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September 04, 2013


Well, it's happened again. The summer months whisked by us and before we knew it, we were faced with the Labour Day long weekend. For many, the first weekend in September means back to school prep, the end of the Ex and the last, un-official weekend of summer. In my family, the Labour Day long weekend means all that and more - it's tomato sauce time.

It's a tradition that's been in my family for generations and one I'm proud to continue. In my parents' garage, 3 families gather and produce hundreds of mason jars filled with fresh, homemade tomato sauce goodness.

It's quite the process, and it's a lot of work, yes, but in my opinion, it's so worth it. Many Italo-Canadians have had enough with the tradition, opting to use stewed canned tomatoes from the supermarket to make their pasta sauce. I suppose that's pretty simple, and still tasty, but the sauce just isn't the same. No way, no how.

There's also something about eating pasta with your own homemade tomato sauce; for those who are concerned with preservatives and sugars in your food, making your own sauce guarantees you can control this -- an added bonus.

We start the day relatively early, but not as early as our grandparents and great-grandparents would have. By 9 a.m., we're "all systems go" as my dad would say, and we're washing, cutting and starting to stew our juicy red tomatoes.

Everyone has as a job, and a command post, so to speak, and everyone is used. Whether it's lifting, stirring, cleaning, cutting, quality control or babysitting, we share the duties and responsibilities. The assembly line continues and once the first batch of tomatoes has been stewed and boiled, it's time to send them through the machine where the seeds are discarded and sweet sauce falls into a container. The smell is heavenly!

We salt and we taste, ensuring the flavour is just right. This is always my favourite part, of course. We each take an espresso cup or spoon and sample every batch. It doesn't get much fresher than that.

Once the sauce has been salted and tested, it's time to pour into mason jars. We place 1-2 basil leaves in each jar (from our garden of course) and fill with sauce. Once they're all filled, it's time to boil them again to seal. We yield about 17 jars per bushel, and multiplied by 3 bushels per family, it amounts to just over 50 jars each.

You can use the sauce for just about anything: pasta, pizza, chicken cacciatore, minestrone, chili, fish sauces, various stews. It's versatile and delicious.

By this time, it's about 4 p.m., we've done well and worked hard. Of course, we've had a coffee and pizza break, but what everyone is most excited about is trying the fruits of our labour.

And so, my mom makes a "spaghettata" -- we sit and everyone gets to sample our newest lot of tomato sauce with spaghetti. Add in a couple bottles of Chianti, some pecorino cheese and homemade salami and it's one of my favourite meals. And surrounded by my family, it's one of the best feelings. I can't imagine spending the long weekend any other way.

Do you have any family traditions?



  1. Wow! That looks amazing! I love family traditions that are focused around food - they are definitely my favourite!
    We don't have anything that we make as a family tradition but since I am the cook in my family, lots of people look forward to certain dishes I make each season.

  2. My husband's best friend is Italian and taught us the secrets of tomato sauce making several years ago so we try to do it every long weekend in our garage too!

    This year we missed it though as we had a few other things going on. So it looks like store bought sauce for us this coming year :(

    That red colour of the sauce your family made - just gorgeous!

  3. This post is making me really hungry!

    My family doesn't really have food traditions - but we DO go to the Ex each year. :)

  4. If you need any help next year call me. I've always wanted to join a big Italian family and make sauce.

    Your photos are beautiful and make me very hungry. What a beautiful tradition to pass along from generation to generation.


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