Since I have been making and remaking Becky’s Roasted Tomato Sauce I thought I should share some of the history of Tomato Sauce.
But before we get to history, a few more pictures of recent versions of Becky’s Sauce…
These late summer Romas are small, their skins imperfect. They capture the heat of late summer perfectly. The sauce they made was more tangy and acidic than the earlier sauces made with variously colored heirlooms and beefsteak style fruit. This late season sauce has also been a wonderful addition to the first beef braised in red wine of the season. The sauce lends a complexity to a simple braise that our household adores.
Of course I won’t be focusing on tomato sauce in Italy. To read about the beginnings of tomato pasta sauces in Italy see the Food History Timeline, here. British cooks took to tomato sauce as well, although they were slow to adopt the New World nightshade as a regular menu item.
Recipes in manuscripts from the 1850s are similar to Becky’s Sauce in that the tomatoes are roasted first and then reduced to some type of sauce. However, the recipes I have seen in these books all add vinegar and sometimes chilies. Thus, they are rather like ketchup without sugar or the hot chili vinegar sauces that were more familiar to English cooks and eaters.
Tomata Sauce (Mrs. Trevelyan)
Take the tomatas when ripe, pick out the green stems—wipe them well with a cloth—place them (so as not to touch each other) in dishes. Put them into the oven with the bread to take 4 hours—then scrape out all the pulp with a tea spoon throwing away the skins and seeds—To a pound of Tomatas put a quart of chilli vinegar—three spoonfuls of salt, one ounce of garlick & an ounce of shallot thinly sliced—boil the whole till tender & skim it well, then put it through a sieve & add half an ounce of white pepper pounded & sifted & half a pint of chilli vinegar. Boil it again ten minutes—if your chilli vinegar do not make it hot enough add Cayenne to it—bottle it close and keep it in a cool place—protect it from the air well rosined it will keep for years. (Mrs. Hill of Henbury)
2 oz of garlic
2 oz of Eschalot cut fine
3 oz white bruised pepper corns
1 oz mace
3 oz allspice
¼ lb salt
Six capiscums to 7 ½ of Tomatas. Boil all together hard an hour in a quart of strong vinegar. Strain though a sieve rubbing all through & rendering to a pulp thro’. Let it stand till quite cold then bottle for use, diving the thickness with care. Resin the corks.
Make colouring & keep in a bottle
Lydford (Sarah Pease) c. 1857
These are all taken from manuscripts held by the Wellcome Library in London and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the permission of the Wellcome.
All of these tomato sauces are meant to be served as piquant accompaniments to meat. They are not meant to coat pasta, which for the English at this time was invariably served with cheese and butter or olive oil. Perhaps this old fashioned spicy tomato condiment is a project for this long weekend…