I have been making my own tomato sauce for over 20 years.
It all started when I was living in the Dundas/Bathurst area of Toronto – at that point a community that was 1/3 Portuguese, 1/3 Chinese, and 1/3 Anglo & others. There was a corner hardware store right at Dundas and Palmerston – and like all good Portuguese hardware stores of the time, it brought in tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and grapes in bushel baskets for the intense canning and wine making in the neighbourhood.
A friend at work suggested I get into it, and I thought it a good idea.
Needless to say Luisa at the hardware store was more than willing to help out me getting started. I still have the 2 50K BTU burners, still the original press, still the same 100L & 150 L pot from way back then.
Nowadays, I keep it all up at our cottage – by far a nicer environment to do the canning.
And – I do it outside.
Interesting doing your cooking outside – without a nice hard, clean floor beneath you – on the ground. Dealing with tomatoes that themselves may have dirt and sand on them – and one has to get it into the pots and then the jars cleanly – no dirt, only food. Like anything else one devises ones methods. Mine involves a hose, lots of water, 2 white plastic restaurant bus bins, a sharp knife, and temporary ergonomically suitable platforms and clamps for the equipment – as you can see in the picture.
But lets get to the recipe. 1 bushel of Romas makes 20 litres. This includes 1 medium onion per litre, a couple of cloves of garlic, and (this is all approximate) 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp ea of basil, thyme, oregano, and a bay leaf. And oil. Enough to cook the onions and spices in beforehand. Usually a couple of cups for the 3 bushels I make. I’m sorry I can’t be more exact – but the recipe is fairly forgiving – except where the salt and pepper are concerned. Less is better – you can add more when a batch has all come together.
The day before I do my 3 bushels we cut the onions and garlic – definitely a tedious job – and best done outside with a glass of wine on the side in eager anticipation of the treat to follow the next day. I do ALL of the onions, garlic, herbs and spices – mix them all together. First thing next morning I cook them up in the pot, covered, low flame, stirring frequently until the onions are cooked. They are then separated into 3 bowls to be added to each batch of tomatoes as they are ground.
So for each bushel – one grinds, pours into the cooking pot, add the onion and herb mash, work at the grinding until the bushel is done, reduce the sauce (when the pot is full you can boil the hell out of it as long as you stir occasionally.
Meanwhile heat up our litre jars in another – larger (120L or so) pot on another burner – once you are near to the sauce being done, remove them, fill them with sauce, and can them – I do 25 minutes on a rolling boil. Remove, inspect, store.
That is basically it. It takes all day. Make sure you have nothing else going on –
The day before I prepare the setup – burners, propane, grinding stand. Here is what this looks like:
This year, my cottage neighbour Leanne is going to roll up her sleeves and do a bushell for herself. She helped out last year – bringing lots of renewed energy when I was getting a little tired. I’m hoping to score the tomatoes at the end of August and do them on the last Sunday. Good timing too – I am just about out of last year’s supply !