It`s nearing 11:00PM on Sunday night. I haven`t eaten since early afternoon and I`m bouncing with excitement for dinner. I`m so looking forward to this meal that when my dinner plans got sidetracked about 3 hours ago that I remained focused in order to protect my appetite.
I have even picked up takeout for others and watched them eat in the last few hours – and stubbornly refused to eat. That`s how excited I am.
We bottled 5 bushels of tomatoes (as sauce) today. My parents had a jump-start and did 3 yesterday. A bushel weighs 53 pounds; with proper care and equipment our yield is typically around 20 liters (80 cups) per bushel. Our total haul this year is an awesome 156 jars.
After a hard day of canning there is nothing better I love than opening a few jars of sauce and eating the plainest spaghetti I will all year. It`s a celebratory meal that marks the harvest and the completion of a lot of hard, satisfying work. It`s also an awesome predecessor to a full year of eating; soups, stews, spaghetti and more meals will depend on todays`results and an early preview of the yearly vintage is an exciting moment.
This single meal becomes a more significant meal for me every year. It connects one year`s harvest to the next and memories of years of sauce and time with family connect through a tradition that grows stronger each time we do it.
Our sauce does taste, look and smell different due to variables in our ingredients and how they are affected by the climate of a particular summer. It also goes through a maturation process as the herbs and garlic in the jar become further infused into the jars as time passes. Our 2010 vintage is a brilliant red, finished with less salt than we used last year and had fresh tomato leaves thrown into the cooking process (in a cheesecloth sack that was removed before canning) for the last 20 minutes of the cook. There`s a wonderful thick pulpy texture to it that we`ve really mastered over the last few years by bringing the sauce to a very patient roll (as opposed to a boil).
We used `half-long`tomatoes for the second year in a row (we used standard plum tomatoes for years) and they proved, once again, to be stunning. We noticed that there was a missing layer of tomato water (from the clear part of the tomato guts that surrounds the seeds) and there was no separation in the cooking process. This equates to a thicker, more flavorful and consistent sauce.
The taste is amazing – and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from the combination of flavor and hard work is unbeatable. Even at 11:00PM on an empty stomache.