Canadian Food Experience Project Challenge: Preserving

Valerie from A Canadian Foodie founded the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. The participants share their collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences. We hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Our topic for the month of October is Preserving – A Canadian Tradition.
The only food I remember my family preserving is tomatoes.  It was a Labour Day weekend ritual.  My parents would buy bushels of Roma tomatoes and bunches of fresh basil from the Jean-Talon market in Montreal and store them in our garage in preparation for the event which was held at my aunt Maria’s house. My mom, along with the rest of her siblings and some of my cousins, would arrive at her house early Saturday morning with their bushels of tomatoes and begin the process of making the Passata di Pomodoro (Preserved Tomato Purée).

Tomatoes for preserving

Aunt Maria’s house was located only two houses away from ours, and I could hear the family talking, laughing and arguing all at the same time from our backyard as they each performed the task my aunt assigned to them.  She ran a tight ship! I used to go with my mom sometimes, but because I was too young to participate, I could only observe. The family worked hard for two days and produced  hundreds of bottles of tomato purée, which were divided equally among them. Unfortunately for me, during my rebellious teenage years I had no interest in participating in this ritual.
resh tomatoes

After I was married, my mom and my mother-in-law would always each give me a few bottles of tomato purée they had processed that year. As years went by, my mom and her family stopped preserving tomatoes as they were getting to an age when it was too tiring for them as it was for my mother-in-law. I realized that this tradition would not continue unless I began making it a ritual in my family. So this year, I made tomato purée for the first time with the help of my good friend Carla.

Bialetti electric tomato machine   We scored, blanched, and peeled the tomatoes.  Then we each took turns at processing  30 pounds of tomatoes through the electric tomato machine my husband and I purchased when we first got married.  We had purchased it with the intent of making tomato puree but instead it was stored in the basement for years and never used until this year.   When we removed the last jars out of the water bath canner, we had 16 half pints of tomatoes purée in total.  That was just a trial run for this year.

 tomato preserves

 I felt such a sense of accomplishment that day.  I finally understood my mom’s family Labour Day ritual.  It wasn’t just about canning tomatoes to use throughout the year, it was also about being with family and friends.  I already advised my family that next year we are  going to start our own tomato preserving tradition – on Labour Day.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a basic tomato recipe that I use as a base for some of my chicken, fish, pasta and pizza recipes. It is the sauce I use when I make pasta with meatballs or vegetarian lasagna.
Cuisine: Italian
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 jars (500 grams each) tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 basil leaves
  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium size Dutch oven or sauce pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is soft (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the chopped garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and tomato purée.
  5. Season with the salt, crushed pepper flakes and basil.
  6. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  7. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

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4 Responses to Canadian Food Experience Project Challenge: Preserving

  1. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz October 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    A electric tomato machine? I was suppose to join an Italian friend 2 summers ago to partake in this ritual but it never happened. Congrats on starting your own ritual this year and what a lovely sauce.
    Evelyne@cheapethniceatz recently posted…Caribbean Rum Cake with CoconutMy Profile

  2. A Canadian Foodie November 17, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Can the machine be used for other things? Did you buy it in Italy? Where does one get an electric tomato machine – and did you really need it? What does it do that a food processor won’t do?
    LOVE your recipe – can definitely see how lovely this sauce would be… I have it book marked for next season and am TRILLED you worked to do this, Liliana!
    A Canadian Foodie recently posted…Savory Green Tomato Pie with Beef and Onions in Whole Wheat PastryMy Profile

  3. Miranda Rowlands March 8, 2015 at 3:36 am #

    Can you please tell me what the Bialetti machine is called. My mother gifted me hers before she passed away and it was inadvertently discarded. It was the best thing since sliced bread. I want to replace it but can’t find any on the internet, unless we know what it’s called.

    Please help and happy tomato squishing.

    • Liliana March 25, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

      Miranda, the Bialetti machine is called Passapomodoro Elettrico Bialetti (Bialetti Electric Tomato Press). I bought this machine around 30 years ago. I did some research on the Internet and it is hard to find. I also called a few stores that carry the Bialetti brand and some never even heard of it. Maybe the company discontinued the model. There are, however, other electric tomato press machines available online that might interest you. Hope this helps.

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