3 days of Hell for 362 of pleasure

In the greater interests of keeping food costs in check, eating as local and in-season as possible, convenience and of course for better food, I spend three days in Hell every late summer.

Do you know how many freakin’ tomatoes 100 pounds is?  I berate myself every year when it’s time to start blanching, peeling and chopping but, like childbirth, the memories fade in time to do it all over again.

Why do I do this every year?
Why do I do this?

The only good part of the process is when I’m done and have pints and pints of sauce to squirrel away in the canning cabinet.  When I pop one open in January and the snow is flying it’s all the good parts of summer in a jar.

It’s taken a couple of years to figure it out but the perfect ratio of hand diced to tomatoes run through the magic squisher is 1 to 1.  So that means there’s 50 lbs to blanch, peel, core, de-seed and finely chop and 50 lbs to blanch, peel and roughly chop before Sy does his part.

The first 50 lbs gets processed on pick-up day and cooked down for as long as I’m awake to stir the sauce.  I pull out the heavy pots that only get used for processing and wish I had three more cast iron diffusers to compensate for average cookware.

All four are full by the time I’m done chopping the first 50 lbs.

The second 50 lbs is dealt with the second day.  I blanch, peel and roughly chop while Sy runs them through the machine.  My shoulder can’t take that kind of abuse anymore.  I’m impressed my feet are still up to it but lord knows I’m hobbling by the end of the second day.

As with the hand chopped batch, the puree is cooked down for hours till what started out in four pots fits in the largest two.

Day Three is devoted to making the actual sauce.  I make it one large pot at a time.  Splash of olive oil, onions,  garlic, oregano and the cooked down chopped vs squished tomatoes in a 1 to 1 ratio.  Once it’s cooked for another couple of hours when I’m ready to can I toss in a handful of chiffonade cut basil and give it a final stir before canning and processing.

When it was all done this year there were 42 pints of sauce and 7 8 oz jars for Cassie to take back to school with her when she returns from abroad for the Spring 2016 semester.  Not bad considering they were on a plant in a field four days before.  Ah, the magic of home preservation.

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My precious!

Of course after doing all this work the last thing I want to do is actually cook something.  It was a good weekend for it though.  The girls were with their father and Mal is perfectly happy with scrounging for his supper.

I have no idea what Sy ate but I know that by the third day I was seriously out of whack on the calories in vs expended.  I didn’t want to cook.  Didn’t really even want to eat but when I have to force myself to eat (if it’s not a bowl of cereal) something sweet or fatty is a bit easier to stomach.  Hence fried ravioli.

The ravioli were leftover from a couple of days before and while I’ve had a lifelong difficulty frying things without an actual fryolator, Sy talked me through his grandmother’s method.

Fry the cooked ravioli in 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 butter till you reach the level of brown you like.  Let the pan get nice and hot before you add the fats and don’t crowd the pasta.

IMG_6450Easy peasy.

Sprinkled with Parmesan and a side of that damn sauce goes down pretty easy.

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