Tomato Recipes from the 1920s

When Doris Wilson was in third grade, back in the Roaring Twenties, the country kids ate dinner at school, since they couldn’t go home during the noon hour. They brought what their mothers had packed for them in metal pails.

“What’s that?” someone asked her. “It looks like blood!”

Doris’s mother made tomato butter, then used it for sandwiches, just like apple butter. Leora Wilson always made whole wheat bread. You can imagine slabs of bread with red stuff seeping out.

Tomato Butter

Cook peeled tomatoes down to puree. Add sugar and the slivered rind of oranges (Doris’s favorite) or lemons. Cook some more.

Raw Tomatoes

Doris’s father ate tomatoes with sugar and cream. Clabe’s family ate them that way when he was a child. He said they taste “just like strawberries” that way. (Doris was skeptical, even after she tried it that way.)

In late autumn, the kids could smell piccalilli when they came home from school. The pungent aroma also drew flies to the kitchen door, so Leora had the kids go around to the front door. They waited for her to unlock it and shoo the flies away with a dish towel.

Leora made piccalilli or chili sauce from chopped up vegetables and fruits from the the end of her garden, with sugar, spices, and vinegar.

Chili Sauce (or Piccalilli)

1 peck ripe tomatoes
1/2 peck apples
1/4 peck onions
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons salt
1 quart vinegar
1 quart sugar
pepper - to suit taste (a red pepper is better)

Serve with any kind of meat.

Leora canned most of this concoction. Toward the end of the season, it included more apples.

From: Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots


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