Thursday, September 19, 2013

12th Annual 'Mamma Styles' Tomato Sauce Day

Every year for 12 years now, my friend Paul and I have gotten together to make homemade tomato sauce at his studio in downtown Toronto. The tradition started on September 15, 2001 just after the events of 9/11 stunned the world. We had plans to go to a friend's cottage for the weekend, but we were so shell shocked from the news coming out of NYC that we decided to stay in the city, get back to basics, and soothe ourselves in an age-old culinary pursuit — making homemade tomato sauce! A new tradition was born. 

Bushels of san marzano tomatoes from Joe's on Davenport

Tomato Sauce Day starts a few days ahead with the purchase of 2-3 bushels of fresh local San Marzano tomatoes, which we buy from Joe's Garden Centre on Davenport, as well as harvesting our own home grown herbs and peppers when we can, and also grilling 2-3 pounds of yellow onions and large eggplant. Paul is the alchemist and creates the aromatic base of olive oil, garlic and a bouquet garni of oregano, thyme, sage and italian parsley, in a large cooking pot. The tomatoes are blanched in boiling water until the skins are loose and wrinkled, squeezed by hand, eliminating the excess water and seeds, then added to the pot with a couple of hot peppers. The sauce is left to simmer 3 to 4 hours, until it transforms into an intoxicatingly rich and complex flavour. The sauce takes the good part of a day to make, with the obligatory pause for a glass or two of wine and a sumptuous lunch of Polish sausage and the first taste of 'Mamma Styles' Tomato Sauce!

The tomatoes are trimmed and popped into boiling water for a few minutes to loosen the skin

They're then tossed into a sink of cold water to cool down

Meanwhile a pot is prepared with olive oil, chopped garlic, a bouquet of fresh garden grown herbs, a can of tomato paste and some hot peppers for extra zing

The tomatoes are squeezed to get rid of as much water as possible then aded to the pot

Fresh home grown basil from my friend Paul's garden

...and garden fresh thyme

Eight enormous yellow onions were grilled the night before...

...along with eight huge eggplants

The symphony of extra ingredients boost the flavour of the tomato sauce

A couple of handfuls of chopped onion and eggplant are added to each pot 
of tomato sauce then left to simmer for 4 or 5 hours, or until we collapse!

My husband Guy is in charge of boiling and peeling the san marzano tomatoes, 
in preparation for this years batch of tomato sauce

My husband Guy joined Paul and I in 2002, the year after our first annual Tomato Sauce Day, and being the newest member, continues to get the worst job — boiling and peeling hot tomatoes! The irony is that he absolutely hates raw tomatoes. Now that's selfless dedication.

Four big pots of tomato sauce are well under way by mid afternoon, along with 6 Polish sausages slowly simmering in the depths of one pot

A few bottles of wine are also well under way by mid afternoon!

We splurged on a few particularly lovely bottles of wine this year to celebrate some very special occasions: 1. Paul was club champion at his tennis club this year; 2. This was our 12th annual Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce Day; and 3. My blog Scrumpdillyicious, which I started 4 years ago (with an inaugural blog on Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce!) exceeded One Million hits earlier this month. What better way to celebrate than with good food, fine wine and sharing special times with loved ones. Life doesn't get much better than that.

By 3:00pm we're starving and sample the first of this years batch of tomato sauce with a plump and delicious sausage that's been simmering in the sauce for an hour or so

A gorgeous day, we were able to sit out under the sun on Paul's outdoor patio 
and enjoy our lunch, a glass of wine and rest our weary legs 

Paul proclaims our 12th annual batch of 'Mamma Styles' Tomato Sauce "The best yet"

Mamma Styles Tomato Sauce
Makes about 30 quarts

3 bushels roma or san marzano tomatoes
2 750ml bottles extra virgin olive oil
4 heads of garlic, chopped coarsley
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh oregano
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh basil
8 bay leaves
6 156ml cans Tomato Paste
8 hot banana or jalapeno peppers, whole
8 eggplants, sliced and grilled
12 onions, sliced and grilled
salt to taste

A day before making the tomato sauce, grill the eggplant and onions until golden, then wrap in tin foil overnight. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes a handful at a time until skins are loose and wrinkled, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes into cold water, letting them cool slightly. The skins will just fall off. Squeeze out the water and seeds, and toss the tomatoes in a colander to drain. Discard the waste. Make the bouquet garni: using a piece of string, tie together 1/4 bunch each of parsley, oregano and thyme, leaving a length of string attached so it can be retrieved from the pot. 

In a large pot, combine 2 cups of olive oil and 1 head of chopped garlic and sweat until aromatic, then add enough blanched tomatoes to fill the pot to 3/4. Add 1/4 of grilled eggplants and onions, bouquet garni, 2 banana peppers, 2 cans of tomato paste and salt to taste. Repeat the process with additional pots until all tomatoes are used. Simmer the tomato mixture uncovered over a med-low heat, 2-3 hours, stirring frequently, to prevent the sauce from sticking. Cook until the sauce has thickened and become a lovely auburn color. To store, let mixture cool, then portion into Ziploc plastic containers, garnishing each with a basil leaf. Tomato sauce can be frozen and stored 12-18 months.