La salsa – Homemade tomato sauce for winter

From the far past: 3 days for a special stay and extraordinary cooking experience
20 February 2023
From the far past: 3 days for a special stay and extraordinary cooking experience
20 February 2023
Show all

La salsa – Homemade tomato sauce for winter

I’m tired. But I continue to look at the moon. Enchanted.

Maybe I should not  do it, it’s not my role, it is no more my role. But this day, dedicated to the preparation of  “SALSA”, the classic “tomato passata” , was unforgettable.
Nowadays  this Puglia tradition has become lost, because also here in every supermarket you can find  platforms of “tomato passata” offered for cheap price.
Anyone is invited to cast away this authentic tradition and “home made salsa” is going to be thrown into oblivion.

But not me.

I do not accept the invitation. No thanks. And most of all, thanks to my miracle woman: VITTORIA, and thanks to her wonderful family.

This 2015 Summer, so hot and without any drop of rain, reminds me of the sunburned and thirsty Apulia of my childhood, before it was discovered that our region is so rich with underground water.
The red soil is so dry. And suddently in my memories it appears the time when we prepared salsa in the late ‘50s.

Sheltered by the shadow of the majestic olive trees, those with a masseria behind, those in the open air, just with a  “palummidd“, that is a little well for water  supply, each family in Puglia prepared its own salsa.

From the far past,  LA FAMIGLIA, the patriarchal family was the pivot, around which scanning the natural and slow rhythms of life style, related to agriculture and breeding.

As well organized  bees all the members of the family play their roles to prepare  this winter supply, with rudimentary tools and with ingenuity and cooperation of all.
The preparation of the sauce was a symbol of family solidarity, the patriarchal family, enlarged, made of uncles, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters, each including in its role as a rudimentary orchestra , with a mysterious and tested gear. Just perfect.
The day of the sauce was expected and feared at one time, because all the energy had to be concentrated for the success of the company…
And the sauce had gone to be prepared for each of the “actors”, for each household.

But why am I speaking in the past tense?
I have to use the present tense.
Because today, in spite of what worse is happening and in spite of the echoes of tv news, financial crisis, public debts, unemployment, pensions, if you had been here, in Masseria Serra dell’Isola, you could get away from the anguish of the future and perceive everything even without knowing a word of Italian.

This year, the sun and the heat and contingencies have led us to postpone the date. 
As expected, the general comment is: “Never after Ferragosto“, the middle of August.
If you fail the time, it starts to rain and the tomatoes are not longer good.What do we do? Even we in the supermarket?
It is not possible…
Give me the permission to call everyone with it’s own name.
This year Isabella, Vittoria’s daughter, and her husband Michele, with their little boy Donato, are going on holiday to Perugia.
Uncle Giovanni must work in his vineyards, the grandfather Vito (as he says 59, but he is over 95)  cannot  be left alone, Gabriele, he is on holiday in Croatia, Marco broke his wrist, etc. etc. etc. ….

But my guardian angel, this incredible war machine who take care of me and of the masseria, a war machine, who is unable to hurt a fly, a war machine armed only with an unshakeable confidence and of a wonderful smile that never ceases to amaze me, this solar and wonderful woman called VITTORIA, issued the ruling:
Tuesday we are going to organize the family for SALSA.

So yesterday Francesco brought us his excellent tomatoes, freshly picked,  arriving with his marvelous car , an old Ape “treruote”, overloaded, that every curve tilted dangerously and I saw him almost fall over on the climb of hill.

And this morning miraculously all answered the call.
Isabella and Michele have delayed the departure to Perugia and their little Donato did not stop a moment, splashed with water since they began to wash the tomatoes until bottling and then running with the empty wheelbarrow on which the crates had been transported up to the bins for the final boiling.

Pinuccio was still on vacation and kindly collaborated, in spite of been joyfully killed by mosquitoes until the last minutes.
Gabriel come back from Croatia and smiling sacrificed himself willingly.
Maria convinced grandfather Vito, returned from an operation to the femur, that a picnic was just what it would take to make him better.

Marino and Marco, inseparable, they knew where to find and to do everything at the right time:how to wash the bottles, where to take the screwdriver, find the bins, mount the platforms, to find the point where there would be a shadow, and in the meanwhile looking for a big umbrella, so that Aunt Maria is kept from being burned under the sunshine, let Isabella, as a lizard, under the same sunshine, while filling the bottles. Michele operated the drill that stretched on a machine with manual system speeds up the whole, and then bent to close the bottles.

And Victoria was there, where everything is difficult: next to the fire to control the cooking of tomatoes, to drain the tomatoes, to dose the salt.

And the young old grandfather Vito oversaw everything, happy to be once again among the leaders.

Everything seemed to be over and then the lunch break had to be the finish line waiting for the arrival of Uncle Giovanni, the master in stowing bottles in the bins, the man who is able to save any bottle without breaking anyone.
But after a secret meeting Maria and Victoria have decided it was too little sauce and then ran Francesco is set in motion and for one managed to get another ton of tomatoes.

And so the carousel is started again, after the “adagio” of the short, not fast lunch, everyone around the table, all tired, all still able to smile.

Late afternoon Uncle Giovanni, back from their fields, so tired but as kind and pleasant as usual, proceeded to stow bottles in the bins.

And as usual on summer evenings, the sun has burned the sunset.
And then it went to fade away as the fire, in the twilight. 

My companion moon peeked through the olive trees, after everyone had left.
My companion moon threw  me a satisfied smile.

Thank you, thanks to everyone.

Masseria Serra dell’Isola – Pozzovivo
20 agosto 2015
Rita Guastamacchia

1 Comment

  1. Joan Colvin says:

    Rita”s Cucina in Masseria Home cooking school is a magical place to enjoy several days of absolute bliss. When you spend a few days at the cooking school, uou are in a state of pefect happiness. I was fortunate to spend 6 days at the cooking school.

    Rita and her right hand, Victoria Porrelli, enjoy the art of sharing not only their recipes but also the wonderful stories of the region. In addition, you will enjoy many adventures to the docks to greet the fisherman when they bring their catch in from the sea. If you are bold enough, you will try the raw shrimp and calamari.

    I experienced. Sunday dinners with the family: cheese making mozzarella and Baratta. Baratta was invented in the Puglia area as a way to make use of the leftover scraps of the mozzarella.

    Rita will take you to several restaurants, as well as providing you with the experience of making several of her recipes. you may go truffle hunting in the woods with the hunter and his dogs. Be prepared to go tromping through the woods. One of the best adventures was to the butcher shop! After we picked out the meat the butcher gave our assortment to his assistant who cooked it over and open fire grill. The result was another feast fit for a king.

    If you go to the cooking school you will arrive as a guest, but will leave as a friend for life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *