Monday, January 30, 2012

The Creative Art of "Bottling" Tomatoes on Cat Island

Dear Friends,
This form of preserving the delicate ripe tomatoes has been passed down from generations
on the beautiful island called 'Cat Island" in the Bahamas.
Imagine, acres of rich farm land with thousands of plants, with tomatoes ripening in the brilliant Bahamian sun light.There are no large markets on Cat Island to purchase these very perishable crops.They are juicy and sweet, sprinkled with salt, and a squeeze of lemon, they are a treat.

But the story of the huge crop of tomatoes on Cat Island is an interesting one and I observed how the people in Arthur's Town won't allow their hard farming labor to go to waste.The tomato crops had to be saved for future meals.

I sat inside my friend Meonie Webb's House away from the mosquitoes to observe the bottling tomatoes process.Stepping out side to get a closer look was a mistake because the mosquitoes were furious.But, this hard working crew, the mosquitoes did not bite.
The sterilization started as empty bottles (soda/beer)were washed clean
in hot soapy water, using a bottle brush. Crackling Fires were lit and the bottles placed in into huge 50 gallons drums which were placed over the fire to boil. Many persons in the neighborhood including the children participated, some by "feeding"the fire with more wood, and others peeling the skin from the'blanched' tomatoes.The tomatoes were then 'crushed' in a hand operated machine The sterilization took several hours.
After the bottles were "cooled", they were filled with tomatoes, 'Capped" with a hand operated bottle caper, then placed back into the barrels to boil again. This seemingly never ending 'bottling' took my waiting far into the night.
I never left my window seat where I observed in awe and respect for the faithful people of Arthur's Town, Cat Island who never let this Culture die. They either 'Bottle" tomatoes or give them away to friends and relatives.