The last Tomato Sauce recipe you’ll ever need, in memory of Dorothy

The last Tomato Sauce recipe you’ll ever need, in memory of Dorothy

 Granny Ipsen often said, “you never know when people are going to turn up,” so she made a point of always looking her best, wearing pearl earrings, necklaces, and brooches, and sometimes all three. A fondly remembered mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Dorothy Noelle Ipsen was a maker of many things, including the town’s best sponge cake, and her wildly famous traditional tomato sauce.

On a late summer day “down at Flinders” before she passed on, I joined four generations of Ipsen girls make the family tomato sauce with matriarch Dorothy – Granny – at her home in Augusta. Be duly warned, it’s impossible to return to store-bought sauce once you’ve made this. It’s deadly on sausage rolls, roasted chips, and BBQ’d snags. Thank you Dorothy – Granny – for the inspiring mark you left on so many.

Dorothy adapted a CWA cookbook recipe to her tastes & lifelong cooking experiences.

Granny Ipsen’s Tomato Sauce

Eight pound version

8 lb tomatoes (3.6kg)

1 ¾  lb sugar (800g)

¾  lb onions (350g)

1 ¼ lb apples (570g)

1 ¼ pints vinegar (600ml)

4 oz salt (113g)

1 tblsp whole fresh ginger (or more to taste)

1 tblsp garlic (~small head)

1 tsp cayenne pepper

bouquet garni

1 tblsp cloves

1 tblsp pimento

1 tsp white pepper (or whole pepper)

Part One (up to 1 hr)

1. Peel tomatoes: place in bowls or a pot, cover with boiling water. Leave a few minutes and the skins will loosen. Drain water and peel the tomatoes, being mindful of the heat!

2. Cut tomatoes roughly into a pot. Sprinkle in some salt and stir (the salt will help draw out liquid). Macerate for several hours or overnight.

Special tip from Dorothy

Dorothy told me I should always get up early and get the sauce going. That way, I could be all finished by 9am and “get on with my day”. It’s true, the day can get away from you when you’re making sauce. Start first thing, and enjoy the satisfaction of finishing as early as possible.

Part Two (4 – 5 hrs)

Drain excess liquid from tomatoes and add them to pot.

Chop onions and apples if you haven’t already and add.

Put the pot on the stove and turn onto high heat.

Add vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne, ginger, garlic and the bouquet garni. Stir to combine.

Cook all ingredients together on high heat for approx 2 hrs, or 40 mins on a commercial stove. Stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom, especially in the final hour.

When it’s cooked, put through a mouli to remove seeds. Mouli twice for a smooth result.

Heat sauce back to boiling.

Pour warm-hot sauce into warm, sterilised bottles for best preserving results. Fill bottles to 1cm below top, ensure cap area is clean of sauce, screw cap tightly.

Time – Saving Option: not endorsed by Dorothy!

I don’t know if Dorothy would approve of this, but when 5 hours work can potentially be reduced to 2-3 hrs, this time-saving option is attractive. You can elect to blend the sauce once it has been cooked, rather than pass it twice through a mouli.

When I tested this option we used my friend’s powerful blender. Another bonus of blending is that there is no waste: seeds were pulverised, and the resulting sauce is smooth. Too smooth for my sister’s tastes; she prefers the more rustic feel of a traditional sauce. The result may depend on the kind of food processor or blender you have access to. I think there could be something about the way the mouli gently presses the mixture which could possibly better the powerful blending in untold ways, and besides, if the power is off, I can still make sauce if I have my trusty mouli at hand. The mouli is also fun if you have a merry band of friends and kids around to join in, as we did the memorable day we made Ipsen sauce together.

Julia and her Granny, Dorothy Ipsen, holding a Perup Pride apple

A special project has made its beginnings. My dear friend, Julia Meldrum, decided she’d like to write a book of her Granny Dorothy Ipsen’s family recipes. Jules and I have been friends for 25 years, since primary school in Manjimup. When she told me about her idea, I offered to help.

It was a pleasure to film four generations of Ipsen girls doing what they do best. Dorothy, Sally, Julia, Emily and I can’t forget Jules’ delightful little boy and number one taste tester, James. The girls cut and stirred while I took photos and film to capture one story about this very special family matriarch. What better way to pass a summer Sunday?

The recipe was scribbled in Dorothy’s CWA cook book, beside the original one that she changed to suit her tastes. I have written out her 8 pound and 12 pound version, and plan to make 12 pounds myself, beginning tomorrow evening. 

Just before leaving Manjimup, I stopped in at our Graphite Road orchard to pick some new season apples to put in the sauce. Last night at dinner Dad said the Perup Pride – Manjimup’s own Gala – were looking good. I bit into one to check and he was right. As good as a Gala gets, maybe better. 

Anyone who lives outside Manjimup would be forgiven for having no idea what or where the Perup is, when we say we’re out there. The Perup is an ecological hotspot, known for its diversity of flora and fauna, including the endangered numbat. It was one of the first settled farming areas not far out the east side of town. To sound authentic, try saying it from the side of your mouth. Stick out your jaw at the same time. Also, the men from that side of town fold their big arms across their chests when they talk. Especially when they’re saying what’s going on or what went on back in the day “out the Perup”. 

I felt a bit guilty and extravagant using first grade apples for sauce. Usually, we’d get second grade, and even those foraged off the ground after the pickers go through. Then again, we had a special day of it planned. Having grown up “out the Perup”, Dorothy was pleased I’d brought over the new Perup Pride Gala; she’d only had one once before. She picked a beauty out of the crate to have later. Meanwhile, the girls had made a start. Within two shakes the tomatoes, apples and onions were cut, the bouquet garni tied, in went the salt, sugar, garlic, ginger and vinegar, and we were away.

Put it on the high boil for around 2 – 3 hours. It should reduce by about a third, feel thick, and look glossy. Don’t overcook it though. I’m told if you do, it’ll get too thick and turn an undesirable brown colour. You’ll never win 1st prize at the local show with poor colour. 

Dorothy has been making sauce for 60 years and Sally about 37 years. Julia, Sally’s daughter, is on her 7th year of sauce mkaing. Ipsen women start making sauce when they get married. I’ve made this sauce once before. I think that’s pretty good, seeing I’m not an Ipsen and I’m not married.

Sauce is ready to pass through the mouli to remove seeds and skins, if you haven’t done already. Dorothy would have. She thinks it’s easier to do that first. Prepare everything the night before, put it all in the pot and even start it cooking if you have time. That way, you can have it all finished by 10am.

This time, we double press the skins and seeds to get every last drop of sauce. Julia’s daughter mouli’s like she’s a fourth generationa mouli-operator. She loves tomato sauce, she tells me. With these role models, I’m hardly surprised.

We cap the sauce, then our event with a well-earned late lunch of fresh salad, leftover cold meats, eggs, and celebration for this batch of 2012 tomato sauce! Congratulations to dear Jules is in order. You really made today count for something special, and I think all the women who’ve come before you would be proud. Thanks for inviting me to share in this beautiful living tradition.

Before: ripe Perup Pride on the tree

A particularly lovely crate of just picked Perup Pride

Sauce on the boil

Twice through the mouli

From left: Dorothy Ipsen, Sally Towie, Emily and James Meldrum, Julia Meldrum. Four Generations of Ipsens make the family tomato sauce in the summer of 2012.