Late summer is a busy time in my neighbourhood. Most of my neighbours make their own tomato sauce, a tradition handed down through the generations. I have “borrowed” many a jar when my pantry was bare. While I didn’t grow up in an Italian family, I have married into one and thought I should finally learn what all the fuss was about. I made the suggestion that we all get together and make a huge batch of sauce for everyone on the street to share. I had no idea the arguments it would create!
I didn’t realize how many different techniques and recipes existed and how attached each person was to their family’s way of preserving. In one case, the tomatoes are blanched to remove the skin and then preserved. Another family cooks the tomatoes with the skins, processes them through a tomato squeezer that spits the skins and seeds out one end and the pulp out another. A third family goes a step further and cooks the squeezed tomato pulp into a completed sauce before preserving them.
Even the processing of the jars varies from boiling them to remove the air to my mother- in- law’s version of simply covering the jars with a blanket. How my husband didn’t die of botulism as a child is a mystery. Each family insists that their version is the correct, most authentic one. And in a way, each family is right.
While each sauce had its own unique flavour and texture the most important thing I learned wasn’t the actual recipe. It was the technique for making the sauce being handed down. The journey was more important than the destination. I was welcomed as three generations of one family came together and produced 140 jars of sauce in one day. From the washing of the tomatoes to the boiling of the filled jars in a large oil drum set over a propane stove in their driveway. Everyone had a job and everyone was happy. It was the type of family event that I want my kids to embrace.
While the community “saucefest” I imagined didn’t materialize and likely never will, I got an indie look at the process and learned what all the fuss was about: really great tasting tomato sauce that will be available all winter long. Via Italia.
A Simple way to Make Your Own Sauce (For Non-Italians)
Follow this recipe for a quick tomato sauce base.
Equipment Required : a large pot, 1 very clean Mason jar, food mill.
1 pound (450gr) Roma tomatoes
4 large basil leaves
A pinch of salt
Place the food mill over a large heat proof bowl. Set aside. Place basil leaves in the bottom of the jar, set aside.
Wash tomatoes thoroughly. Place the tomatoes and salt in a large pot, and cook over medium heat until they begin to break down and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
Working in batches, run the cooked tomatoes through the food mil. The skins and seeds will remain while the sauce will drip down into the bowl. Clean the seeds and skins from the food mill before continuing.
Once all the tomatoes have been processed transfer the warm sauce into the jars and seal with the lid. Allow to cool completely then refrigerate. Use within 5-7 days in your favourite pasta recipe. (lasagna anyone?)