Saturday, 1 March 2014

Recipes - Tomato Sauce

My grand aunt, Catherine Victoria Edmonstone, first jotted out her recipe for tomato sauce with blue ink in an un-ruled notebook ninety years ago - back in 1924.  She wrote it out again in 1967 - but the ingredients and her method remained exactly the same.

She grew her tomatoes and supplied her relatives for the next four decades – but kept the recipe to herself. 

Since the notebook fell into my hands, I have followed her recipe carefully. It makes awesome sauce with shop bought ingredients - but, it has never been quite the same sauce as Catherine Victoria Edmonstone produced. 

This year I decided to try something a little different - choosing my ingredients more carefully.  Because today is the first day of autumn and the tomato vines are full of ripe fruit, it is time for make sauce. 

12 lb – 6kg           ripe tomato
1lb – 500g            sliced onion
2oz – 60g             garlic sliced  (note that she used garlic brought back from the Palestine – small and bitter than available today)
3 teaspoons       cloves
3 teaspoons       peppercorns
2 teaspoons       whole spice (pimento)

Boil for 1.5 hrs.  Strain.

1.25lb – 600g      white sugar
3 oz – 85g            salt
14oz – 400g         white vinegar
1 teaspoon         mace
Pinch                     cayenne pepper

Boil 1.25 hrs.

Decant into sensible containers (I have lots of retired vodka bottles).  Make sure you know how to sterilise and seal the bottles - check out the US National Center for Home Food Preservation if you are unsure.

It takes about a week's storage for a sauce's taste to mature.  However, a taste before bottling brought back all the old memories flooding back in.  

So what did I do differently?

Tomatoes have changed.  Since the 1940s, commercially grown tomatoes have been grown for color rather than taste.  Supermarket tomatoes can have little taste and some of the homegrown commercial varieties are pretty bland.

So this year, like my grand aunt had done over so many years, I grew a range of old heirloom varieties of tomato from seed.  These tomatoes are sweet and full of flavor.  And, now, so is the sauce.

Finally a good use for retiring vodka bottles

Peter Quinton
March 2014

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