Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sugo 101

I love Italian fare.  Anyone who’s read my blog or, better yet, who knows me, will attest to the fact that I was meant to be Italian.   What?!  There are Italian Jews…my kids are proof of that!

Yesterday Carlo and I took the girls, along with 50+ empty jars, and 3 bushels of ripe roma tomatoes, and we headed out to Nonno (grandpa) and Nonna’s (grandma) house to make sugo (sauce). 

Let me explain - I grew up on Ragu sauce from the store, and thought it was delicious…the operative word being “thought”.  Once I met Carlo (22 years ago), I learned the error of my ways.  He invited me over to his house for dinner one night, and when I asked if I could bring anything, he said sauce and bread.  Looking back now, it makes no sense - why would he ask a nice Jewish girl who couldn’t cook to bring those items?  I think it must have been a test, which I failed miserably!  I brought a jar of Ragu and a loaf of Wonder bread.  Seriously – please stop laughing – I did!  He took one look at my offerings and laughed at me.  And so it was that I became the Eliza Doolittle to his Henry Higgins!

Nowadays, you will not find a jar of Ragu anywhere near our property, let alone in the pantry.  We follow the centuries’ old Italian tradition of making sauce from scratch.  Carlo and I have reached a point that we need to make the sauce on our own – our kids love it so much that they will eat it like soup – having a side bowl of sugo with their pasta dinner – and we told his parents that we were going it alone this year.  My mother-in-love convinced us that we need to have a practice run while under their watchful, supervising eyes.  And this is why we packed everything up and went off to Nonna’s. 

My wonderful husband has graciously agreed to let me post his photos on my blog and FB page for all to see.  So, please join us on our pictorial journey of Sugo Making 101.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Ready, set, tomatoes!
Step 1: sort tomatoes from bushel, rinse.



Step 2: slice tomatoes, removing any bad (spoiled, NOT marked) spots.


Step 3: assemble tomato grinder (under our supervisor's watchful eye).


My mother-in-love lends a hand, abandoning her supervisory role to get down to work.


Step 4: place halved tomatoes in pot to boil, make sure propane isn't too high or tomatoes will burn to bottom. 
Helpful hints: (a) spray pam or lightly oil bottom of pot, then add 1 inch of water before starting up propane, (b) make sure to gently stir tomatoes regularly over 45 minute gentle boiling period, and get spoon right down to bottom of pot so nothing sticks and burns (much like if you were making soup), (c) keep pot covered when not stirring.


Becca and Nonna picking basilico (basil) from the backyard "Farm".




OK...tomatoes are ready for crushing.
Step 5: Using a sauce pan, scoop tomatoes into grinder for crushing.




Setting up the jars, checking the seals and placing a basil leaf in each jar.


Jars are ready for sauce...thanks girls!

This is what the tomatoes look like as they emerge from the first run through the grinder.
Step 6: collect the residual tomatoes in this pan (we use a medium sized roaster.  Once the pan is full, run through a second, then third and fourth time.  With each run, there will be less juice and more skin.  The final run will yield a dried out version of tomato skin.  Then you know this batch is finished and it is time to scoop boiling tomatoes again.

Run 2 or 3...you can see the difference in the texture of the residual tomatoes, much drier than the first run.


Sauce is ready to jar!
Step 7: Once all the boiled tomatoes are crushed, rinse out this pot and return the crushed tomatoes to the pot to boil (gentle, rolling boil) for another 45 minutes. 
Step 8: Once they are cooked, stir the tomatoes to mix it all nicely and start jarring!  Use a funnel to pour (careful - it is boiling hot - literally!!).  Place the seal on each jar and get the strongest person in your group to tightly close each jar - use gloves to do this, it is very very hot! 
Because you are using boiling liquid, the tomatoes vacuum seal themselves!
Check your jars every day to make sure there are no jars that are turning - if there is bubbling in the bottom of the jar - like a carbonated drink - open the jar and place the tomatoes in a ziploc bag or a tupperware and freeze.  If you catch it right away, the tomatoes won't have spoiled and you'll save them!

63 jars of sauce!