Ok, I admit it. I dropped many hints with Lou that this year, I wanted to be part of his end-of-summer sauce-making extravaganza. After lending a hand last year and seeing his super-efficient garage set up allow him to process hundreds of quarts of gorgeous tomato puree, I knew I had to be a part of the action. The few (though generous) quarts of sauce he gave me last year wouldn’t be enough. So shamelessly (without too much nagging) I reminded him all summer long not to forget me this year.
And I am thankful to report that that last Tuesday, with Lou’s assistance and tutelage, my friend Christina and I made 22 quarts of tomato gold. And since Lou had just made 50 quarts the day before, as beautifully video-documented by our friends at Hot from the Kettle (http://tinyurl.com/3oxekt3), he didn’t keep a single quart for himself. He kindly left all his equipment out just for us.
Sauce making with Lou is a pretty big production. It starts with Lou seeking out the ideal plum tomatoes for the job. They have to be plump, red, sweet and very ripe. In years past, he’s driven to upstate New York for them but this year, he was lucky enough to find some beauties in Paterson, NJ. Lou then creates a processing plant in his garage, which includes tables for prepping, cooling, straining, pureeing and packing. He hooks up his gas-powered, 40 quart steamer and sets out his enormous trays, strainer, electric press and catching pot. He’s been accumulating the equipment and perfecting his process for decades, if not his whole life. Let’s just say this isn’t something you can throw together yourself.
It was luxurious, cheap, efficient and fun. Lou had taken a trip to the Paterson farmer’s market to buy the perfect South Jersey plum tomatoes and set everything up. Christina took care of the containers. All I had to do was show up (on time!). Now that’s luxurious. A paltry $15 for a box of tomatoes -split between Christina and I- and we created a 22 quart yield of sauce. That’s sixty cents a quart! Now that’s Cheap. And it was quick. His impressive assembly line cranked out all this sauce in less than two hours. And of course, it was fun. How could it not be, with Lou heckling and teasing Christina and I the whole time. We smiled while we worked and then carted home bright red containers of sauce.
Lou will be happy to know that with each quart that’s enjoyed, we’ll think of him, his kindness, generosity and spirit. You can’t find those ingredients on any jar of sauce, no matter how good they are.
He makes sure to eke every last bit of goodness out of his tomatoes.