Last year, Zack and I got married. For a wedding present, my friend Blake gave me two jars of homemade tomato sauce. Initially, I'll admit, my first thought was "well, I can make tomato sauce." But then I tasted it. My next thought was "how do I get me some more of that?" When I said that out loud to Blake, she invited me (and Meredith!) to what she called "tomato weekend" where her family and lots of other Italian people get together for a whole weekend to make tomato sauce, eat amazing food and drink wine. There was no way I was missing that.
Here's my basic rundown of tomato weekend. On Friday night, you wash 2500 pounds of tomatoes.
That is not even close to all the tomatoes. You dump them in giant basins of water -
- scrub the dirt off with your hands -
- and put them in laundry baskets/bins.
This is also not all the tomatoes. The tomatoes never end.
Then you drink a lot of wine, eat pizza and salad, watch several episodes of True Blood and go to bed.
The next morning, the men wake up at 4:30am and set up all the equipment. At 10:00am, they all start drinking again.
The women seem to wake up around 7:00am and get to work. First, you blanch the tomatoes (in those metal pots in back).
Then you poke them with a really long stick.
Girls aren't supposed to do the poking, but Meredith and I snuck our way in.
Then you push the tomatoes through an electric food mill.
One person pushes with a weird plastic stick thing.
Another person makes sure the machine stays running and clean.
Meredith sat here all day and her pants slipped down a little because she wasn't wearing a belt. Blake's mom gave her this dish rag to cover her butt with. Meredith was embarrassed at first, but then it caught on and she was way proud of it.
We had a special name for it. It's not fit to print.
(Okay, we called it the slut rag. But when the adults asked, we called it a modesty rag so as not to seem crude and slutty.)
Anyway, you have to run the tomatoes through the machine three more times until there's just skins and seeds.
Then the tomato puree that came out of the food mill gets boiled down with basil and salt.
This is all a really messy process. See those stains?
See our hands?
And my foot?
And my ring?
Yeah, it's silly.
Anyways, you put some basil in a jar, pour the boiling hot sauce in them -
- screw the lid on and flip them over so that it makes suction.
Do that whole process for 2500 pounds of fresh local tomatoes and 12 cases of jars. We worked for over 12 hours. Blake's mom was really proud of us and gave us awards.
That's Michael. He got an award too, but not one that was as cool as mine and Meredith's.
Did I mention the food? When you put a lot of Italians in a house together, they cook all this for lunch.
There were amazing stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, caprese salad, calamari salad, chicken cutlets, mussels - I can't even name it all. It was so delicious. And that was just lunch.
This was dinner.
The first sauce of the season with ravioli tasted even better after we worked all day (and drank all day - Italians have crazy stamina).
Thanks to Blake and her family for letting us crash tomato weekend! We had the best time (and now we have three jars each of freshly made sauce - I'm not sharing, so don't ask).