Red Tin Recipe Box :Tomato Catsup


roasted ingrCatsup, Ketchup. Tomato, Tamato.

A condiment consisting of pureed tomatoes, onions, vinegar,sugar,spices, etc.

The very thing no french fry can live without,  no hot dog or burger either. Why so we love it so? And when did we all stop making it ourselves? Have you read the ingredient list of the commercially prepared stuff? Didn’t think so. If you had, you would never buy it again.


I came across my Grandmother’s recipe for Tomato Catsup not too long ago. The problem, as with all old recipes, is there is little instruction and even less measurements. It was a common thing, everybody made it,why do you need to be told how? Obviously the genetic memory for catsup making passed my generation. I have no such information in my DNA (I’ve checked) baking, yes. Catsup, no. So, here I was with the most vague of recipes with the ingredient list that read:

ripe tomatoes ( basket) peeled and chopped with 6 onions (large) green pepper, 5 chopped apples, 2c sugar

1tsp cayenne, 1 tables cloves, 1 tables cinnamon 3c cider vingar

Combine all and cook for 3 hours, no water–slowly.


Sorry? …Basket?  A green pepper?

Trust me, I was ready to reach for the Ouija board, or visit a medium. Fortunately my aunt was available for some much needed clarification.

A basket = 6 ltrs, green peppers might have been 6 of them. The rest was not that difficult, unless you start thinking about how much this is going to make. So I had to break the recipe down to something far more manageable.

I had to reach for the conversion charts, and  consult my live resource.  Once I worked out how many cups one tomato would get me, and the same with everything else, it all fell into place. It took a week…no really.

So, here is the revised recipe, in a manageable amount that is fairly easy to make at home. Once the sauce is made, you can put it into canning jars to process.

The only special equipment you are going to need is a slow cooker, and possibly an emersion blender. It makes the process easier, but not the end of the world if you do not have these things.

1 3/4 C onions

3 C peppers ( I suggest red peppers)

2 1/2 C apples

12 C tomatoes

1 1/2 C Cider Vinegar

1/2   C brown sugar

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne

Set your oven to broil, and prepare a pan for all of your tomatoes and peppers.

As I used canner tomatoes, and I worked out one tomato equals a half cup . So, you will need 24 good sized canner tomatoes. Place the tomatoes on the pan and place under the broiler, wait for the skins to blacken and blister, then turn the tomatoes and blacken the other side. Once both sides are blackened, take them out and place them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or a large plate until they are cool enough to peel.

In the mean time use the same pan to roast the peppers. Lets just talk about the peppers for a sec. I find green peppers to be bitter and horrid, it gets worse when they are cooked. I don’t use them, they are not allowed in the kitchen or past the front door for that matter. I have become a pepper snob. I will only use red, yellow or orange. For this recipe I used red peppers.  I roasted them in the same way I did the tomatoes and measured out the amount I needed.  Peel and half the onions, as I had worked out one onion would net me about one cup, you will need two large onions ( I did three, just in case as my definition of large may be different from yours) place these on the tray and roast as the tomatoes and the peppers ( I hope you decide to use red ones, I really, really do.)

Measure out the rest of the ingredients and combine. If you are using a slow cooker, use the high setting until the ingredients start to break down. This will take several hours, at some point ( six or eight hours) you can use the emersion blender to make a smooth sauce , then turn the setting to low and let the catsup to reduce and thicken. Stove top cooking will be much the same, it will take a little more babysitting… Cook on a low heat stirring occasionally with the lid off. Once the ingredients have broken down, you can use a blender in small batches make a smooth sauce. Or you can let the still chunky sauce cool and use a food mill, something every catsup making house wife had back in the day.


I let my sauce reduce overnight in the crock-pot on low, eight hours later I had a perfectly reduced catsup. The only thing that was required was to adjust the seasonings ( notice how the recipe does not call for salt or pepper, or even garlic for that matter!) The only task left now was to jar and process it. I managed to get 5 pint jars form this recipe, enough to keep us all winter long…and possibly spring…and surely into next fall.

I think I know what everybody is getting for Christmas.

finished jars


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Red Tin Recipe Box


Shortly after my Grandmothers’ passing, my Aunt sent me various and assorted ceramic nicknacks, old photo albums and a red tin recipe box. Part of my share of her estate. This small unassuming box, overflowing with paper and barely able to close was put away into a cupboard, and there it sat for over a year.
Yes, I knew it was there. Yes I ignored it. One day, I told myself, I will go through it. No, really, I’ll get to it. And still it sat behind the cupboard door for over a year ( okay, going on two)

Gran loved to cook, and enjoyed good food. When my Grandfather passed, I was given all of the Gourmet magazine they had collected. The joke was, it was my inheritance. All of those magazines from the decedent and over the top ’80′s, but I loved them, as he knew I would.
Now, at Grans passing I was given all of her recipes; knowing I would love them.

You know, it’s amazing what a little bit of house reno will force you to do…Long story short, furniture was moved and cuppords cleaned. And there was the red tin recipe box.

“What are we doing with this?” my Husband asked, “I’ll get to it” I said.

It’s now a week later, and I did have time to go through the box. I could not believe what I found. Recipes written in my Grandmothers’ hand. Some in pen, some in pencil and barely legible. Most of them obviously well used.

But what took me aback, were the recipes from my Paternal Great-Grandmother (Mme Stagg), and from Aunt Lottie, my Grandfather’s sister. As well as a recipe for Snickerdoodles written in my Mothers’ grade school hand. I was holding my family history, my family tree was in this box.

I had no idea of the treasure I possessed.

All of the women I would have loved to ask to recipe share had left me their favourites. I could not ask for a better inheritance.

It’s my intention to work through the recipes ( the ones I can read an any rate) and share. The weather is getting cooler, and canning season is in full swing. I have a tomato catsup to try, and a date nut loaf to bake. All from the  Recipe Box.


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Chocolate Bacon Praline Shortbread Cookies



For the cookie:

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 cup of softened butter (unsalted)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp of salt



For the Praline:

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

4 rashers of bacon

pinch of salt


For the chocolate:

3 oz of dark chocolate chips, melted




In a bowl, mix together the flour, softened butter, the sugar and the 1/2 tsp of salt. Blend with a fork until the butter is the size of peas. Then mix with your hands till the dough just comes together ( it will be crumbly, but should hold it’s shape when squeezed in your hand)

Place a long sheet of plastic wrap on your counter surface, and place the dough in the middle. Wrap the plastic around the dough, squeezing tightly till you have a log shape. Tie the ends. Place the dough into the fridge for one hour to firm up.


Now you can start on the praline.

Slice the four rashers of bacon into 1 cm pieces, cook over medium high heat in a pan until crisp. Drain the bacon and set aside to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. 

In a skillet with a heavy bottom, pour in your sugar. Heat the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Swirl the pan to help incorporate the unmelted sugar, and continue to cook until you have a caramel/amber colour.

Take the pan off the heat and quickly add the cooked bacon, stir to coat the bacon and pour out on to your parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Set aside to cool.

Remove the dough from the fridge.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350*F.

Slice the dough into 1 cm coins, place on the baking sheet 4 cm apart ( they don’t spread that much) The dough may crumble and not quite hold its round shape, if that happens, gather the dough in your hands and let it warm up. Roll the dough into a ball, then flatten in the palm of your hand and place on the baking sheet. (alternately, all of the cookies can be made this way)

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they brown just slightly around the edges. Cool on a baking rack.

Gather up the cooled praline and place in a zip top bag. Using a rolling pin or other effective implement, give the praline a few hearty whacks to break it up into small pieces. Set aside.

Dressing the cookies:

Carefully spoon one tsp of the melted chocolate onto the cookie, and sprinkle some of the praline on top. Place on a bakers rack to let the topping sit and firm up.


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Adventures in Sourdough Bread

flower loafI’m not sure why the art of bread making has been lost to home cooks. I understand it takes time ,and for the most part we have precious little of it these days. But if you break down a bread making recipe, most of the time it takes to make it , the maker is hardly involved. It’s the rise time that turns most off. Surely you do not have 10 hours plus to make a single loaf of bread! Look at the recipe again, and your involved time is really an hour.

Ah! Now it makes sense!

Trust me, even the most overworked soccer/hockey parent can make a loaf of bread. Get the kids involved and you have a learning experience they will never forget. Bread is patient and forgiving. It doesn’t need to look pretty to be tasty, you can add flavourings and make different shapes. But the basic recipe stays the same.

Why go to all the trouble? Have you read the ingredient list on a loaf of bread? They contain shelf stabilizers and sulphites, mono and diglycerides. Bread, in my opinion should have four  basic ingredients:


Yeast (or starter)



That’s it! Simple and pronounceable ingredients.

Sourdough is an old method of making bread, it involves making and using a starter as the primary leavening ingredient. Depending on your school of thought, It started in Egypt when a baker left a bit of dough out in the sun, and discovered it had fermented. Basically making what we now refer to as a “sponge”. Some bakers will make a starter using milk products like low-fat milk and unflavoured yogurt. While I found it gave good flavour to use a starter made this way, it did not leaven the bread and extra yeast was needed.

jar of starterThe recipe given below is for a starter that uses store bought yeast. After awhile, it will mature and you will not need to add yeast, you will just need to feed it. Adding flour and sugar every few days it will thicken and become a sponge that will be the only leavening agent you need for your sourdough breads, pancakes, English muffins, pizza dough and any other thing you can think of! Sourdough cinnamon rolls anyone?
Here is a real time workable sourdough bread starter, that actually worked!
1 packet of active dry yeast
2 1/2 Cups of warm water ( body temp)
2 Cups of AP flour
1 TBSP of honey

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of water, stir in everything else. Mix until smooth.
I put my mixture into a large canning jar and covered it loosely with cling film. Remember this is a living thing and needs to breathe.
Leave it stand at room temp for 5-10 days.

You will find the water separates from the flour and it will smell quite alcoholic. Believe me, this is what you want. You can stir it back together, and it will be just fine.
Next, I’ll tell you how to use and feed it.

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“Come to the Dark Side Cookies”

“Come to the Dark Side Cookies”

aka: Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

 1 cup all-purpose flourOatmealcookie

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 whole egg

2 tblsp 2% milk

1/2 tsp vanilla 

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Set aside. In another bowl; beat together sugar and butter until combined. Add to the sugar and butter mixture; the egg, milk and vanilla. Beat together until combined. Add dry ingredients,( a little at a time), to the wet while beating together until combined. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips. Let dough cool in frig for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll cookie dough into small 1 inch balls and place on parchment covered baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Flatten each ball with a flour coated fork. Top each cookie with 3 chocolate chips. Bake cookies for 10 min or until the bottoms start to brown. Cool the cookies on a cooling rack. HINT: let the baking sheet cool a bit before putting next batch on baking sheet. And the dough cooks better if, once you are done forking the dough you let it set out for a couple minutes before putting into the oven. 

Makes about 24 cookies. Welcome to the dark side. :)

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Sausage and Mushroom stuffing

It’s wonderful when you have recipes in your repertoire that have been passed down through your family. I don’t have as many a Chef does, but the ones I do have are well loved by my entire extended family.

My Grandmother told me this one came from my Mother. My Aunts and their families also make this, so now it’s officially traditional.

This will stuff a 12 pound turkey, or you can make it in a casserole dish. My apologies for having mixed metric and imperial, but this is how it was given to me. And in Canada, items sold by weight are always in metric.

You will need:

12 C bread crumbs ( we use a “stuffing” bread, its already seasoned) and yes, it must be fresh bread you use. Not dried bread crumbs for coating.

500 gr Bulk Pork sausage

1/3 C butter

1 1/2 C  celery, diced small

3/4 C onion, diced small

1 C roughly chopped mushrooms ( we use button)

1 tsp pepper

1 TBSP each of : dried sage, dried thyme, dried marjoram

poultry seasoning to taste

In a pan large enough to hold everything but the bread crumbs, melt the butter and add the celery and onions. Cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and allow the them to cook through. Add the bulk sausage and the herbs, cook until the sausage is no longer pink.

Adjust the seasoning, and add the entire contents of the pan to the bread crumbs.  Mix well.

At this point, you can stuff the turkey or place the stuffing into a greased casserole dish.If you are stuffing the turkey, do this just before the bird goes into the oven. If you are planning ahead, cover the casserole dish and put it into the refrigerator for baking the next day.


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Home Cured Salmon

At least once a year I make eggs benedict for Jen and I, usually on new years morning. Jen loves to have cured salmon on hers. So this year I decided to make my own cured salmon for a fresher taste. Making your own home cured salmon is easier than you think. Here’s how:


Home Cured Salmon

1 pound Atlantic salmon

2 sprigs of fresh dill

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sea salt

1 tblsp fresh cracked black pepper corns

1 oz vodka

Layer a dish with plastic wrap.

Place all the dill on top of the plastic wrap.

In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper and brown sugar. Pour the dry mixture that is in the small bowl over the dill that’s on the plastic wrap evenly.

Check the salmon for any small bones. Remove any bones that your fishmonger may have forgotten. Then place the salmon, skin side up, on top of the mixture. Pour all the vodka over the salmon. Close the wrap over the salmon. Apply weight to the salmon with small food cans in another dish. Place in frig for two days.












After 2 days unwrap your now cured salmon, rinse off the curing mixture with cold water and pat dry your salmon. Slice thin. That’s it. Easier than you thought eh?








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Cranberry and Orange Relish

Jen and I didn’t like the canned jellied blob of cranberry sauce that most people have. You know the one. Tastes like the can and sweeter than candy. We wanted something fresh tasting with a different texture. After searching through many cookbooks, we came across this cranberry relish recipe almost 20 years ago. Over the years we have tweaked it to suit our taste.

This relish is NOT cooked ,it is macerated. Macerating is a term mostly used for the soaking of fruits and/or vegetables in a liquid to break them down. As the cranberries and orange macerate, their flavours will develop or open up and mix together. I usually make this relish a week before Christmas. This gives the ingredients time to macerate or even age if you will.

The cranberries are bitter and tart. The orange is sweet and acidic. With the addition of the sugar and the liqueur, after a week of aging, all of the ingredients will mellow and compliment each other. Making this a perfectly well balanced, fresh and fruity relish for your holiday turkey, chicken, pork or even on pancakes.


Cranberry and Orange Relish

1 Navel orange (wash, chop orange into a large dice) That’s the whole orange. Trust me on this one. The whole orange. Skin,pith and everything. (except the seeds if you can’t find a navel orange).

1 cup fresh cranberries ,rinse under cold water

1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (this depends on how sweet you want it)

1 oz Orange liqueur (I use Grand Marnier)

Put all the ingredients into a food processor. Puree until smooth. Put into non reactive container. Place in frig for 3 days to 1 week before using. This recipe freezes well also.

Just made                                                                  After one week












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Chocolate Mousse

M O U S E :  A small rodent with a thin tail and whiskers, partial to cheese and scurrying. Famous relatives live and work at the Magic Kingdom USA.

I remember, as a young girl, being taken to an ice cream shop. Feeling very grownup and ordering for myself a single scoop of chocolate mouse. Needless to say there were snorts and giggles from the help behind the counter, as well as incredulous ”What did you say?” from my parent. “But it says mouse!”, I insisted, with all of my eight year old worldliness.

Obviously I had miss-read the menu board, and yes I was forever teased, but from that day forward mouse to me means a chocolate dessert.

Here is my favorite chocolate mouse… I mean mousse recipe. 

You will need…

6 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 lb of unsalted butter

1 1/2 TBSP of liqueur of your choice (almond, coffee, orange, cherry ect.)

1/2 lb of semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate ( I use Lindt  85% cacao)

2 TBSP sugar

Separate the eggs ( whites in one bowl, yolks in another)

To the bowl with the yolks, add the vanilla and butter. Whip with a whisk until blended, add the liqueur you have chosen.

Break the chocolate into pieces and add them to a bowl of a double boiler ( a double boiler is a sauce pan filled with about 2 inches of barely simmering water, a metal or glass bowl is placed into the sauce pan so it just hovers over the simmering water. You do not want the bowl to sit in the simmering water, you want the steam created to do the work for you). Melt until smooth and allow to cool a bit.

With a hand held beater ( or use a whisk and your whipping arm…show off!) beat the egg whites and sugar to a stiff  peak.

Pour your now slightly cooled chocolate into the bowl with the egg yolks and blend gently, adding the chocolate to the yolks a little at a time to temper them.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped egg whites, using an under and over motion so as not to deflate the whites.

You can pour this into small pretty glasses, or into a large glass bowl and chill.




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Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

When it comes to Christmas desserts; I think I’ve eaten all of them, or I’ve baked most of them. Even the ones I did not grow up with, the ones I married into or read about from different cultures. And as always the question arose: what do I make this year?

This year is a little different, surgery has limited my mobility and energy levels. I still wanted to make something special, and my convalescence gave me good opportunity to design recipes. I had all the time in the world to imagine ingredients and measurements. If money and time were no object, what would I make? It had to be rich, decedent and luscious. A true indulgence. It’s what the season is all about after all.

Then cold reality came crashing down on me, and I realized that not everyone had all the time in the world to bake, and if I was still working; I too would be just as stressed and harried as everyone else. So, I decided the recipe should still be rich and decedent, but time and cost effective. 

Nothing pleases me more than a recipe that can be put together quickly, using one bowl ( or pot in this case) uses ingredients that would be used during this time of year, and is tasty. Yes you will spend just a little more than usual ( depending on the chocolate you use) but it’s not prohibitive.

I made a point of using dark chocolate in this recipe, I think it adds to the flavour. But if dark is not your thing, by all means, use what you prefer. Yes you must mince the fresh ginger by hand (grating it will turn it into mush and juice, blitzing it in the food processor will not give you the right texture)

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

175 g unsalted butter

125 g dark brown sugar or demerara

200 g molasses

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

65 g peeled minced fresh ginger

2 eggs

275 g plain flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

250 ml boiling water

175 g dark chocolate chips

40 g coco powder

Pre heat your oven to 170C (or 325F)

line a 9 x 13 x 2 baking pan( yes, this is in inches) with parchment paper

In a sauce pan large enough to hold everything, melt the butter along with the sugar, molasses, all of the spices and the minced ginger.

Take the pan off the heat and add the boiling water baking soda and the eggs ( I found giving them a quick whip with a whisk helps)

Whisk mixture lightly and add the flour and the coco powder, whisk until combined and flour is incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into prepared pan. Bake for about 45minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean ( in my oven it took 40 mins)

Remove pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Lift the cake out of the pan ( using the parchment paper), and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

You could ice this cake, but I prefer it plain.

This cake is one of the main ingredients in the Chocolate Gingerbread Cake Mousse.

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