Here’s a question … do you know what this is?
I woke this morning thinking about my Grandma Penrod and her patience as she taught me to “put up” tomato juice for the first time using the standing sieve and pestle … just like this. This was my introduction to the wonderful world of juicing tomatoes for canning.
My dear grandmother and I spent hours in her basement squishing juice and pulp through those tiny holes in the sieve with the wooden pestle, scraping the pulp off into the juice, then emptying the battered skins and seeds into the trash. I didn’t think we would ever get through that first bushel of tomatoes. I used this method for about 3 years or so then my dad brought home to my mother a “Vitorio” juicer (which, being young and poor, I borrowed).
Wonder of all wonders that baby could “crank” through a bushel of tomato juice in about a third of the time. Cranking was tiring and as the years went by (and I bought my own magic juicer) I had my kids turn the crank and squish the fruit through the feed tube (lots of fun and lots of mess). Seeing dozens of bottles of juice lined up on the counter, lids popping as the bottles cooled … made my heart just sigh with accomplishment.
Then one year my Inventive Dad ‘added a motor with a pulley belt” to mom’s Vitorio and BOOM we were in major juice production mode. (I started borrowing her’s again) because bushels and bushels of tomatoes became juice in mere minutes (more or less) and canning that would have taken a full day or more, became a mild morning’s work …
Then, one day, after my house was childless and I began contemplating the harvest quantity requirements for fall canning I realized that I probably didn’t need to can much or at all. I stopped canning … for many many years. Just how many jars of fruit can one person use in a year?
Anyway … I married Sweetie and became addicted to his spaghetti sauce (made from store bought tomatoes). We decided that “the sauce” would be even better with home grown and bottled tomatoes like his grandmother used and so I enlarged my garden and increased tomato production from summer slicer amounts to my heck that’s a lot of tomatoes! AND since no juice is added to the sauce, I’ve changed up my bottling technique … now I just toss them fresh picked into a large kettle, stew them a bit, stick the filled jars into the cold pack pot and voila tomatoes for sauce, all chunky and juicy, seeds and all.
Come January, when we’ve eaten the last of the made fresh from the garden sauce, Sweetie starts the mid-winter batch; the jars are opened and the contents blend with secret ingredients that simmer for hours and hours filling the house with whiffs of summer. From vine to bottle to table those tomatoes become a mouthful of wonder, topping fettuccini or polenta and crowned with fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano.
Our meal a gift from our grandmothers …