When Jill Holt wrote me from Hampden about her beans swaggon memories, as several of you did, she also spoke of tomato stew. That swaggon really touched a nerve, and I have a modest collection of additional new recipes. Many thanks to all who sent one along. But first, imagine my delight when Jill reported that January 19th’s beans swaggon recipe, which came from a Hermon cookbook, had been originally contributed by her uncle Del Getchell. Judi Smith of Hermon had found the recipe and sent it along to me, and Jill’s mom and Del were siblings.
Jill comes from Aroostook County, and she wrote, “I grew up on simple food like that, food that was uncomplicated, delicious and also nutritious. We ate a lot of beans, usually baked, and we never got tired of them. In fact, everyone in my large family still loves beans.”
Then Jill went on to say that she recalled that her family’s “Sunday evening meal was often Tomato Stew, as we called it. It was simply a scalded milk seasoned with salt and pepper to which canned tomatoes were added (the tomatoes were often home canned). It was so tasty served with saltine crackers. Simple food, economical food that satisfied a large growing family.”
For some reason, probably having to do with the cold weather that week, plus comforting thoughts of hot tomatoes mellowed with milk and my own memories of repeating Sunday night supper menus (at our house it was pancakes made by dad), the tomato stew really appealed. Plus here was another exceedingly economical supper. As Jill said, “If a family could make just a couple of these simple and cheap meals a week, it could really make a difference in their budgets.”
I asked Jill if she remembered the proportions. She checked in with her sisters and reported back. Jill recalled her mom often used home canned tomatoes and evaporated milk, and that she added a bit of baking soda to keep the mixture from curdling. She wrote, “When the milk is hot, add one or two cups of tomatoes and heat till hot but not boiling. Ladle into bowls and serve with saltines or toast.” So I did.
I used a pint of my canned tomatoes, to which I often add a couple of leaves of basil and a clove of garlic. Round the tomatoes off to the nearest whole can and for the quantities that follow, just get as close to 16 ounces as you can. I try always to have evaporated milk on hand, and while I did not have saltines, I did have toast. Gosh, it was good, warm and comforting. If you wish a little more zip, add red pepper flakes or hot sauce, or add garlic, onions, basil or oregano if you want. Toby requested a sprinkle of shredded cheese on top. I liked it “as is.”
Makes four servings
1 twelve ounce can of evaporated milk or 2 cups whole milk
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pint or 2 cups of canned stewed tomatoes, not drained
Put the milk and water into a heavy-bottomed pan and set over a medium flame to scald it. When you see bubbles around the edge of the pan, add the baking soda and stir in. Then add the tomatoes and heat through. Don’t allow it to boil. Put crackers or toast, buttered if you wish, into the soup bowls and ladle the tomato stew over it.
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