Salsa Time

Italian tradition of making tomato sauce

Italian tradition of making tomato sauce

The past week saw us collect the tomatoes, 8 crates, they are laid out on waterproof sheet on the floor of the cantina....resting. Its 20°C, 5.00 am and in a clearing by the cantina a fire blazes, the olive wood crackles as it burns, and the aroma tells us its nearly time for the first batch of water to be placed on the trivet. The fire has now settled into a glowing heap of embers over which a gigantic trivet is placed. The 20 gallon pan is gleaming silver aluminum, half full of water from the nearby well and placed on the trivet, a little more wood is placed carefully under the trivet and the water begins to warm up, and its Salsa time.

Each family has its own method and secret recipe, type of tomatoes to use the list can be endless, though at the end of the day, in the bottles is just pure tomato flesh, no skin, no seeds, just pure delicious tomato salsa.

The water is ready the correct temperature has been reached, in go the first crates of tomatoes, and the well oiled wheel of family preparation is set in motion. The person in charge of the tomato cooking sets the pace, the empty bottles are ready to receive. The machine to separate the cooked tomatoes from their skin and seeds is poised, all are ready to proceed.

The first batch of tomatoes are lifted out of the water and placed in the separator then pressed into a container, poured into bottles and the lids tightly closed. This process is repeated until all 8 crates of tomatoes are cooked and bottled, this can take maybe 2 hours, its daylight now, and 200 bottles of salsa are ready for the next stage.

A large drum is placed on the trivet , each bottle of tomato sauce is placed inside. Amazingly all 200 bottles fit snuggly in, the drum is filled with water, enough to cover all bottles. A fire is lit under the trivet where the drum sits. Then the water is left to heat up, a potato is placed in the water, this is most important as when the potato is cooked the sauce is ready, and the fire is extinguished.

Now the family is sat all around drinking coffee and eating zepole (italian doughnuts), and smiling with grimy faces, the job is done, the tomato harvest is in. Now the gleaming aluminum pan is black, a good clean up is done and all is put away for the next year, when the tomato plants are planted in May and cooked again in August.


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