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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: High Country Produce Won’t Be Around Much Longer!

By Sherrie Norris,

If your friend or neighbor drops off a basket of tomatoes, a bucket of beans or a box of corn, by all means — accept it with gratitude and a big smile! Those days of fresh produce coming from local gardens will soon be over for this year, anyway, so take it and make it count. Thankfully, our local farmer’s markets will keep things available for a while longer, but even that will come to an end, eventually. 

Our family has once again been blessed with the generosity of those in our circle who have extended their bountiful harvests with us. In the last couple of weeks, we have “worked up” tomatoes into salsa and spaghetti sauce from the master gardener at the top of the hill; we have frozen beautiful full ears of corn from my son’s garden, have canned “a run” of amazing beans grown by special friends in town, and have finally tried and succeeded at making “cowboy candy” from hot peppers grown by family friends in Kernersville. Just one note on that one, however: when a recipe advises one to wear gloves while cutting up hot peppers, please do heed the warning. I rushed into the process without a second thought. I spent two hours working on hot peppers and didn’t feel a bit of heat, except for the “sample” spoonful of the finished “candy,” which required a big glass of milk to tame the heat on my lips and tongue afterward. 

However, at some point, hours later, in the middle of the night, I began to feel my hands tingle and they didn’t stop tingling (and burning!) throughout the following day. I suppose, at this point anyway, I should share that rubbing one’s eye in the early morning hours was quite the experience, as the residue from the hot peppers remained alive and well — even after several “hand-washings.” But, now, I know. And I will use caution next time around. And I hope there is a next time, for sure. I am so proud of those beautiful jars of “candy” that I had heard about and contemplated making for several years. And I have learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks. And I will remember, as I have learned in life, that many things that look good might cause you joy and pain at the same time, so proceed carefully!

Anyway, I offer a big “thank you” to those who have shared and continue to share their garden goods with us. We are very appreciative and will enjoy some of it for months to come. Hope you are as blessed to enjoy locally grown produce and are able to put some “away” for later. My husband has said, as he looks at our pantry, “That will taste better than a snowball this winter.”

Hearty Cabbage Dish

1 lb. ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

1 small head cabbage, shredded

1 large can Mexican-styled tomatoes with liquid

1 Tsp. brown sugar

1 Tsp. vinegar

¼  tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

Hot rice

In a large skillet, brown beef and onion, drain. Stir in cabbage. Cover and cook about 5 minutes, or until cabbage is crisp tender. Stir in tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook ten minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. 

Simple Chow Chow

1 gal. green to pink tomatoes

1 gal. cabbage, chopped 

1 gal. onions, chopped 

1 qt. green bell peppers, chopped

4 red bell peppers, chopped

3 qt. vinegar

3 ½ cups sugar

1 Tbs. turmeric

1 Tbs. ground allspice

1 Tbs. ground cinnamon

1 Tbs. celery seeds

Hot peppers, optional

Chop fine all vegetables; cover with cup of salt. Let set for at least two hours or overnight. Drain well. Put into large pot and add vinegar, sugar and spices. Boil 20 minutes and put into clean canning jars; place lids and rings on and process in a water bath for 8-10 minutes.

Peaches and Cream

The late Eula Vines, a precious person in my life and a wonderful cook, shared this recipe with me 25 years ago. I think of her every year at this same time, as she had a love for gardening and taught me so much about canning and cooking, in general. 

4 cups peaches

1½ cup sugar

2 Tbs. cornstarch

Pinch of salt 

1 cup water 

½ -3/4 pkg. peach gelatin

½ stick margarine, melted

2 cups Graham cracker crumbs 

 8 oz. cream cheese

 ½ cup milk 

8 oz. container whipped topping 

Slice peaches and add ¼ cup sugar. Set aside. Combine ¾ cup sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in small saucepan. Heat until mixture is clear and begins to thicken. Add gelatin. Allow to cool completely and then add peaches. 

Mix margarine and cracker crumbs. Press ½ of mixture into bottom of dish. 

Beat cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, and milk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. 

Place half of the cheese mixture on top of crumbs in dish. Pour peach and gelatin mixture on top. Add remaining cheese mixture. Then finish with remaining crumb mixture. Chill at least two hours before serving. 

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 medium green tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick


¼ cup cornmeal

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

¾ tsp. garlic salt

½ tsp. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 egg, beaten

¼ cup cooking oil

Lightly sprinkle tomatoes with salt; drain on paper towels for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, Parmesan, flour, garlic salt, oregano and pepper in a shallow plate.

Dip each tomato slice into egg, then into cornmeal mixture. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Fry tomatoes, a few at a time for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towel-lined wire rack. Serve immediately. Yield 4-6 servings.

Tomato Tip #1: To preserve fresh garden tomatoes for use in future casseroles and soups, wash and remove stems. Place whole tomatoes in plastic freezer bags in recipe-size quantities. Freeze. After defrosting, skins will easily peel off and the tomatoes can be diced and added to your dishes.

Tip #2: Removing the skins from tomatoes before canning is easy if you dip them in boiling water, then cold water. They slip right off.