dinner. We drove back to the park and the twins watched part of a rugrat's episode while we waited for Max's football-crazy coach to realize that it was too dark to keep playing. Max found the truck and we headed home.

I've been working on canning ever since, but I decided to use the pressure cooker to be safe because of the long stretch of time between when I made the soup (Wednesday night) and when I was canning the soup (Friday night) and that makes the whole process take FOREVER because it seems to take nearly an hour for the canner to come back to zero. It's 11:12, I suspect I have another 15 minutes before we're at zero on the gauge, and then I hope to get one more batch done. I'll still be canning this soup tomorrow. Jeez.

1 comment:

Becca said...

I've been doing peaches for what seems like ages. I haven't even started on the oceans of tomatoes in the garden. Do you have a fabulous salsa recipe?