It is harvest time and many families not only celebrate with holidays like Thanksgiving, but also through cultural traditions that brings many families together and preserve the sunshine of summer’s bounty through the long winter months.
One Saturday morning, our director Hong Zhao discovered her Italian neighbour doing just that. Outside in the warmth of an early September morning, Frank and his family; that is, two of his brothers, Anthony and Joe, nephew Eugene and his mother Maria, were sitting in a circle around six large containers filled with tomatoes. While they chatted, each of them used a kitchen knife to pile, score and cut one tomato at a time. They were making tomato sauce with locally grown tomatoes.
Hong decided to walk over and find out more…
In their backyard, they set up a large temporary worktable with an industrial size tomato mill sitting on the top, with two huge kitchen pots on propane burners ready to be filled. This year, they purchased about six bushels of tomatoes from a local farm. Each bushel is about 40 lb of tomatoes, and makes about 12-13 one-litre jars. Like many families, they still use traditional Mason glass jars for preserving.
What a great way for a full day of family bonding! Not only were they making tomato sauce, but they were also building on memories of early childhood, carrying on a family tradition, talking about good old times, catching up on life, and passing skills on to the next generation.
It took them about 8 hours to complete the entire process from rinsing the tomatoes, scooping off the ends, cutting them in half, then cooking on low heat for about 1 hour with constant stirring. The hot tomatoes are then put through a mill machine to remove the skin, and filtered. They are returned to the pots for another 3-4 hours of cooking. Finally after cooling down, they are stored in reusable Mason jars.
Saturday’s effort means a full winter’s worth of home made tomato sauce for the entire family. This family tradition has carried on year after year. As far back as Frank can remember, his family has been making tomato sauce. And Frank is quick to point out, “Father is the real master of tomato sauce making”.
Every family has traditions that carry on for generations and stories that they continue to tell, never getting tired of hearing. Young families come along and start to build new family traditions to be remembered by kids when they grow up. Perhaps it is a special game that the family attends, or a unique dish that everyone knows about. These are the family values that are most worth preserving in our modern and busy lives.