Did you know that one of the annual traditions of the DePalma family is to can our own tomato sauce?
Every year around the beginning of October, the family gathers together for a day of canning. We pick about 30 bushels of the brightest red plum tomatoes we can find out in the field the day before the big event.
The day starts our very early in the morning and we are usually finished by dinner time. Everyone in the family has their own job to do that day and some of us have more jobs than others..lol. (That would be me and my mother-in-law!)
My father-in-law is always in charge of the fire. He lights one in a large safe area along the edge of one of the fields and creates a make-shift grill of sorts. While he is attending to that, my mother-in-law, myself and a few helpers start cutting the plum tomatoes. We soak them in water to rinse them and then begin the process of cutting all of them into quarters and tossing them into a clean bushel along with a few handfuls of salt. Once we have enough cut, they go into a big pot and my father-in-law begins to cook them for a while until soft enough to pass through the tomato machine.
While the tomatoes are cooking, we line up as many jars that will fit on the table and put some fresh basil into each of them so they are ready when it comes time to filling them.
The tomato machine is simply amazing! It separates all the skins and seeds from the tomato and leaves behind the pulp. You have to give the tomatoes a little push through the top to move it along but the end result is a velvety smooth sauce. This is where you get the most tired in my opinion as I was the one pushing the tomatoes through most of the day. My hand was just about ready to fall off by mid afternoon. Take a look at some of the pictures I posted to get an idea of the process.
Once the sauce is separated, we fill the jars that we prepped with the fresh basil adding a lid and a ring to the finished product. Then they are shipped back over to the fire for boiling. We usually boil them under water for about 40 minutes or so. While they are boiling, there is a vacuum effect that takes place which pushes all the air out and seals the jar preventing it from spoiling.
We use this sauce as a base for when we prepare our Sunday "gravy" or "marinara" at home. I usually start with some extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, a little chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic (maybe a lot of garlic....who doesn't love garlic!). I saute' that for a few minutes before adding some tomato paste and maybe some red wine depending on my mood that day and if I have any leftover. After cooking that a bit, I add the DePalma Family sauce and then docter it up with some S & P, some fresh parsley and a little more fresh basil. Delizioso!
As for the "gravy" word, I know there is some controversy over this.
Our family rule of thumb is:
It's "gravy" if there is meat in it; and
It's "marinara" if there is not.
There are many people that disagree with calling it "gravy" since it's not brown in color. All I can say is....that's what it was called when I was growing up so it just seems strange to me to call it anything else. :o)
So......what do you call it?
I hope you enjoyed reading about our family tradition at the DePalma farm. You can find more information about our farm on Facebook at DePalma Farms and Greenhouses.
Also....if you are looking for some good recipes to try, check out my new page on Facebook called The Farmer and The Foodie or on my new recipe blog at www.thefarmerandthefoodie.com
Ciao for now! :o)