When Muriel Gorsuch recently lucked into some green bell peppers, she knew exactly what to do.
Hot dog relish.
She ground up the bell peppers with celery seed, mustard seed, onion and — look out — jalapeno peppers and ended up canning several jars of "her" relish. Her family raved about it and visions of a Kayem hot dog slathered in the homemade condiment began dancing in my head.
Her call last week held my attention for 45 minutes, largely because she's as sweet as her recipes.
And it was before lunch.
Of course, someone out there may be wondering why Gorsuch would go to so much trouble when she could go to the store.
Well, for Gorsuch, 69 and proud, whipping up concoctions and canning them for her friends and family keeps her busy and helps her harken back to her childhood.
She grew up on a farm in northern Ohio near a forgotten village called Rogues' Hollow, once known for coal mining and, according to a history book, stories of ghostly miners and giant snakes.
Gorsuch, who can easily recall when her family got indoor plumbing, said her family maintained three full gardens when she was a child and lived off the land.
They planted corn, peas and potatoes around St. Patrick's Day, weather permitting.
In June, they began harvesting tomatoes. Gorsuch and her mother quartered the tomatoes, cooked them in a pot and used something called a Foley food mill — that day's version of a food processor — to press out the good stuff.
She said they often canned 300 jars of tomato juice, enough to last a year.
These days she continues the traditions while maintaining a high-fiber diet that helped her lose 90 pounds.
She bakes apples — 350 degrees for four hours — to make up jars of sweet apple butter.
Her kids still love when she concocts pear conserve, a recipe she pulled from a 1942 cookbook that features ground pears, crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries. Serve it over pancakes, Gorsuch says, and there's no need for syrup.
The three-bean salad (green beans, kidney beans and yellow wax beans) sometimes grows to a five-bean salad if she adds black-eyed peas and garbonzo beans, but as long as she flavors it with her sweet-and-sour mix, she's sure you'll fall in love.
She puts everything but the kitchen sink into her macaroni salad, including hard-boiled eggs and olive juice. That's how her family likes it.
The more I talked with Gorsuch, the more it became clear she holds a passion for her culinary handiwork because she's able to share it with loved ones.
But she called me because she wants the Tampa Bay Times' help in locating farmers who are selling fresh vegetables. Gorsuch is convinced, as I am, that folks out there like to craft and can but would love to use fresh produce.
She frequents a few local markets, but wants more information about roadside vendors and farmers who might have yellow wax beans cheaper than the store — "They think those beans are gold" — and green bell peppers for less than $1.98 a pound.
If folks send the information to me at [email protected], we can publish it on a regular basis. After all, there are a lot more hot dogs that need relish, a lot more pancakes that need pear conserve and a lot more lovely people like Gorsuch who want to share their passion.
That's all I'm saying.