Swimming in tomatoes or up to your ears in cucumbers? It’s bumper-crop-time, produce ripening on the vine.
Recently our family benefited from nature’s bounty, thanks to a poker-playing buddy of my husband’s. Since he retired, Ivan Buschmann has been gifting friends’ tables with homemade cucumber salad and salsa.
Ivan used to have a garden, but he lost his spot. When that happened, he considered putting in a garden on a farm his brother owns in Vienna, Ivan’s hometown until he moved to Washington in the fourth grade, but it was just too far to drive. So Ivan began depending on an area source for produce to provide tomatoes and cucumbers for two family recipes, passed down through the generations.
A few weeks ago, Ivan delivered, not just to Sparky, but to other members in the guys’ long-standing poker club, formed 50-plus years ago. Original members of The F.A.D. Club include my hubby, and his old St. Francis Borgia High School friends. Sad to say, some of the original members of the club have passed away, necessitating the addition of some replacements.
Ivan is fairly new to the group, but a welcome addition the past six years or so, not only is he a nice guy and savvy at poker, but he contributes when it comes to the culinary arts. Food and conversation make the F.A.D. Club stand-out-great, and after decades of complaining about having to fix a full meal for the guys, and trying to get them to go out for dinner rather than having to prepare a spread at rotating members’ homes, the wives have thrown in the towel.
When it’s Ivan’s turn to host, poker club is held at his son and daughter-in-law’s house and his granddaughters pitch in to serve the sit-down meal. There’s nothing simple about poker club fare, when members like Tom Dill prepare creative gourmet meals, or a stalwart wife, like Rosie Voss of Beaufort, prepares her famous pork chops and all the fixings, naturally purchased at Don and Rosie’s grocery store, Voss Market in Beaufort. Another perk for poker club is Bonnie Eckelkamp’s beef stroganoff.
When it’s Ivan’s turn to host, he’s been known to fix trout he reels in at state parks, and in the summer he hands out pint jars of salsa and his special cucumber concoction. Spark benefited recently — or rather I did. Within a week, I’d eaten three pints of Ivan’s recipes, two salsa and one cucumber salad. Spark barely got a taste.
The salsa is so flavorful I ate it with a spoon, like it was a cold soup, crackers on the side to scoop up chunks of tomato. It was piggish of me, and I did apologize to Spark, repaying him by relinquishing my claim to egg salad I’d made. This balanced out my transgression.
Ivan goes on regular tomato runs to pick up pounds to prepare for his salsa, tomatoes from his source are a good deal, he said, which is awesome because he needs lots. Ivan’s yard is shady, and won’t support sun-loving tomatoes, but he does have four tomato plants, enough to keep his table stocked.
In our interview, Ivan said he’d be willing to share his recipes with Missourian readers. So here you go — the prep may take a bit of time, but believe me the end result is well worth the effort.
2 quarts of sliced cucumbers, seeds removed
2 T. salt
1 large, white chopped onion
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. white vinegar
Prepare the first three ingredients — put the salt on the top. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain and add sugar and vinegar, refrigerate another 24 hours. Freeze the salad in pint-sized glass jars, leaving 1/2-inch open at the top to prevent the jar from cracking. (Ivan says he adds a little sweet red pepper to the salad for color.)
1 gallon ripe tomatoes, skinned and diced
2 large, white onions, diced
2 large, green peppers, diced
6-8 ribs of celery
To this mixture add 1/3 c. salt and let it sit for several hours. Don’t allow the vegetables to soak in the juice. To prevent this from happening collect the vegetables in a colander and save the juice for later.
Boil for five minutes and then cool:
2 c. sugar
2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. water
2 t. celery seed
2 t. mustard seed
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. red pepper
Pour the cooled sugar vinegar mixture over the drained tomato mixture, and stir. With a funnel add the salsa to pint-size jars. This recipe will make 10 pints. Top off the jars with the leftover juice you collected to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.
Salsa will keep three weeks in the refrigerator.