Tag Archives: origins

It’s September. Tomato Ginger Chutney Time. Recipe.

I posted photos and ingredients of my favorite September past-time: making tomato-ginger chutney on my Facebook page. People wrote to ask for the recipe, so here it is (below).

Now this is appropriate. Did you know that tomatoes originated in Mexico as early as 700 AD? It’s no wonder I love this concoction.

Ready for the pantry … or the belly!
Try it on blue corn chips — gluten-free!

I’ve been making this condiment for 40 years every September when there is a plethora of ripe garden tomatoes. It is a ritual that started in South Bend, Indiana, where I was a young mother and met my long-time friend, Natalie Klein. We would go to farmer’s market (or grow our own) and stock up on the harvest. Over the years, I’ve adapted the flavors of Natalie’s original recipe to make it my own.

The slow simmer — ready when froth is no more

Next week, I’m taking a road trip to Indiana where Natalie and I will have a jam-making reunion. (We are both virus-free, virus-safe, super-cautious.)

Using tool to remove from hot water bath

This is a perfect accompaniment to any meat, fowl or fish dish. Schmear it on a toasted bagel, with or without cream cheese. Use it as syrup over pancakes or French toast. Gift it for the holidays. Serve it at Thanksgiving alongside your turkey.

Ready to eat!

Prep time: About an hour. Cooking time: About an hour.


  • 4 cups of peeled, cored and thinly sliced tomatoes (about 4-5 tomatoes)
  • 4 cups sugar (I prefer organic, cane sugar)
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 T. fresh grated ginger or 2 T. minced candied ginger
  • 1 medium navel orange, sliced thin
  • 1 small lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/2 C. chopped fresh pineapple (optional)
  • 3-4 whole cloves (optional)
Ready when slow drips from spoon — like syrup

To peel tomatoes, bring an 8-qt. pot of water to boil. Core whole tomatoes. Score an X at the blossom end with a sharp knife. Immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove. Cool. Peel.

Add all ingredients to a stainless steel 4-6 qt. saucepan. Base of pan should have a thick aluminum core. Do not use a thin based pot or you will burn your ingredients. My preferred cooking vessels are made by All-Clad Aluminum, which I sold 40-years ago in my gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, The Clay Kitchen, South Bend, Indiana.

I like to recycle jelly jars, too.

First cook over low heat until sugars begin to melt. Turn burner to medium-high heat and bring to boil. Adjust heat and allow mixture to cook at low boil for about 1 hour. You can stir occasionally to make sure mix isn’t sticking to bottom of pan. You need to check the pot periodically to be sure! Safe bet: Use a jelly thermometer. Mix is done when temp reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preparation of jars: clean canning jars. Immerse in hot boiling water just before filling. Use new canning lids and bands. Immerse these in boiling water, too, to sterilize.

Sterilizing jars. Some put theirs in dishwasher.

Use a canning funnel and insert it into the jars. Ladle mix into jars with about 1/4″ head space. Wipe rim with wet paper towel to clean off any jam residue. Place lid and band over jar top and tighten band so it is secure.

Immerse jars in an 8 qt. stock pot of boiling water. Cover. Process for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. You will hear the lids pop if the top is properly sealed. You can also press on the lid. If there is no movement, the top is sealed.

Yield: about 2 pints of jam. You can use 1/2 pint jelly jars to prepare for gifting. Natalie doesn’t do a water bath. She refrigerates jam. It will keep open and refrigerated for several months.

Lids and bands waiting in hot water

Explaining Day of the Dead to Friends

Day of the Dead — Dia de los Muertos — is one of the many Mexican holidays that blend Spanish Catholicism with pre-Hispanic, indigenous mystical rites. Despite political rhetoric, with a culturally permeable border, Halloween has crept into Mexico and sugar skulls have crept into the U.S.

My friend Sue said, I thought Day of the Dead was on November 1.

That is when it starts, I replied. It continues through midnight, November 2, when we accompany the spirits of our loved ones back to the cemetery, and sit at the gravesite with them to ensure a tranquil return to their eternal resting place. 

November 1 is All Saints Day.

November 2 is All Souls Day.

My Durham, NC, altar — under construction. What’s missing?

On October 31, All Hallows Eve or Halloween, with Celtic origin, there are children’s masquerades in Oaxaca to remember the young ones who have left earth at an early age.

Sunflower bouquet, NC Farmer’s Market, Raleigh

In the village where I live, Teotitlan del Valle, Day of the Dead conjures up a celebration of life and its continuum. Death is merely a continuation of life. We see this greca symbol woven in the rugs and interpreted as the steps through life, from infancy to adulthood to old age to death and then the pattern repeats. Circular. Continuous.

There is something reassuring and elemental about this, which is why I love this spiritual approach to living and dying, why it is easy for me to build an altar and celebrate the lives of my ancestors.

Rows of pumpkins, squash and gourds at NC Farmer’s Market, Raleigh

This time of year also conjures up abundance. Altars are filled with bread, chocolate, fruits, beverages and edibles that the deceased persons we honor enjoyed. It is harvest time, when the sun sets early and we want to cozy up with our memories.

There are photos now of our loved ones on the altar. But not long ago, before access to cameras in small villages, people sat on the floor with altars on the floor, slept on the floor atop handwoven palm leaf petates.

Hot Tamale! or Habanero Heaven at NC Farmer’s Market, Raleigh

They conjured up their memories, visions of the deceased. They lit candles and kept the flame burning for 24-hours. They lit copal incense to entice dead spirits back to earth for a visit with the heady aroma. They cut wild marigolds, also called Mexican mint marigold or winter marigold, a variety of tarragon, and put them in gourd vases, another scent to bring the ancestors home.

My own altar is now under construction. It will be finished by November 1.  On November 2, from Durham, North Carolina, I will sit with the memories of my parents, Dorothy and Ben, light candles and copal, honor them.

Rooster crown, or cockscomb, is as popular as marigolds in Oaxaca

On November 2, in Teotitlan del Valle, my friends and neighbors will share a comida midday meal with the spirit world. At 3:00 p.m. the church bells that have been tolling continuously for 24 hours will stop.

Families will then go to the cemetery, sit quietly, drink beer and mezcal, bring an evening meal, consider the meaning of life and death. Their ancestors graves will one day become theirs. The plots are familial; graves are recycled every ten years to accept the body of another, old bones moved aside to make way. A reassurance.

These Calacas came to the Raleigh Art Space from Mexico in time for Muertos

Many spiritual traditions have an annual day of memory. In mine, we light a 24-hour candle on the anniversary of a parent’s death. I will do that, too. It is good to always remember.

Altar at NC Art Space honor organic food and the farmers who grow it

Wherever you live, I bet you can assemble your own altar. Look for farmer’s markets, Mexican groceries, art centers that want to merge multicultural practice to promote appreciation.  The papel picado came from a local gift shop. The sugar skulls from the local Mexican sweet shop. What’s missing? Pan de muertos. I’ll buy that next week.