“Taste a little love of summer
Taste a little love of summer
Grandma put it all, in jars.”
This is a line from singer/songwriter Greg Brown’s song Canned Goods. The song is a beautifully composed memory about the singer’s childhood, his family, acting like a child, and all the while in the background, there are lyrics about food, the cellar, supper, and home-made preserves.
I feel especially connected to the song because there are similarities with my childhood. One of my favorite memories is of canning tomato sauce with my parents. Late last summer, I was lucky enough to relive that memory with my family over at Tabla.
We were able to secure over 300lb of Heirloom tomatoes from our farmer/friend Jason of Red Truck Farms. I was at the restaurant the day before our canning was to begin, and helped Jason walk 10 or 12 large yellow crates, neatly layered with beautiful tomatoes, into our private dining room for overnight storage. I remember how happy he was to both get rid of so many tomatoes in one fell swoop, but also to see what we were going to do with them; our plan to preserve the fruits of his labor.
Going back to that child memory, or memories as it were, (as a family, we canned tomatoes every year that I can remember before I went off to high school) the most important tool in the process was not the pot that we simmered the sauce in, nor the basil and pinch of salt that we used to season each individual jar, or even the jars themselves. The standing crank food mill, made out of steel and a few small plastic parts, was always present in our canning process. I was able to have my mom send it to me, and after a bit of repair, it was ready for 300lb of Heirlooms at Tabla.
This all happened on a Monday, when Tabla is closed, so we were able to get almost everyone there. Kyle and Lia, Libby and Michael, even Adam all came and went right to work. Synaca and I set everything up, and the rest of the day was filled with simmering sauce, people taking turns cranking the mill, cutting tomatoes to feed the machine, and sterilizing the jars we were canning with. Dennis from FSA had dropped off more Ball Jars than I had ever seen in one place, and we used almost all of them up.
After simmering the sauce down for a while, (heirloom tomatoes have much more water in them than plum tomatoes do, which are typically the variety used) we poured it into waiting jars, almost to the top, then finished each one with a bit of basil leaf and a pinch of sea salt. Then in small groups we lowered them into our giant vats of boiling water until they were sealed, signaled by the telltale ‘pop’ from the lids as the air left inside the jar begins to cool and shrink.
Scattered around Tabla stand these jars of summer tomatoes. They will soon be used up and gone, for we have finally started opening them and putting them on our menu.
Our Tuscan-Herb rubbed NY steak comes with a salad of roasted fingerling potatoes and arugula, dressed in our house-canned tomato sauce. Come in to Tabla and taste a little love of summer, the staff put it all in jars.
-Anthony, dedicated to my awesome wife, Kathleen, who first played the song for me