The Daley Question
December 3, 2013
Q: My mother had recipe from the Sunday Tribune food section titled, "It's Chili Sauce time!" by Mary Meade (Ruth Ellen Church's pen name). I would say it ran somewhere between the late 50's to 1966. I had the original from the paper and made a copy of the text only and lost the original. By the way it is a killer recipe. Made from fresh tomatoes and spices and peppers. Good stuff. My mother would can it every year and I have done so over the years. So my question is: Where can I go to research and make a copy of that page as it appeared in the Tribune? Is it at all possible to do so after so many years? Back in the day I could go and make a copy from what they called microfiche. Now a days I don't know if that is extinct or still around.
--Carl Kamienski, Johnsburg, Ill.
A: I found the recipe and story in the Chicago Tribune archives. The archives are searchable by anyone – there's a link on the newspaper website -- although an access fee may be charged depending on whether you belong to the newspaper's Digital Plus program or not.
"It's Chili Sauce time!" was published on Sept. 20, 1953. The story is indeed credited to Mary Meade, the pen name for Ruth Ellen Church, the Tribune's long-time food editor.
The timing of the story was perfect. Mid- to late-September is when tomatoes are at their best and most plentiful. Summer's heat has ebbed enough so that the whole idea of canning doesn't seem too daunting – especially if one apes my grandmother, who wore her bathing suit (and pearls) when making chili sauce.
Mary Meade's story is short but comes with four how-to photographs. The recipe calls for grinding the vegetables, presumably in an old-fashioned meat grinder. My family never did that; we chopped the peppers fine and let the tomatoes kind of melt into smaller chunks during the cooking. Nor did we collect the spices in a cheesecloth bag; all minor differences.
While chili sauce was a favorite condiment of 19th century New Englanders, more zippy than fiery thanks to the vinegar, I was still surprised to see this recipe calls for only green peppers, I had expected a chile or two. Glad to learn from you, in a follow-up conversation, that you add three chopped jalapenos to give the sauce some zing. I suggest readers do that too.
Chili sauce is a wonderful thing. It fills the house with a wonderful aroma while it cooks and, once canned, provides a great flavor spark with fall and winter meals. Chili sauce goes particularly well with grilled lamb chops, steak, fried fish and roast chicken.
This Tribune recipe makes 2 1/2 pints – "just right for the small family," according to the story, which suggests you use this original batch now and make a second batch to can and put away for winter. You already do that, making a double bath every time.
I haven't made this version myself but the recipe looks fairly standard. Readers should refer to a canning guide for specifics on how to safely and properly can this sauce.
Makes: 2 1/2 pints
12 medium tomatoes
2 large onions
3 large green peppers
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole pickling spices
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons salt
1 cup vinegar
Scald tomatoes, dip in ice water, then slip off skins. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Skin onions, wash and seed peppers, then grind them together. Mash garlic clove with the salt. Tie cinnamon, cloves and pickling spices together in a small cheesecloth bag. Combine all ingredients in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thick as desired, about 2 hours. Ladle into hot sterilized jars at once and seal. Label jars and store when cool.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.
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