Tomato Catsup


The name I gave my great-grandmother Laura Margrave was “Gran Mutt,” a peculiar title for anyone, but she took great pride in being called by that name. As the wife of a Methodist preacher, and mother of many children, she gathered loads of recipes from church folks. I could write an entire book on the days I spent visiting Gran Mutt. I’ll come back to some of those stories in future posts.

Gran Mutt would end up with bushels of tomatoes out of her luxurious garden of fruits and vegetables. So far, I only get enough little tomatoes to add to my own salad. Like many cooks from the early 20th century, most of her food was homemade, rather than buying from the store like we do today.

Here is Gran Mutt’s version of tomato catsup, which has absolutely no resemblance to the stuff we buy in a bottle at the store. I can remember how wonderful the house smelled when she made it – and probably everyone down the street could smell it, too!

Tomato Catsup


Boil together for 1 ½ hours one-half bushel of ripe tomatoes, 3 pints vinegar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons ground cloves, 4 tablespoons allspice, 1 teacup salt, 2 pounds brown sugar, 2 tablespoons celery seed.

Seal in bottles.

From the drug store, buy salicylic acid, and put about a pin-head sized drop in the top of each bottle or jar of catsup so it won’t spoil. She said it was an old German custom.

Lucy’s Note: Her recipe doesn’t say whether she peeled the tomatoes, but I’m quite sure she did. Also, she doesn’t specify the kind of vinegar, but I don’t remember seeing anything but apple cider vinegar in all the kitchens of my family. I love her use of “teacup” rather than another measure, and wonder if people even remember what a “teacup” is. In Gran Mutt’s day, the “teacup” was about as accurate a measure as anything else!

Some of you may have more tomatoes than you can give away, so you might try making this for yourself. If I ever pick that many tomatoes from my vines, I may try her recipe.

A hui hou!

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