This recipe and it’s story are taken from my cookbook, Maw maw’s recollections, observations and recipes from the chapter called, God’s Frigidaire… our ice pond. You can download a free PDF of the entire pre edited version simply by clicking it’s posting on the column to the right . The cookbook recipes and stories are told from the viewpoint of Maw maw, a 90+ year old woman living in rural West Virginia farm with her husband Henry. This particular story takes place in the early 1940’s.
By this time, our electrified house was giving back real benefits. Not only did a trip to the outhouse become a pleasure but we found we could stay up much later working around the place if need be. One of our instant joys was being able to play the game Easy Money (the precursor to Monopoly) come nightfall. That game could last for weeks!
Henry got it into his head to put lights in the barn and root cellar so’s we could be in there at night without the fear of burning the place down with our kerosene lanterns. Now the root cellar was a large six foot high stone lined room under the barn floor. It kept pretty cool in the summer and wouldn’t freeze in the winter. It was God’s own Frigidaire. I kept all my canned goods in there. Shelves of Mason jars filled with green beans, corn, pickles, fancy relish and lots more. My favorite was my canned Tomato soup. Inside the root cellar was a section of floor we would cover with a few inches of sawdust. On that sawdust we’d lay blocks of ice cut from our pond in the winter time. Ice blocks were laid in layers with sawdust again between each layer till they reached near the ceiling. Then the whole thing was covered over with wood planks. Most all summer long you could go down into the root cellar and enjoy the forty some degree weather down there. By winter, the ice was about gone and needed to be replaced again. We’d make it a family thing. Our boys would all pitch in along with my dad and uncle. Our horse named Buster would drag the blocks on a sled from the pond to the barn. Don’t ask what breed buster was, I have no idea. By then we also had us a gasoline tractor (an Oliver I think) but Henry wouldn’t use it near the pond. If it fell through, no way would that heavy ‘ol beast swim it’s way to shore like Buster would. So a couple days of frozen feet and hands would pay out by giving us a whole year of free refrigeration.
I started a tradition back then, thought it would last forever. Little did I know that by the time the war was over (WWII) that I’d be the proud owner of not only a kitchen refrigerator but a chest type deep freezer too. No longer would the family need to gather to cut and haul ice from the pond. Memories sure hurt sometimes, wonder why that is?
Anyway, back to my short lived tradition. By noon time the boys would be grumbling and their tummies rumbling. I’d have heated up a few quarts of tomato soup I had canned in the summer.
We’d all pile into the kitchen (kitchens were a darn site bigger back then than the telephone booth sized ones built today). On the stove steamed a big pot of tomato soup and a pile of toast on the table. Now I’ll give you the recipe for the tomato soup in a second but you’ll have to wait on the home made bread recipe till later,OK? Anyway, you’d grab a few slices of buttered toast, cut ‘em into small squares and drop them into the bowl of tomato soup. I tell you that it kept the bones warm and stuck to your ribs!
Just a quick story what happened on the pond one time. Seems one of my boys ( earl) went fishin using one of Henry’s new lures without his permission. Earl come back a couple hours later and skedaddled right up into his bedroom. Well, any good mom would’a known something no good was afoot so I go on up to find the door jammed shut. (no locks in those days). After a couple good threats to tan his hide if he don’t open right up, the door unjams and there’s Earl shak’n like a leaf. He told the story of loos’n his Paps new lure and was right terrified out of his pants about it. (Henry did covet his fishing gear so)
He explained “a big ‘ol fish done got hold of it and yanked it clean off the line!” Well, I told Earl to hush up about it and maybe it would not be missed.
Come next winter and we all were cutting ice again when lo and behold, there lay’n frozen stiff inside the fresh cut block of ice is a big ‘ol bass fish…with Henry’s lure still hanging from it’s lower lip!
It didn’t take a scientist of any sort to explain to Henry what had occurred.
He just turned to the boys, unhooked his lure and said, “Let that be a lesson to you all. Nuff said?”
Canning your own Homemade Tomato Soup
“ Once you make your own tomato soup, I can tell you from that day on, you’ll judge every tomato soup served to you against it.”
14 quarts ripe tomato’s – (Not quite a five gallon bucket of fresh or 4 #10 cans of peeled tomato’s)
7 medium onions chopped fine
1 stalk of celery chopped fine
14 sprigs of parsley chopped fine
3 bay leafs whole (remove ‘em after cookin’)
14 Tablespoons of flour
14 Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoons salt
8 Tablespoons of sugar
7 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons of pepper
12 – 1 quart Ball or Mason jars with new lids ( Have more jars and lids on hand just in case)
Put clean jars in a warm 170 degree oven for 10 minutes to preheat them.
Wash and cut up tomatoes, chop onions, celery and parsley. Add bay leafs. Cook until celery is tender. Remove bay leafs, set pot aside until cooled enough to handle. Put through sieve then return to stove to simmer again. (Throw out bulk left in sieve. Mix the flour and butter into a smooth paste. Thin this paste with some cooled down tomato juice ( about 4 cups) then add to simmering soup to thicken soup. Stir often to prevent scorching and add salt and pepper and lemon juice. For even a smoother consistency, remove the pot from heat once again, let cool, and put through sieve a second time. Bring sieved tomato soup to a boil then fill the heated jars with the hot soup to ½ inch from top. Wipe lip clean and install lids.*
Maw maws original recipe has no hot water bath requirement after installing the lids on the jars. In her day, tomato’s had a higher acid content than the hybrid ones sold or even home grown today and therefor had no need for this step. A hot water bath after canning would be a prudent step in canning today’s tomatoes.
*Hot water bath; place jars back into canning pot or large stock pot, cover jars with 2 inches of water. Boil for 45 minutes, then remove and cool jars before storing in a cool dark place. ( no sun, no heat registers nearby)