Letters from Katherine: Canning pepper water

Posted on September 1, 2009


Katherine told me she and Steve were canning pepper water.  Huh?  She promised to explain, complete with photos.  Katherine always keeps her promises.  Looky here:

We spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning making and canning pepper water. The recipe (as near as I can come to one) is:


  • Ripe Tomato – 1
  • lemon juice
  • Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tablespoon
  • Pepper – 1-2 tablespoons (or as spicy required)
  • Garlic – 1/2 tablespoon
  • Red chillies – 2
  • Curry leaves – few
  • Coriander leaves – few
  • Salt to taste
  • Ghee/Oil – 1 tablespoon


  • Put tomato in 1 cup of hot water for 15 mintues and crush it. Discard skin and seeds, if not required. (I used whole tomato).
  • Fry cumin seeds, pepper for 10 minutes and grind them to a fine powder.
  • Heat oil in a pan. Once it is hot, allow mustard seeds to splitter in it.
  • Add curry leaves, red chillies, garlic and fry until raw smell of garlic goes off.
  • Then add grinded pepper and cumin powder and fry for a minute.
  • Add the lemon juice and tomato extract, salt to taste and heat for 15 minutes.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Cooking time – 20 minutes

Of course when you have 2 bushels of tomatoes and you are planning to make 24 quarts, you need a few more spices! And you start with a clean kitchen and end up with one that has tomatoes over everything, but it’s worth it.

My ears, as PJ would say, are pinned back in wonder and amazement. And to think that all I’ve been doing with tomatoes is to make cheese and tomato sandwiches. OK, and eat them plain, as if they were apples. Clearly I need to develop some culinary ambition.

I did a little mousing around on the ‘net and found that pepper water is one of the fierce culinary delights of South India, where it is known as rasam. Or maybe rasam just means soup, and pepper water is tomato rasam, I’m not clear on that part.  Either way, this particular South Indian tomato soup is very, very popular.  There are many different recipes out there, as is proper for a beloved cultural food (see, for example, hotly debated ingredient lists for meat loaf and chocolate chip cookies here in the Heartland).  None of the recipes bears any resemblance to the classic Campbell’s Tomato Soup (which is properly made with milk, not water, and served with toasted cheese sandwiches—you didn’t think I was a complete idiot in the kitchen did you?  Oh.)