So last Tuesday was shopping day. My friend sent Rekiya, the woman who works in her home, to town at 11:00 am. She came home at 3:00 pm with two big basins of hand-selected tomatoes ($40 worth), 20 large onions, and 20 heads of garlic, then washed the tomatoes and peeled and quartered the onions. Tuesday evening my friend peeled garlic for two hours in preparation for making the sauce. (Alas, with the curfew I was exempt from this tedious – uh, I mean, exciting, hands-on – part of the process!)
At 8:00 am the next day the buckets of tomatoes were loaded into the car and taken to the grinder down the street. After everything went through the grinder twice (This cuts the cooking time in half.), the buckets of soupy tomato sauce were loaded into the car while Rekiya bargained with the grinder lady to give a good price for her work. The lady asked for $6.50, and Rekiya ended up paying $5.
Back at my friend’s house, Rekiya laid the firewood and started the fire in the front yard. She put a big cast iron cooking pot on top of a 3-legged stand over the fire. Into the pot went tomato paste, salt, pepper, sugar, and spices, which cooked almost to a boil for about four hours.
When it got to the right consistency, the sauce was transferred to a stock pot and taken into the kitchen for the canning part of the process. To ensure that bacteria was not canned along with the sauce, each jar was filled with water and boiled, the lids and rings were boiled, and the sauce was brought to another boil. We repeated this for each batch of jars. Whew! I have a new respect for Ragu.
Finally we got to the canning part and filled each jar with the boiling spaghetti sauce, then wiped the rims, another step in the War Against Bacteria. The jars were then placed in the canner (which looked at first to me like an intimidating rocket ship with all its gadgets and controls. It still looks rather rocket ship-ish to me, but at least it seems conquerable now.) and cooked under pressure for 10 minutes. Then we waited for the pressure to go down, opened the canner, and lifted the jars out with tongs. As they cool, the lids make little popping noises, indicating that the jar has sealed. I never thought a “POP” sound would be so satisfying. I felt so Amish!
My friend’s canner holds 10 pint jars or 7 quart jars, which meant that we managed to process several batches together, but since there is a 6 pm curfew, both Rekiya and I had to abandon poor Sonia to get home in time. She took a brief time out only to feed her kids dinner (What else? Spaghetti!), then she continued canning until 11:00 pm.
The final count came to 25 pints and 27 quarts. Cost per pint for labor and supplies? 150 naira (about $1). Convenience of being able to open a jar and dump some spaghetti sauce into a pot? Priceless.