TOMATOES Red, ripe, ready


By LISA LOSASSO BELL

Tomatoes are back.

Local farmer’s markets, greenhouses and grocery store produce departments are proud to say that this year’s local crops and sales are better than ever.

After the recent tomato scare, which began last April, many consumers have been leery, up until the harvesting of local tomato crops. But even prior to that, many local markets did their research as to assure consumers that they were buying FDA-approved produce.

Many merchants assured customers by posting signs, which state where the tomatoes were grown. This, said Donna Lonardo, co-owner of Lonardo’s Greenhouse, has helped to assure customers that their tomatoes were safe to eat.

When the scare started, local businesses were hurt. Lonardo explained that she checked all growing areas to make sure they were safe.

“Open communication with customers made them feel safer,” she said.

According to Brad Mondora, produce clerk at Sparkle supermarket on Market Street in Boardman, sales severely decreased.

“People were bringing them back,” he said. During that time, tomatoes were being shipped from California and Mexico. Once the scare hit the Mahoning Valley, the store began shipping in-stem and greenhouse tomatoes from Canada. Now that they are receiving local shipments, said Mondora, “…business has gone back to normal.”

About 10 days ago, Ernie Rea, owner of Rea Farm Market, began selling his own tomatoes. “They’re selling, and I’m thankful,” he said. “The tomato crop looks hopeful.”

Rae said he has about two acres of tomatoes, and further explained that, to his understanding, it wasn’t tomatoes at all which had caused the problem, but rather, the irrigation routers.

Now it seems that jalapeno peppers are being targeted.

According to Frank Rulli, owner of Rulli’s Market West, the tomato scare didn’t affect sales because all of the tomatoes were FDA approved and now that we’re into the local tomato season, there is a greater level of trust. “People do look forward to the locally grown tomatoes,” he said, explaining that every year at this time, tomato sales increase.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration has certified the produce of many growing regions as being free of salmonella. “I think they’re doing a pretty good job,” said Rulli.

Now, according to the FDA, tomatoes apparently were not the cause of the recent salmonella outbreak. Unfortunately, by this time, the so-called “red scare” had cost the industry more than $100 million.

Many commercial tomato growers were forced to let their crops rot on the vine because farmers were losing money by harvesting crops.

For the record, no source of tomato-based salmonella has been identified. Because of this most recent scare, consumers seem to be changing their eating and buying habits by purchasing in-season, locally grown produce.

According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health Project on the Public and Biological Security, consumers have the highest confidence in produce sold at local farms and farmer’s markets.

Tiny Tomato Toppers

18 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and cut into halves

3 ounce package cream cheese, softened and beaten until fluffy

1‚Ñ3 cup minced cooked chicken

1‚Ñ4 cup finely chopped walnuts

11‚Ñ2 tablespoons finely chopped apple

11‚Ñ2 teaspoons lemon juice

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon lemon juice

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon grated onion

Blend cream cheese, cooked chicken and walnuts.

Spoon 1‚Ñ2 teaspoon of cream cheese onto each tomato half. Chill in refrigerator before serving. Makes 3 dozen appetizers.

Recipe by Anne Mayors contributed to the “St. Christine Cookbook,” Youngstown, compiled by The Altar and Rosary Society, and published in 1967.

Chili Sauce (Relish)

1‚Ñ2 pack (6 pounds) tomatoes

6 large onions

4 green peppers

2 hot peppers or 1 teaspoon pepper

2 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons whole allspice in bag

Scald and peel tomatoes and put in colander to drain. Cut in small pieces the onions and peppers. Combine all ingredients and boil at a low boiling point for 1‚Ñ2 hour. Stir constantly. Put in sterile jars and seal.

Recipe published in “Our Daily Bread,” by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Canfield, published in 1974.

Tomato Relish

2 quarts ripe tomatoes

2 cups chopped onions

2 green peppers (chopped)

2 red peppers (chopped)

1 cup chopped celery

3 cups sugar

1 cup vinegar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoon salt

1 stick cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together; stir and cook rapidly until thick and clear. Delicious on hamburgers and hot dogs.

Recipe published in “Recipes from Midway Mennonite Church,” Columbiana, published in 1976.

Tomato Basil Salad

4 tomatoes

2 onions

Salt and pepper to taste

Dried or fresh basil

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon vinegar

Place a layer of unpeeled sliced tomato in a bowl. Layer sliced onion on top of tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper, touch of basil, sugar, vinegar and olive oil. Add another layer of tomatoes and onions. Repeat seasoning. Keep repeating layering of tomatoes and onions until all are used and pour remaining sugar, olive oil and vinegar over mixture. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Recipe by Theresa Pavlich, contributed to “Flavors from the Seventh Ward,” Youngstown, published in 1997.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice

8 large tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1‚Ñ4 teaspoon pepper

1‚Ñ3 cup oil

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon crushed mint

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon crushed parsley

3‚Ñ4 cup uncooked rice (not minute rice)

1 small onion

In a small bowl, mix rice, mint, salt, parsley, pepper and enough oil to cover the rice. Set aside. Cut a small lid (Jack-o-lantern style) from each tomato; scoop pulp and seed out gently with a teaspoon so the jackets remain firm. Save pulp. Grease casserole with leftover oil. Line tomatoes – sides touching. Fill with 1 teaspoon rice mixture. Replace lids. Add one-third cup water to pulp; pour this and any remaining rice around the tomatoes. Add sliced onions – last. Bake 11‚Ñ2 hours. Serves 4.

Recipe by Linda Shannon, contributed to “Double your cooking pleasure,” by the Youngstown Mother’s of Twins, published in 1979.

Grilled Tomatoes

Cut fresh tomatoes in half. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Season with salt and pepper. Heat on edge of grill or last few minutes in broiler or oven. Top with sliced saut ed mushrooms.

Recipe from “Holy Trinity Mother’s Club Cook Book,” Struthers.

Recipes from the Ohio State University Extension

Tomato Juice

An average of 23 pounds of tomatoes is needed per canner load of 7 quarts, or an average of 14 pounds per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel yields 15 to 18 pounds per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel yields 15 to 18 quarts of juice.

Wash tomatoes, remove stems, and trim off bruised or discolored portions. To prevent juice from separating, quickly cut about 1 pound of fruit into quarters and put directly into saucepan. Heat immediately to boiling while crushing. Continue to add and crush freshly cut tomato quarters to the boiling mixture. Make sure the mixture boils constantly and vigorously while you add the remaining tomatoes. Simmer 5 minutes after you add all pieces.

If you are not concerned about juice separation, simply slice or quarter tomatoes into a saucepan. Crush, heat, and simmer for 5 minutes before juicing.

Press heated tomatoes through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Heat juice again to boiling. Acidify (See acidification instructions). If desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars. Fill jar with hot tomato juice, leaving 1‚Ñ2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.

Tomato-Vegetable Juice Blend

An average of 22 pounds of tomatoes is needed per canner load of 7 quarts. Not more than 3 cups of other vegetables should be added for each 22 pounds of tomatoes.

Crush and simmer tomatoes as for making tomato juice. Add no more than 3 cups of any combination of finely chopped celery, onion, carrots and peppers. Simmer mixture 20 minutes. Press hot cooked tomatoes and vegetables through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Reheat tomato-vegetable juice blend to boiling. Acidify (see acidification instructions). If desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart. Fill clean jars, leaving 1‚Ñ2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.

Tomato Sauce

For a thin sauce, an average of 35 pounds of tomatoes is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 21 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel yields 10 to 12 quarts of sauce.

For a thick sauce, an average of 46 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 28 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel yields 7 to 9 quarts of sauce.

Prepare and press as for making tomato juice. Simmer in a wide saucepan until sauce reaches desired consistency. Volume is reduced by about one-third for thin sauce, or by 1‚Ñ2 for thick sauce. Acidify. If desired, add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars. Fill jars, leaving one-quarter inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.

Spaghetti Sauce without Meat

30 pounds tomatoes

1 cup chopped onions

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped celery or green pepper

1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)

41‚Ñ2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons oregano

4 tablespoons minced parsley

2 teaspoons black pepper

1‚Ñ4 cup brown sugar

1‚Ñ4 cup vegetable oil

Do not increase the proportion of onions, celery, peppers, or mushrooms. Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Dip in cold water and slip off skins. Remove cores and quarter tomatoes.

Boil 20 minutes, uncovered, in large saucepan. Put through food mill or sieve. If desired, saut onions, garlic, celery, pepper, and mushrooms in vegetable oil until tender.

Combine saut ed vegetables and tomatoes and add remainder of spices, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until thick enough for serving. At this time, the initial volume will have been reduced by nearly one-half. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Fill jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.

Yields 9 pints

Tomato Ketchup

24 pounds ripe tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions

3‚Ñ4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

3 cups cider vinegar (5 percent)

4 teaspoons whole cloves

3 sticks cinnamon, crushed

11‚Ñ2 teaspoon whole allspice

3 tablespoons celery seeds

11‚Ñ2 cups sugar

1‚Ñ4 cup salt

Wash tomatoes. Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Dip in cold water. Slip off skins and remove cores.

Quarter tomatoes into 4-gallon stock pot or a large kettle. Add onions and red pepper. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes, uncovered. Cover, turn off heat, and let stand for 20 minutes.

Combine spices in a spice bag and add to vinegar in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove spice bag and combine vinegar and tomato mixture. Boil about 30 minutes. Put boiled mixture through a food mill or sieve. Return to pot. Add sugar and salt, boil gently, and stir frequently until volume is reduced by 1‚Ñ2 or until mixture rounds out on spoon without separation. Fill pint jars, leaving one-eighth inch headspace. Adjust lids and process.

Yields 6 to 7 pints

Chile Salsa

5 pounds tomatoes

2 pounds chile peppers

1 pound onions

1 cup vinegar (5 percent)

3 teaspoons salt

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon pepper

Wear rubber gloves while handling chiles or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face. Peel chile peppers by placing them in a 400-degree oven for 6-8 minutes until skins blister. Allow peppers to cool, then place in pan and cover with a damp cloth. This will make peeling easier. After several minutes, peel each pepper. Slice, discard seeds, and chop.

Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Dip in cold water, slip off skins, and remove cores. Coarsely chop tomatoes and combine chopped peppers, onions, and remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat to boil, and then simmer 20 minutes. Fill jars, leaving 1‚Ñ2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process jars.

Yields 6 to 8 pints

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