Thursday, October 5, 2006

Making tomato juice

Last night I had two coworkers over to my place after work. The goal: to make and can pickles and (separately) tomato soup/drink grandma style. No, these ladies are not grandmothers, or even mothers,themselves, but they've followed the recipes and they turned the tomato cranker with older, wiser, and mole-ier women for many seasons now.

When I arrived in Târgu-Mureş last fall I helped my first host mother and her family turn 90 kilos of eggplant into endless jars of a delicious vegetable spread called zacusca over the course of one very long day. The whole family was involved in different aspects of the project. Gabby and I, being the men, were responsible for firing the eggplants until they were a chared crisp of their former selves. The girls pealed them, washed out the jars adn chopped until they could no longer feel their hands. The result was a delicious canned food that we could feel proud about while spreading on our crackers and toast. Oh wait, you can't get crackers here. So, ever since the fall of last year I have been saving up my jars and lids waiting for the fine autumn day when I too could say that the fruits (notice play on words) of my labor could be preserved and eaten all winter long.

So last night I had two coworkers come over to my tiny kitchen and help pass the secret of canning to me too. When they arrived they noticed that I had neither the special equipment, nor the proper ingredients to get the job done. I was missing celary, granular salt, the cranking machine, horse raddish, special conserving powder, and enough space in my kitchen to pack three people all weilding knives into. Most of those problems were easily solved by a quick visit to the local market 3 minutes from my house.

We started with 8 kilos of tomatos and ended with about 5 liters of tomato juice. I saved the tomato bits (skin and seeds) in order to make a spicy salsa with later on. We started with 2 kilos of cucumbers and ended with 13 jars of pickles. The bulion is consumable imediately but the pickles need 3 months to be ready. Even though they thought I was really strange for doing this I insisted that we put garlic in with the pickles and the bulion sauce. Its my strong hope that with enough practice I can mimic the gourmet Klausen pickles found at your local U.S. neigborhood grocery store (sorry for lack of imagery, non-U.S. readers. Wait, who am I kidding, nobody reads this.)

Without further adu I give you tomato juice and pickles: