I have never had such good luck growing tomatoes and peppers in all my gardening years. Of course, it occurs when the kids have left home. Mark was questioning my sanity when he asked why I was canning all these tomatoes, peppers and apples. I reminded him I am still cooking for the kids. Jars disappear from the shelves after a family visit. It is nice to know they still need their mom’s cooking even when they are on their own. I have been restocking my pepper relish and tomato juice/sauce supplies. The shelves are filling up nicely. They all look so pretty lined up in rows of summer colors. I am trying my hand at making my own spaghetti sauce this year. I am sharing a recipe from a dear friend who cooks by taste. I think you will like Gordon’s spaghetti sauce. He said it never turns out the same way twice but is always cooked with love.
    My apple trees are loaded again this year. The Zestar! apples have been processed into the sweetest applesauce. Mark can eat a whole pint in one meal or as a snack. The Cortland, Honeycrisp and Haralson apples are ready for pressing into cider and chopping up into chunks for cakes, crisps and pies. I discovered an apple pie cake recipe in an old diocesan centennial cookbook. I have made three pans of it, and I think Mark has consumed at least a pan and a half by himself. Apparently, it is good for breakfast. It has a caramel sauce topping, but he thinks warm cake topped with ice cream would be great too.

Apple pie cake
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar (I use brown and regular sugars.)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 Tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
5 cups apples, chopped/chunked
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
    Mix butter, sugar, spices and well-beaten eggs. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to butter mixture with flour. Mix well. Stir in apples and nuts. Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. May be served with ice cream or the following sauce:
1/2cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
    Bring to a boil. Serve it warm on the cake. Makes enough topping for two cakes.

Gordon’s spaghetti sauce
    He likes to make large batches of 8-12 quarts at a time to can or freeze. You are only limited by the size of your pot.
    – Italian seasoned pork sausage: about 1 pound for 1.5 to 2 quarts of sauce. Brown and chop up.
    – Fresh tomatoes: steamed and peeled and as many as you want. Cook them down and leave chunks large enough that people know it is from scratch. After the sauce is cooked down, you can strain it if you want to remove the seeds, just spoon the tomato chunks out of the sauce first.
    – Tomato paste to thicken.
    – Mushrooms: can be fresh or canned. I like to use fresh and sauté them in butter (or butter and white wine) before I put them in the sauce.
    – Dark brown sugar to taste. I often use a ratio of ¾ cup to 2 quarts of sauce.
    – Onions: a good healthy amount. If you like them soft, sauté them with the mushrooms.
    – Garlic: fresh is best, a good healthy amount. You can sauté fresh garlic with the onions and mushrooms, just add them at the end. Only need a little bit of time to sauté.
    – Worcestershire sauce: 1-2 Tablespoons per quart.
    – Oregano: more than a healthy amount.
    – Basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaves and salt. I don’t use a lot of salt but enough to enhance the other flavors. Sometimes I have added cilantro, a sweet barbeque sauce or ketchup spice. Put the spices in a cheesecloth and throw it in the pot to simmer while you cook down the tomatoes.
    My secret ingredient in spaghetti sauce is grape jelly. The grapes and sugars mellow out the acidity of the tomatoes.

Pepper relish by Becky Dowell
12 green bell peppers
12 red bell peppers
12 onions
3 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon salt
    Chop or grind peppers and onions. Drain off excess liquids. Bring sugar, vinegar and salt to a boil. Add veggies. Simmer for 20 minutes. Put into hot jars and seal. This is what the kids all request for their shelves. When they were little, it was a family affair grinding the peppers and onions with the old hand crank grinder clamped on to the picnic table as the juices ran all over the ground. The smell of the vinegar, sugar and veggies simmering on the stove just made your mouth water. This is a recipe my mom developed and is a family favorite. Grandsons have tried heating the recipe up with some hot peppers. Waiting to see how that turns out.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minnesota. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.