No green tomatoes? Who ever would have imagined I’d have no green tomatoes unless I picked them on purpose before they ripened? Now that I have an unheated greenhouse, I have lots of peppers, eggplants, red ripe tomatoes and even cantaloupes. What a thrill. And it requires me to rewire my food preservation synapses to find alternatives to the green tomato

chutney, green tomato pickles and green tomato relish in addition to the canned stewed ripe tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Gazing upon the red abundance on the kitchen table, my friend Toby said, “How about making chili sauce?” He was not talking about the stuff with the hamburger and beans in it, but rather the ketchup-like condiment. So I said, “Let’s look at some recipes and see what we think sounds good.”

He located about five recipes, did a side-by-side comparison and doubled the typical recipe, figuring that if we were going to heat up the canner we wanted to end up with six or seven pints. Bless him, he skinned all the tomatoes and cut up the peppers and onions. I finished cooking the batch.

The tomatoes were a mixed lot of slicers and pastes because we needed to use what was ripe in order to outpace the fruit flies. I grew a pepper this year named Jimmy Nardello. Semihot when green, it sweetens when red even though its long and pointy shape makes it look like it ought to set your kitchen on fire. That’s the one we used because it is what I had the most of, though any sweet red pepper you can grow or buy will do.

I heartily recommend as large and shallow a pan or pot as you can muster in order to promote evaporation. It took quite a while for the sauce to thicken sufficiently but required constant attention for only the last 15 minutes. I tested the sauce by putting a small blob on a saucer and tipping it to see if it would leak thin liquid. When it ceased oozing, I put it in pint-sized canning jars and processed it in a boiling water bath for about ten minutes.

This chili has a fine, rich sweet-and-sour flavor and will brighten up all kinds of dishes.

We look forward to it on beef and chicken and we’ve already had it on scrambled eggs, which it improved immensely.

Chili Sauce

Makes about 3 pints

2 dozen large ripe tomatoes, skinned

4 medium onions, chopped

3-4 cups of seeded, chopped sweet red peppers (about four regular red peppers)

4-6 cloves of garlic chopped

3 tablespoons of pickling spices

1 tablespoon of celery seed

1 tablespoon of mustard seed

Red pepper flakes or finely chopped hot pepper (optional to taste)

1½ cups of sugar

1½ cups of vinegar

Put the tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic in a large shallow pan and cook gently over medium heat until they are quite soft. Tie the pickling spices in a piece of cheesecloth and add to the pan. Lower the heat and continue cooking. Allow to reduce by about a half. Add the celery and mustard seeds, optional hot pepper, sugar and vinegar and cook until quite thick. Test by putting a spoonful on a saucer to see if liquid runs out. When it no longer seeps liquid, put into hot, sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...