Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


Well, it must be fall because I’ve started canning tomatoes.  A wonderful farm stand in a nearby town sells “canning tomatoes”.  These are really nice tomatoes, more often than not, very ripe, ugly, misshapen or with a scar, just not very perfect for the main shelf.  They are also $10.00 for 25 pounds, about 40 cents a pound.  I’ve got another 15 pounds or so ripening on my dining room table and I’m getting another box for the winter.

If you have a chance to get tomatoes like these, I can’t encourage you enough to get them for winter.  Here is my procedure to can tomatoes:

Peel the tomatoes. – Cut out the stem end with a paring knife and make several slashing cuts through the skin.  Drop them into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove from water and run cold water over them under the faucet, all the while peeling the skin off.  Chop

Cook down the tomatoes in a large pan (I use my turkey roaster) until reduced by quater to a third, stirring often so the tomatoes don’t burn on the bottom.

Sterilize the jars – I use my dishwasher for this.  Put the quart jars in the dishwasher and quick wash or regular wash the jars.  Just before canning, boil the tops in hot water for 5 minutes to sterilize and soften wax.

Fill clean jars with hot tomatoes to within ½ inch of the top.  Place a hot top on the jar and screw on a lid.

Place in a stockpot a wire cooling rack in it so the jars don’t sit on the bottom.  Fill with just enough water to cover jars, bring to a boil.  When the water is boiling, place jars in the pots and boil for 40 minutes.  Remove tomatoes and cool on racks or a towel.  When cool, check the canning by pressing on the center of each lid, it should not pop up, if it does, place in refrigerator for use within a week – they will still be good.

Here’s the first 15 quarts:


DISCLAIMER:  The FDA says the tomatoes we have today are not acidic enough to can without adding additional acid to them, like powdered vitamin C or lemon juice.  A low acid environment may allow the growth of the bacteria that can cause botulism; one of the most deadly pathogens known to man.  I believe cooking down the tomatoes increases the acid level and I’ve had no problems.  BUT, that doesn’t mean I won’t or you won’t.


September 8, 2009 Posted by | Local, Recipe | 1 Comment


Where did the week go?  Work was absolutely nuts – I came home and wanted nothing to do with nothing!  Hence, no posts.  Cooking wasn’t too bad, but there was a whole lot of nothing special.  Last night?  BOXED Mac and Cheese. 

I’m so embarrassed.

Today, I went to the farmer’s market.  I picked up some stuff, but most importantly, I ordered my garlic.  I went to my garlic guy and ordered 60 heads – 30 for me, 15 for my friend Mary and 15 for a friend at work.  I ordered 50 last year, gave about 8 away and threw 5 or 6 away (this summer) because they were no good.

After the market I went to Wilson’s Farm (a farm stand) and picked up some basil and a LOT of tomatoes!  A whole bushel!  These are less then perfect and are put in a box for people like me who want to can tomatoes and don’t care what they look like.  I bought two ½ bushels ($9.99 each) and put them out to ripen.  Next weekend, I’ll can as many ripe ones as I can and buy more to ripen.  Come November, I’ll have fresh-tasting tomatoes, all because I covered my dining room table for a few weeks in September.  I also picked up some fresh basil for pesto next winter.

The tomatoes:

The basil:

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment


I love Farmer’s Markets.  I mean, I am not an outdoors kind of guy, so you would think going outside hang out with a bunch of un-reformed hippies would be the LAST thing this guy would want to do.  But, every week I jump out of bed early to get to the market.  I even prefer the hippies over the more corporate farms that dot the market here and there – I trust and like their food more.  It’s an enigma.

So, when Michelle from Je Mange la Ville picked Farmer’s Markets for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I smiled like a kid in a candy store.  I had no idea what to make, but I knew all I had to do was to go to the Farmer’s Market and let it tell me what to make.

So, on Saturday I went to the market and came home with:

  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 7 or 8 tomatoes
  • 4 or 5 small-ish cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of onions
  • 1 donut (OK, that didn’t make it home)

So, what to make?  Gazpacho!

For a recipe I looked through the cookbooks and settled on The Silver Palate Cookbook.  The only thing that had my head cocked was the addition of EGGS.  OK, I know where my eggs come from and I wouldn’t be scared to eat them raw, but in gazpacho?  I couldn’t do it – so I left them out; I also didn’t have fresh dill, so I used dill weed.  I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t need to serve 8-10 people.  But, here’s the recipe in it’s entirety:


  • 6 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 2 med. sized yellow onions
  • 2 large shallots
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Wash & prepare the vegetables. Core & coarsely chop the tomatoes; save the juice. Core, seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel & coarsely chop onions & shallots. Peel, seed & coarsely chop cucumbers. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, reserved tomato juice, canned tomato juice & eggs. In a blender or processor with the steel blade, puree the vegetables in small batches, adding tomato juice mixture as necessary to keep blades from clogging. Do not puree completely; the gazpacho should retain some of its crunch. Stir in cayenne, salt & pepper to taste & dill. Cover & chill for at least 4 hours.

Chilling the soup is a necessity and you won’t mind waiting the four hours after you taste how good it is.  A perfect soup for a decidedly un-perfectly hot day, which it was.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Appetizer, Local, Soup, Vegetables, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 3 Comments


Yesterday, the kids and I went to the farmer’s market in Concord and then went around the corner to Concord’s Annual Market Days.  At Market Days, Main St. is closed off and the stores plus lots of other people set up tents for a day of outdoor fun!  Along with all of the tents, there’s rides, face painting, games – even some animals; it’s very much like a small fair.

The kids rode the rides

They played the games

They got their faces painted

They checked out the animals

This is all well and nice (it was, too!), but where’s the food part of this FOOD blog post, Mike?  In a blast from the past, I came across The Good Loaf bakery and her blessed pain de mie.  Almost none of you will remember last summer when I spoke of this wonderful bread.  It holds a special place in my heart because it was posting about sandwiches with this bread that I first became friends with a wonderful Canadian girl named Sara.

Anyway, the kids and I were walking through a huge tent set up with a lot of little tables of various shops when I spotted the bread.  I, literally, sucked in air and made a little happy noise.  I said, “Pan de Mie!  I love this bread!”  Because I was so excited about it, she sold it to me for three bucks.

On the way out, I spotted an antique shop selling a bunch of stuff and in a big box marked “4 dollars each” I found this fish roaster and a GIGANTIC cake pan.  I have no need for either, but I know someday, someday I will need them and for eight dollars, I’ll be all set.

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Local, Random Blather | 4 Comments