The summer I was 5 or 6, and my sister Joyce was 9 or 10, our mom (Gladys Martin Heiser) asked my Uncle Tommy to bring her some tomatoes the next time he came to visit. She wanted to put some in the freezer. A few weeks later Uncle Tommy brought us about four bushels of really ripe tomatoes. My mom was expecting about half a bushel. Even my grandma (Florrie Thomas Martin), Mom and Tommy’s mother, fussed at him for bringing so many.
Uncle Tommy told Mom to just throw away what she didn’t want. Well, Mom and Grandma remembered living through the Depression and they weren’t about to toss out good food. Instead, Mom and Grandma devised a plan for the tomatoes.
The next morning Joyce and I were ushered into the kitchen. Pots of boiling water sat on the stove, and the kitchen was already like a sauna. Grandma and Mom carefully lowered tomatoes into the boiling water to split the skins. The scalding hot tomatoes were removed to a large bowl that was placed in the middle of the kitchen table.
Mom sat Joyce and me at the table, handed us knives, and showed us how to peel the hot tomatoes. Then the processing began in earnest. Joyce and I looked at each other in disbelief at what we were expected to do. We both still remember the steam rising off those hot, soft, red balls as we tried to peel them without getting burned; and the precision with which Mom and Grandma worked.
We didn’t have air conditioning then, and the slight breeze coming through the open windows did little to clear the tomato-y humidity from the kitchen. Those overflowing bushels seemed like mountains to Joyce and me, but the tomatoes were all peeled that day and packaged for the freezer over the next few days. We ate those tomatoes from the freezer for a few years after that, and Mom never asked Uncle Tommy to bring tomatoes again.
How about you? Do you have any unforgettable food processing experiences from your life? Comment if you do.
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