A few weeks ago, I posted about making a simple pasta sauce that stunned me with its flavor because we were using these incredibly sweet preserved tomatoes given to us by a good friend who lives in Harrison, NY. I asked her to fill me in on the process they went through, and she was kind enough to oblige with the below description. This summer Lisl is hoping to join them as they undertake the process once again, so hopefully we’ll get some good pictures:
“It was a hot and steamy August day when we assembled in my mother-in-law’s garage to make the sauce (or gravy, as it is referred to in these parts). By the time I arrived the garage was already set up with an industrial size pot on a burner placed in the center of the space and a couple of restaurant size pots on a stove top. On one side of the garage was a tressel table with well over 100 empty jars, small and large, awaiting the finished product.
Angela had purchased 4 bushels of Roma tomatoes from a New Jersey farmer. Each one had to be cut into quarters and the seeds and juice squeezed lightly out and then tossed into the big pot. I worked with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and twelve-year old niece for hours quartering tomatoes and tossing them into the gently boiling pot, stirring occasionally. As the pot filled up, we began with the two back-up pots.
Some time after we finished quartering the tomatoes, Angela set up the machine for removing the skins and any pulp or seeds. The machine reminded me a lot in appearance of an old meat grinder my grandmother had used when I was a child. The sauce that came out was of a fairly thin sauce consistency, but the by-product – the skin and pulp that had been removed – was very thick, rather like tomato paste. Angela explained that we had probably not been quite diligent enough in squeezing out the tomatoes in the first place ( I was probably guilty here – as a novice it pained me to see all what I saw as ‘good stuff’ going to waste), but that this was just a base sauce that could be used in preparing a wide range of dishes.
The sauce was put back on the burner for a while, and a little salt added, if I recall correctly. A couple of basil leaves were placed inside each waiting jar, then finally the boiling sauce was poured with great care into each. The jars we sealed with the two-piece preserving lids – the top placed on then screwed down as tightly as possible (with great care to avoid burning), to be followed by a little pop as the suction sealed the jar tight. “