Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fac’ i Buccacc’ - Qua non si paga

Moonrise over Monte Vulture as la signora De Cecca picks the last of her crop

Ok, so I am sort of known for not writing/posting about food on these pages but it is certainly not for lack of interest. Qua si mangia bene. 

Yet since I live in the Centro Storico - the upper Cascina as I like to call it, the little Bronx of Calitri as most everyone else does - in the middle of all the traditions that are still kept up season after season in and around my street, I have definitely heard seen and tasted it all - from the distant steady clinking of a hand pulled wine press deep in some tufa grotto, to the golden elixir that is fresh pressed olive oil or a deliriously fruity grappa, or the aroma of woodsmoke at the height & heat of an August afternoon.  

And I certainly have a fair amount of images to share. But this summer I tried my hand, ever so cavalierly, at putting up a few jars of fresh tomato sauce myself - fac' buccacc' - so if not now, when? 

The inspiration started from a gifted bucket of passed over San Marzano tomatoes; just picked, perfectly aromatic and ripe-red, with just a few blemishes that needed to be trimmed and they would be good as new - here we go ...

After trimming and cooking down the fruit, about 20 minutes, I passed it through a 'passatutto' to get that lovely dense consistency of sauce that I remember my mother using on Sundays - while 
growing up on Long Island
that of course, came out of a can. 

Here, only the inept or unloved have to use tomatoes from a can. Everyone else makes their own. Those who don't have time are gifted a crate of bottles of home made from their mother or grandmother or aunt ... including occasionally lucky me. 

And here, they are not so cavalierly making only a few jars from cast off fruit - they put up several quintali of tomatoes at a time. That's hundreds and hundreds of pounds of tomatoes & who knows how many bottles of sauce yielded for the year.

La signora De Cecca and I ran into each other in her field as I went out to shoot the moonrise one night over Monte Vulture. We stopped to talk and I stayed to help pick the last of her tomatoes from their vines as the last of the light waned from the horizon. And for my time and friendship I was given a crate of them to take home to fac' more buccacc'  ... 

A tavola!