Countdown to Labor Day – and boy will we labor!

Well some of us will labor and the others will socialize!

That is right – 8 more days to the festivities begin, well 2 if we are talking the wedding! The two much anticipated events of the year – back to back!

“R” is finally taking the leap into marriage! Can anyone talk him out of it – before it is too late? Just kidding! We love “J”

And then the week after!  Ahhh….

T O M A T O    S A U C E    W E E K E N D

What can I say about this!

I will copy Ant’s comment here:

“Tomato sauce weekend is a tradition carried over from Italy to America by my late Grandmother who is my mom (Aunt F) and my Aunt L and Big Uncle J;s mom. She used to make the sauce in her home town of Castelpetroso, Italy when she was a girl. When she came over to America in 1957, she simply picked up where she left off in Italy. It became an annual event either before or on Labor day weekend. The brother and two sisters would come over to her house in Brooklyn, (and later Staten Island) to make about 400 bottles (old Coke, 7-up, Hires then later 1 quart mason jars) of sauce which would feed 4 families every Sunday for the year. It became quite a process as I remember my Grandfather using an old cap machine to cap the bottles before they were boiled.

The process starts out with about 35 to 40 bushels of plump jersey tomatos which are then washed and inspected before boiled. They are them passed through a tomato machine which separates the skins from the pulp. The pulp (sauce) is then poured into a large 5 gallon vat, salted, then using ladles and funnels, poured into the quart mason jars that already have two pieces of basil in them. the jars are then boiled to seal them, then the cool off and are placed in the mason jar cases. Afterwards, they are divvied up amongst the family.

It is a ton of fun and a great way to get together instead of the usual wedding or funeral. That’s why I love the picnic as that’s another way to get together.”

Beautifully said Ant.

And the cousins decided we would blog about this event.

So this is the pre-weekend blog – a bit of reminiscing as well. Here are a few tidbits of memories along the way:

Ant comments: “I used to wonder why Grandma had big arms – she had to really shake that sauce out of the old soda bottles! (My mom and Aunt L too!)”

Ok Lil Ant – who is not so little prefers to call them “toned arms”! As a women I would have to say I like that term better as well!

Big Ant’s memories: 

  1. I remember getting the bottle caps on Mulberry street in NYC as they were the only ones that had them.
  2. I remember the old tomato machine with the washing machine motor.
  3. I remember Sunday dinner using the tomatoes that were salvaged, and what a sauce!
  4. I remember the Jerry Lewis telethon was always on!  
  5. I remember the tomatoes being laid out in the basement of Brooklyn Ave.
  6. I remember Grandpa capping the bottles (and taking breaks for some wine).

MY brother Ant, added this afterward:

“I do remember always making runs the day we made sauce to Riemann’s (spelling) to buy more jars because Evangeline or someone would give out their jars and not get them back or would make more when they still had 10 bushels full in their basement.  Which leads me to the Christmas tree shop has jars with the lids and rings for .89 a piece.  Not sure if that is a good price or if we need any, but Janine and I noticed that during our weekend shopping.  Let me know if we need any.”

Then I responded – all this through emails!:

“This is too funny –

and yes I remember some of the things Ant #1 wrote about – especially the darn telethon! I remember hating it yet watching it all the time! 

I also remember being jealous of Kat because she got to push the skins with the wooden spoon and I didn’t!  I was always sent upstairs because it was too crowded – NO FAIR – then I went off to college and everything changed!

Now we had Irish/PuertoRican neighbors (who were like family) helping out – which I couldn’t understand because it was an Italian thing (more jealousy!) – but hey – that weekend we were all Italian!!!!!  Loved the company, but it squeezed me out again, not to mention I had a tow-along (aka Dan) with me!  So happy they are older now!

I am looking forward to going to Aunt F’s but I still don’t understand why we can’t still use the neighbor’s yard?”

 A little aside here: the neighbor’s moved. We used to do tomatoes down in the basement and it got HOT down there.  So we decided to move it outdoors and then it went to the neighbor’s yard.  But they moved – Ant didn’t get the joke at first that I said too bad we should still do it there! Could you picture the new neighbor’s faces when we just show up at 5 AM setting up our crap! That would be priceless!

Ant says: “You know, I do remember the fights about filling jars, who was “up at bat”, etc”  {We used a bat to mash the tomatoes into the machine – that was fun too – and there IS an art to it!}

#6 wonders: Did this blog crap start yet?”

Ahh leave it to him to ask in such a manner!

Ant jokes back: Leave it to Michael to call it crap!  That’s it! No Sauce for you!  (ala Soup Nazi!)

My brother is trying to follow along: I think you are all talking a different language.  Just let me know when I should start bogging and where!

Aunt L adds her own bit of commentary!: May I just say that I hope you all put this same kind of energy into the actual work of Tomato Sauce Weekend!

And to bring it to date Ant retorts: What?  You want us to do actual manual labor?   When I see this manual labor guy, I’m gonna sock him! {But he was talking about the fact that I told them they should write a post and not just comments!}

So here we are – let more memories start rolling in – the blog has begun!

How many of us want to hear my dad play the accordion???? I used to love hearing him play! I wanted to take lessons and he was aghast! Ladies don’t play that thing!


22 Responses to “Countdown to Labor Day – and boy will we labor!”

  1. #6 Says:

    I can get him to play the accordian. I’ll just whip it out and just keep squeezing it to death like I’m playing it. The sound will be so bad that it kills him. He’ll just have to take over.

  2. Aunt L Says:

    I can’t believe I’m going to beat out Kat on being the first one to comment! Thanks for reminding me about the accordion, Elaine. I’ll throw it in the trunk of the car along with the tons of other equipment I’ve got to lug up to bear country! Speaking of which, do you, #1, think the bears will like Lady of Spain or will it send them into early hibernation? Oh, crap! Either I have too much work or none at all, hence, the nonsense!

  3. Big A #1 Says:

    How could I forget your dad playing the accordion? Then I would accompany him with my lousy singing! Which I will continue to do at Number 9 and 9a’s wedding!
    By the way, it’s spelled “nostalgia”. you spelled it like an italian would pronounce it! HA-HA!

  4. Big A #1 Says:

    Hey Aunt L!
    I am sure they will love it the way Uncle J plays it! Actually, it might put them to sleep! By the way, another bear was spotted by my mom this past Tuesday and she did take pictures (though I wish it were with my digital camera – gotta show here how to use it). I’ll let mom tell the story at the wedding, it’s another good one!

  5. Elaine Says:

    Yet another day whereby I get nothing done!

    HA – everyone’s a critic – I will fix my spelling! Thanks!

    More bears – I may have to forfeit coming this year! I hope they don’t like tomatoes! I hope “Lady of Spain” puts them to sleep!

    If #1 can get a digital picture of your bear I will post it! 😎 ! Just make sure it is nowhere near me!

    Aunt L – you beat out Kat, but where is she?

    #6 I love your idea about how to get my dad to play – would love to see you try and to see his expression! I have to bring the video camera – also I need to edit the ones I took 2 years ago. Remind me to bring it then!

  6. Big A #1 Says:

    Yet another tomato sauce memory (albiet one from the last few years)


    Who said that?

  7. Big A #1 Says:

    Here’s another one:

    A few years ago I had to get the strainer part for the tomato crusher as the old one had a split in it. This held up the process by about two hours and Aunt L had the old Pontiac that she said I should use. Little Uncle J said “I hope it makes it”. Anyway, I made it all the way to Brooklyn and back and the car died right in front of the house in SI. I handed the keys to Little Uncle J and said “I didn’t do it”. He laughed and said “well thats it, its a gonner” Good thing it died after the trip!

  8. Big A #1 Says:

    Phrases heard at a typical tomato weekend:

    Who’s up at bat?
    I wanna bat!
    Is it martini time yet?
    When do we eat?
    Aunt J made grape leaves?!?!?!
    Whose timing the pots?
    Is the fire on?
    Is there gas in the tank?
    Whose counting the jars?
    Do not make the rings too tight!
    Did you wash your hands?
    No eating near the tomatos!

  9. Elaine Says:

    Geez Ant,
    You seem to be having a ball all by yourself – I go for a little bit of pampering and leave you all alone – I apologize!

    We will give everyone else some time to catch up! We need to let the other non-bloggers know what we are doing so they can add their own memories here.

    Most of my memories are of me being sprawled out on the living room floor watching TV! I do not remember the thing about the car, but can visualize the scenario just the same! Leave it to you to say “I didn’t do it!”

    I have no oven – otherwise I would make the pastry “baklava” – that would be a treat – is my mom making grape leaves? That would be great – but now your mom knows the secret!

    The only other quote I can add is “upstairs!” LOL

    I have no idea who said Watch your eyes – my guess would be your father or my father when they poured the tomato sauce into the vat from the pot that sits at the end of the machine that collects the pulp! How did I do??

    And I can remember you playing around with that cap sealer thing too!
    Good times!!

  10. Elaine Says:

    hmm or maybe grandma said the quote – since you mention it as a memory. But you didn’t give it the accent like I spelled nostalgia!

  11. ~Kat #8 Says:

    WATCH YOUR EYES is classic Uncle Tony!
    WHO’S BEER IS THIS? is often said.
    DID THIS ONE GET SALT YET? we’re never sure, so we add some more salt!
    Elaine, I didn’t know you hated me as a child? If you wanted to push the skins you should’ve just grab the damn spoon out of my hand! I probably would have screamed and cursed at you, but at least you tried!
    I also recall there being a pool in the backyard. More people were in the pool than anything. And if you don’t work you’re considered a “VISITOR.” And Aunt Lena has a list of visitors for every year since I think ’96! That’s why she’s one of the highest paid secretaries in the downtown area!
    I also remember the day Big Ant “killed” the car! Yes, it was on it’s way out but you had to be the one behind the wheel when it happened! You!…YOOUU!(ala Robert Deniro)
    Sorry Evangeline, but I’ll take Big Ant’s singing over hers any day!!!
    How about washing the tomatoes in the baby pool ON THE FLOOR! And we use to sit on those little wood benches breaking our backs? Well, I was too young to break my back, but who was the genius that finally put it on the table???
    Question?: What’s you favorite job?
    Mine would have to be filling the jars. It’s so satisfying!

  12. Elaine Says:

    OHH Kat!
    I never hated you as a kid – only when you wouldn’t let me brush your damn hair – that is all!

    I was jealous! But I am also kidding! I loved you like a little sister! You were so spunky! You still are!

    Favorite job! why pushing the skins!
    My least favorite is washing the tomatoes! That seems to be my mother’s favorite though!
    I particularly loved the part of playing vidoephotographer for my documentary! 😛

  13. Elaine Says:

    Not really related to tomato sauce weekend – but I do recall tickling backs when we were all together. Either we sat in a circle and everybody got tickled and did the tickling or we sat in a row on the couch or floor and took turns either by having the first person get up and move to the back or we just about-faced!
    What is it with our family and tickling? Mike was always under the table with our feet! And I always insisted we do each other’s backs!
    We are sick individuals!

  14. Elaine Says:

    ohh olives – black olives – who always stole them from the salad??

  15. Aunt L Says:

    Thanks, Kat! Not only have you blown my cover, you’ve also made me a target for loan requests! Anyway, if it’s memories you want, how about:

    The times when it rained buckets and Big Uncle J holding up the tent;
    Finding an odd-shaped tomato and trying to guess who it looked like;
    The “conga” line of moochers heading for the Sunday sauce pot, each with a hunk of bread to dip (and maybe stealing a meatball! I know we made 134 and there were only 133 at dinner!).

    That’s all I got time for now – gotta get back to my $!$!$! job!

  16. Elaine Says:

    Aunt L…
    Remember I said I want to renevote the rest of my house and I was wondering where I can get the funds to do so…..

    Hee hee – anyway… I remember the tomato look-a-like guesses! (lack of better word to use – thinking of puzzle but that doesn’t fit either – no pun intended!)

    I confess – it was I who stole the meatball – they were good! Better than good!

  17. #6 Says:

    I used to like to take the black olives but did you mean me?

    I like Tomato Sauce Weekend when we’re all drinking Emma’s martini’s, drinking beer, than more martini’s, eating dinner, more beer, black coffee w/ sambuca and dessert. Oh yeah, wine, too.

    When the hell was I working with all that to do?

  18. #6 Says:

    BTW, I’m on lunch. I’ll have to blog later when I’m getting paid for it.

  19. Elaine Says:

    Yes #6 I meant you!
    That was definitely your trademark! And you needed one for each finger!

    You make me literally laugh out loud when I read your emails and your comments! Yes, do not forfeit your lunch break – definitely blog while on the clock!

    Hopefully you can make it out there this weekend. Dan has a scrimmage at 10 and he will need to clean up afterward, not sure what time that will get us there. But I have to go at some point! 😛

  20. Anthony Says:

    Wow I do not come on board for a few days and this is what I miss gheez. My favorite job is the bat. I like to be up at bat, but then my father yells at me and tells me that I am doing it all wrong. That is the story of my life. He always told me that he was investing in my college because I needed a high paying job because I was going to have to hire someone to do everything. Well lattifrigginda Mr. Wonderful. I think I have done a half way decent job painting my house, etc. However if someone has seen my front door not to worry the painter will be there on the 18th to fix it. Okay back to Tomato sauce weekend, I remember carrying the bushels of tomatoes down the stairs and always being afraid Iw as going to fall (mainly because my Dad would say “your going to fall”). Then we smartened up and put them through the windows. I also remember Grandma yelling at Aunt Lena and telling her she was doing it all wrong (Hmm where did my Dad come from) and Aunt L yelling back and forth in circles and talking to herself (I was always afraid Aunt L was going to ruin tomato sauce weekend by us having to take her to Bellvue. I bet we all wish we can have Grandma there one more time to over salt the sauce. Worst Job is tightening the jars. I don’t realize my own strength then I have to hear my Mom say “who close this jar I can’t even open it”. Has to be someone from my house, I can’t even open a friggin bottle of soda they close everything so tight. You notice it always turns into a bitching session. I love it.

  21. Elaine Says:

    “You notice it always turns into a bitching session. I love it.”
    That’s the beauty of family!
    Lattifrigginda?!?! You are a nut!

    Snag people – tomato lady cannot come through – move to plan B – do we have a plan B?

  22. A Tangle in the Vine « Way 2 Much Says:

    […] I was anxiously awaiting Labor Day. […]

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