One of the most Italian of all Italian traditions has to be making tomato sauce for pasta and cooking in general. Once upon a time the whole family would be involved in making jars and jars of preserved tomato sauce, from harvesting the tomatoes to washing and cooking them, to sealing the jars at the end of the day (or next morning, as we will see).
This year we planted 4 tomato plants on the allotment, and we've had an amazing harvest of small tomatoes, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try another Italian tradition (and at this point I have to thank Valentina's mum for explaining and showing how it's done.
First you take your jars and put them in a pan of cold water, and bring the water to boiling point.
In the meantime you can get your tomatoes and give them a good wash.
The jars should be left to boil for about 25 minutes, then turn off the heat, leaving the jars in the water. The tomatoes should be left in the boiling water till they pop up top the surface of the water and start to split open from the heat.
At that point you should put them into the tomato passer or strainer. This basically squashes the tomatoes, and then forces them through a fine sieve, leaving the skins and seeds on top to be thrown away.
With the strainer over a pan (if you like, put a crushed garlic clove or two in there as well) turn the handle and out comes the sauce.
Once the tomatoes are done, put the sauce to boil.
Add a pinch or two of salt, and as it heats up, skim off the watery froth that forms on the top.
Once the sauce is as dense as you like it, pull out the jars one at a time, and fill them to within a cm or two from the brim of the jar. Place a leaf of basil on top, and pour a little bit of olive oil on top. Take a fresh lid, and close the jar tightly.
Wrap the jars in dish cloths, and put them in a big pan of lukewarm water to boil, this will sterilise the jars and the tomato sauce, and make sure the lids are sealed tight.
Boil for another half hour, and then leave the pan as it is to cool down over night.
Now put the jars in a cool, dark place.
You should use red tabasco chiles, but most small, hot, red chile peppers can be used. Harvest all of the peppers from them, chop them up, and weigh them.
For each pound you have, add two cups of distilled white vinegar and two teaspoons of salt.
Put it over heat until itís about to boil, then let it simmer for five minutes.
Dump the mix in a blender, puree, then put in a glass jar and sit it in the fridge to season for about two weeks.
This will give you enough Tabasco sauce to fill four or five of those little Tabasco bottles. Once itís steeped, you can put it in a number of small baggies and freeze it, then refill small bottles when needed.
I think I'll try this one later.