A Neighbor’s Saucy Tradition
Every Labor Day weekend, our industrious neighbors, Amanda Veoni and Dan McNamara roll-up their sleeves and go at it, canning 15 cases (that’s 180 jars!) of tomato sauce. This is a tradition that goes way back in Amanda’s family. She’s been making sauce every year since she was a child. Now Amanda gets help from her husband Dan, and their next door neighbors Rose Race and Rick Mast.
I stopped by that Saturday morning and passed the truckload and garage which were filled with 15 bushels of perfectly ripe, hand picked Roma tomatoes. Amanda and Rose picked all those red beauties the day before at Meyers Farm in Sarver, PA. (That’s thousands of tomatoes, folks!) When I reached the back yard, I found Amanda and Rose sitting in front of huge bins cutting the washed tomatoes in half. I was informed that this is an extra step they take to ensure none of the tomatoes are rotten inside.
Rose and Amanda handling each tomato with TLC.
The whole setup was amazing. I thought to myself, clearly they’ve done this before. Amanda plans ahead for the long day and stocks up on Italian snacks from the Strip, has her favorite vino on hand and has all the best Italian crooners singing in the background to add to the festive mood. Dan and Rose’s partner Rick were on the hunt for another giant stew pot, while Amanda and Rose were prepping the tomatoes. It was great to see that Amanda and Rose were in good spirits even with the enormous task that was ahead of them.
After a tour of the house and a visit with Mickey, their sweet old cat, Amanda explained how they do it. Here’s how the process works: first they wash the tomatoes; next they cut the tops off and then halve them; then they boil the tomatoes in huge pots; next they run the cooked tomatoes through a giant food mill which removes the seeds and skins; after that, the tomatoes (sauce at this point) are boiled again. Once the tomatoes are cooked for a while they are put into sterile mason jars with salt and fresh basil (from Amanda’s garden) then they lid them and turn the jars upside down. The cases are stacked and a blanket is placed over them so they cool slowly. Miraculously this seals the jars. Amanda said she and her family have had many jars explode on them in the past. You have to put the lids on a certain way or you risk having boiling tomato sauce explode all over you.
When I left, I felt inspired to make something, anything. I love the idea of saving summer’s bounty for the winter. I bet every time Amanda, Dan, Rose and Rick reach for a jar of homemade sauce they feel proud and think of that warm day in September spent with family and friends, making sauce and happy memories.
Dan and Amanda stir things up.
Rick conquers the Romas
A tiny fraction of the tomatoes waiting to be transformed.