Remembrance of the Fassetts, Great Aunt Mert and Yellow Tomato Preserves

Posted on September 13, 2015


Remembrance of the Fassetts, Great Aunt Mert and Yellow Tomato Preserves

On Saturday morning November 7, 2015 we blanched and cooked up red, yellow (and a few green) small tomatoes from the garden. (I had been freezing them all summer and autumn long). According to our father, Richard Redd, It was Aunt Mert, the fraternal twin of our (my sister’s, brother’s and my) great grandmother who cooked up preserves from yellow plum (pear-shaped) tomatoes, which don’t have to be blanched, because they have a thin, delicate skin. (We removed the skins from the red and green tomatoes that we added to the mix.)

Fassett sisters - 4 sisters - Bess Fassett Sanders, Ida, (Maryette, their mother) Myrt and Josie Fassett

This is a picture of Bess (Fassett) Sanders, our great grandmother; to the right is her sister Ida (Great Aunt Ida also had a twin who was stillborn or who only lived a few hours); Bess (our grandmother) and Mert were fraternal twins – Bess had red hair and green eyes and Mert had black hair and blue eyes. Our father says that the family hoped and hoped for another redhead, but it was not to be. (My sister’s hair was auburn in her childhood, perhaps an echo of great grandmother, Bess).

Of the five sisters, only Bess had children (My grandmother and two great aunts) and Ida had Grace Merton, and only child, (and Ray had four children).

Bessie Fassett Sanders was really named Gertrude, though no one ever called her that (and her twin was Mertrude; yes, they were named Mertrude and Gertrude.) In the middle is their mother, Maryette (DeKay) Fassett; one more to the right is Mert, (she of the tomato preserves) with a bit of smile on her lips – unusual for one of those stern Methodists. Farthest to the right is Josie, a pioneer woman and school teacher, author of History of Oregon and Jerusalem (school districts in northern Ohio). The youngest of the five sisters, Josie went to Ohio Northern University, never married and did great things. Later, my second cousin from the other side of the family, Dan Karant also went to Ohio Northern. (Sister, Pearl is not in this picture).The five sisters had a brother, Ray Fassett, who had four children: Raymond, Jr., Ruth, Roy and Rita. I met Roy Fassett in August 2002 at Auntie Mary’s 100 birthday celebration.

Great Aunt Mert never married nor had children. She kept house for her sisters, who were lifelong professionals, school teachers, later administrators. I remember visiting Aunt Mert and Aunt Josie out in the country in Ohio, on a ruined, old farmstead overrun by cats, that still had a “privy” with a crescent moon cut into the wood – high in the door (of the outhouse). Here is a picture of Aunt Mert, Aunt Josie and Bess Fassett Sanders on Aunt Josie’s birthday in 1964:

Aunt Mert, Aunt Josie and Bess Fassett Sanders on Aunt Josie's birthday 1964

Maryette, mother of Bess was a DeKay, and it is from her that the French line of our ancestry comes. Before the DeKays are the Navarres, the name of a place in France and possibly nobles or distant cousins of the King of France connected somehow (though we don’t know for sure, to Henry IV.

Below is a wedding day picture (circa 1860) of (the parents of Bess Fassett Sanders and Mert Fassett), Maryette DeKay and AI Ransom Fassett, who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Ai went down to Andersonville, Georgia to get his brother, John out of a Confederate prison camp. However John died on the trip back or shortly thereafter. Ai is a Biblical name of a place, synonymous or close to Canaan. Ai Ransom Fassett is reputed to have struggled to get his army pension. When the federal government asked him for his full name, not just his initials, Ai wrote back and said, “My name is Ai. Big A. Little i.”

picture 21 Fassett, Ai Ransom, Jr., Maryette DeKay great great grandparents of Adrienne Redd

For all of that reference to Great Aunt Mert, the recipe for the tomato preserves actually comes from Sarah Metivier Schadt who gave it to me in 2014, the first time I made the recipe. It is much spicier than Aunt Mert would have made it.

Ingredients for Yellow (and Red) Cherry Tomato Preserves 

5 pounds large, medium and plum tomatoes.

Blanche larger tomatoes in hot water bath. Plunge into ice water bath skin and coarsely chop. Wash, inspect and coarsely chop smaller tomatoes. Cut the stem end off the tomatoes. With a vegetable peeler, slice the skin off the tomatoes in strips. Cut them in half lengthwise and push out the seeds with your thumb (I do this over the sink). Cut the tomato halves in half again lengthwise, and then cut each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces. Toss the tomato pieces into a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot as you go.

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

plus another 1/2 cup sugar (or for a more low-sugar option 1/2 cups Stevia or Nectresse/Splenda)

Juice plus zest from one lemon

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1/2 t ground cumin 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons salt

1 small minced hot pepper (or 1 tablespoon red chili flakes)

1 packet gelatin + 1 cup of hot (fresh from the cooking process) tomato broth


Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot (not cast iron).

Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, simmer** the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat. (I cheated by pouring off three cups of the tomato broth) Add the gelatin 10 minutes before the end of cooking When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. When time is up, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

yellow tomato preserves

More later on Belle DeKay (prosperous baby sister of our great great grandmother, Maryette Dekay) of and the great car crash of 1941! 

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