My father never staked his tomatoes. He let them vine out over the pasture grass. We kids picked tomatoes every day and canned them once a week. We picked them when not quite ripe, before the chickens got them, and then we’d lay them out on boards in the summer kitchen to let them finish ripening.
Bringing in the Harvest
In fall, before the first killing frost, everyone spent a day in the field picking every last green tomato, for “chow-chow.” Green chili chow-chow was the most wonderful part of fall — preparing the stuff that made other food taste better all winter. We ground the green tomatoes into rough chunks and hung the mash in white cotton sheets in the yard, like hammocks, to let the water drain. We dug up all the onions that were still in the ground. We picked the last of the peppers, hot and sweet. The exact chow-chow recipe changed from year to year, but it was always sweet with sugar, hot with peppers and horseradish, and sour with apple cider vinegar. The most important ingredient, however, was the green tomatoes, and they tasted lemony and wild — even a little dusty like the soil that grew them. We canned green chili chow-chow until we couldn’t find another jar to fill.
When the shelves of the root cellar had been filled with canned corn, beans, pickles and chow-chow, Dad would buy 50 pounds of red beans and 50 pounds of white beans. It was Mom’s custom to have a pot of beans on the stove all winter long. Anyone who showed up at our back door was always offered a bowl of beans.
Green chili chow-chow was our family’s favorite relish.
When it snowed, Dad would slaughter three hogs. He cured six hams and six “picnics” — country ham with a salt cure. All the rest of the pork went to sausage. We fired the smokehouse for two weeks, and that’s the way we’d start the winter.
I remember that cold kitchen after morning chores: a big bowl of beans, fried ham steak, a couple of biscuits, and that green chili chow-chow over it all.
[http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/self-reliance/food-independence-zm0z11zhun?newsletter=1&spot=cta&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MEN GFSS Enews 08.04.17&utm_term=MEN_GFSS_eNews&_wcsid=9C0CFB8CABAACDE78BB3A4014AA39553A4F5DC24E9D39439]