Summer holds so many great food memories from my childhood in Italy. One of my favorites is the smell and taste of a ripe tomato right off the vine. Everyone in our town had a vegetable garden, and no matter its size, there were always lots of tomato plants. After all, the gravy (sauce) that we canned had to last for a whole year of pasta meals.
Nonna Assunta with her baby, our Mamma Antonietta
My nonna loved to harvest the plum tomatoes. She cut them in half, squeezed the seeds and liquid out, sprinkled them with salt and placed them on a white sheet in the sun to dry. While helping nonna, I got to taste them as they grew progressively dryer and more intense in flavor. Yum!
My mom did the rest of the work with the tomatoes. She blanched them and ran them through a food mill to remove the skin and seeds, and then put them in jars. It was a time consuming task that was repeated a number of times during tomato season, and well worth it.
Making gravy is involves all members of our family – even the kids!
Growing up, we always spent one full weekend making gravy (pasta sauce) to last us for the year. My parents and 5 siblings would go to the farm and pick tomatoes, then to our shore house in New Jersey to clean and prep them for cooking and canning.
We cooked the tomatoes on an outdoor brick and metal stove made by my father, which was fueled by wood. We then used a hand cranked tomato machine (like the Roma Food Strainer and Sauce Maker) to puree them into a sauce. It was long and exhausting to process the 10 bushels using a manual machine, as well as keep the fire going on the wood burning stove. It would be late into the night before all the jars were done. Continue reading
Marisa McClellan – Local Food Writer, Canning Expert, and Blogger Extraordinaire
This Saturday, we are excited to welcome Philadelphia’s own Marisa McClellan, author of the nationally renowned blog Food in Jars, who will be signing copies, in our store, of her debut book of the same name.
Our talented staff member Mandie, inspired by Marisa, gives us this interesting personal vignette of her introduction to canning. We think you’ll enjoy it!
I first became enamored with the idea of canning and home preserving shortly after I started working at Fante’s. I knew nothing about preserving at that time, since no one in my family had ever even considered it, and my interest was piqued when I noticed people purchasing huge amounts of Ball jars, usually at least two to four cases at a time. Curious, I asked one customer what they were planning on doing with all those jars. The customer replied, “I’m canning tomatoes from my garden.”
I was baffled. Why would you do that? You can buy canned tomatoes at the grocery store, I thought to myself. But my curiosity was piqued. As the summer went on, more and more people began buying Ball jars, and I kept asking. “I’m making pickles,” one customer told me, or “I just bought a bushel of peaches, and it’s jam time!” Soon my mind was bursting with inspiration of all the wonderful things I could fill my pantry with.