Tomato Sauce


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Mickey cooking sauce in San Francisco
My grandmother used to make her own tomato sauce and tomato paste. She would cut the tomatoes and then put them it a pot and bring them to a boil. Then she would put them through a hand-held press to remove all the seeds and the tomato skins, which were discarded. The remains would be the tomato sauce. The sauce would be stored in mason jars with basil leaves and preserved for the winter. When she had prepared enough tomato sauce, she would pour the remaining sauce on a 2 x 2 foot tray, set it on top the stove, and slowly let the water boil away.

She would constantly stir it because you had to be careful not to burn the sauce. After about three or four hours the tomato sauce would turn into tomato paste. Then she would can the paste in jars for future use. My grandmother would take the tomato sauce and tomato paste and combine them and make a real nice, thick sauce.

We also used to pickle peppers in five-gallon crock-pots. We would pack the peppers in one on top of another, but not too hard, just lay them down nice and even. We would then fill the jar up to the top with half vinegar and half water, just enough to cover the pepper s.

Then we would get a board that fit inside the crock-pot, put it on top of the peppers, and put a rock on top of the board to hold the peppers down. This way the peppers would always be submerged in the mixture of vinegar and water. We would save these peppers for whenever we needed them.

sauce.jpg (7755 bytes)We'd do the same thing with cherry peppers. We used to pickle the small cherry peppers. Most of the time we would pickle them whole. Other times we would cut them in half, remove the seeds and par fry them in olive oil- just enough to blanch them. Then we would put them in mason jars and fill them with the same oil we used for par frying.

We would age these for three or four months before using them. Boy! When we started eating them, were they hot! They were good with meats and spaghetti, especially heavy meats. If you made a stew of some kind, or big pork chops, these peppers were really good and really hot. All you needed was a teaspoon full of the stuff or just the oil on your spaghetti or sausage.

We would also buy red-hot, long-finger peppers. These were different from cherry peppers. We would take a needle and thread, string it through the root stem, and hang it up to dry outdoors. When it was completely dry and brittle, we would chop it up and make an omelet with egg, onion, peppers, and sausage. Boy was that good and hot! We'd chase it down with cool red wine. I can just taste it now. It was very good on cold winter days.

We would also buy pork butts and intestines from the local butcher and make Italian sausage. We would hang it up to dry and preserve it for future use.

That's what my family used to do. Cook things and store them for winter. That is how we lived our lives. We did the best we could. Since we were a big family, we needed to do these things. It is a good thing we had a family that could live together fairly well and was ambitious enough to do all that canning for the winter. But there was a special taste to that stuff and you learned to like it, and love it. I remember the homemade Italian bread really came in handy when supping up the juice and the tomato sauce.