top of page


It finally happened. I was invited (or should I say I invited myself) to the day’s process of jarring fresh tomato sauce. 8 bushels, about 10 Italian adult men, women and a few millennials gathered in the backyard of a home in Floral Park, Queens. This is a customary Italian tradition every year in Italy and in many Italian homes in this country.

My sweet niece Cara, recently celebrated her first wedding anniversary with her husband Steve, (great guy btw.) Steve’s family migrated from Italy many years ago and followed their dream of living and raising a family in America, “the land of opportunity.” Every year, in the month of August, Steve’s parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends jar tomatoes to store and use throughout the year for their sauce and Sunday gravy. The process takes time, is labor intensive and requires equipment, many hands and know-how. I was so excited to be there, not only to learn and experience this Italian tradition, but to spend time with Cara and Steve and his wonderful family.

Washing the tomatoes These tomatoes need to ripen Jarring cut tomatoes with seeds

The jarring of fresh tomatoes:

Step 1. Go through all the bushels of plum tomatoes and pick out the ones that are red and ready to jar. The tomatoes that are still too hard, yellow and/or green, are left to ripen for a few days.

Step 2: Put the tomatoes in a huge barrel and wash them clean.

Step 3: The tomatoes that are softer and riper are cut up, as they will be jarred separately, not boiled, to be used for marinara sauce (seeds and all). Fresh basil is added and the jars are filled to the max.

Step 4: The tomatoes that are not as soft are boiled and then go into the electric food mill, where the seeds and skin are separated from the pulp and juice of the tomatoes. The puree is ready to be jarred with fresh basil.

Step 5: All of the mason jars are covered and put into a large vat of water. After the water boils, you keep the jars of tomatoes in the boiling water for about one hour, so they seal tight, which preserves them for the long term.

Step 6: The jars need to be removed from the hot water and cooled before distributing them to all the participants to place in their own storage closet at their home.

All of the jars contain just tomatoes and fresh basil. The beauty of these jars is that there are no added preservatives.

Cutting the tomatoes, removing core & bruises Draining tomatoes from boiling water

We jarred 3 bushels of tomatoes, the rest were left to ripen, and then to repeat the process for the remaining 5 bushels in several days. As it goes, Graziella prepared an Italian lunch for everyone, including some traditional foods such as mozzarella and tomato, mortadella, parmagiano cheese, homemade pickled eggplant and Italian bread purchased from Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.

The best part of this jarring process was the welcome and warmth from Steve’s family and friends and their willingness to explain to me step by step the process as I participated in their tradition. Food brings people together, and helps foster closer relationships within a family and a circle of friends. A great day with Cara and Steve and her new Italian family. Simpatica!

Backyard Italian lunch Storage closet for jars

I returned a few days later to Floral Park, and to my pleasant surprise, Graziella and Nazzareno loaded in my car 45 jars of tomato puree and chunky tomatoes. Wow!

Grazie ai miei nuovi amici Italiani!!

You Might Also Like:
bottom of page