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Two if by Hand Mill

For the second year running my cousin Alex and I took a stab at mass-producing tomato sauce. We changed two things this year: we upped the ante to two and a half bushels and called my grandmother’s grinder-style tomato mill into service.

Last year I remember the two rotary food mills we used to separate the tomato juice and pulp being the choke points that pushed the event well into overtime despite all the helping hands we had. (Alex remembers differently.)

This year, even with a bunch of greatly-appreciated help from friends and family (including an indefatigable seven-year old) the grinding still took at least four hours. I also don’t think our yield–twelve litres per bushel–was very good.

The "eject hole" for skins and seeds.

The "eject hole" for skins and seeds.

I wonder, was there a flaw in our technique? I started by adapting Joel’s idea of holding my hand over the output nozzle that spits out the seeds and skins but this seemed to really slow things down. We also had problems with tomato juice backing up into the and making it difficult to aim with the wooden reamer.

I'm still exhausted from this. You'll have to come up with your own Dexter reference.

I'm still exhausted from this. You'll have to come up with your own Dexter reference.

With help from many hands we cut each tomato in two and then each half into six before grinding. Was this not enough? Do the pieces need to be smaller? Should we have cooked them first?

The other consideration is that this style of tomato press just isn’t made for these sorts of quantities. RatherĀ  it would be the sort of thing that a nonna would have permanently affixed to her counter for grinding a basket or so at a time, as needed. Or maybe it’s better for apple saucee.

The unit’s hopper has the words “lo spremi trita” and “ETERNO” embossed on it. According to Google Translate the former means “squeezer minced” in Italian and no one will be surprised that the latter means “forever”. Not much new information there, right?

Has anyone used one of these tomato crushers for a bushel-plus of tomatoes? Are we doing something wrong or just wussies? I’m thinking next year might be time for one of these motorised beauties.

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  1. Michelle says:

    I use something similar (but plastic) that I got at Lee Valley. After coring and chopping them, I lightly cook my tomatoes (about 5 to 10 minutes). I capture the peels in a separte bowl and run them through again after I’m done. I normally get another 2 litres of sauce that ways.

  2. Dot says:

    I just turned 10 bushels of tomatoes into sauce this past weekend using a machine (not knowing its exact name, I simply call it the Tomato Sauce Maker 2000, though it’s similar to the ones in your link).

    It isn’t entirely clear to me, but it looks as though your starting with raw tomatoes, then cooking the sauce? Is that correct? I’ve never used that method, having always boiled the tomatoes until their skin splits, then passing them through the motorized mill. If the tomatoes are already cooked, it might reduce grinding time because you’re not trying to cut through hard tomato….

  3. rachel wolf says:

    I always cook my tomatoes first. Mills like these, to my knowledge, are designed to be used with cooked – and therefore soft – fruits and veggies. The other thing that could slow you down is the wrong screen size (for example, too fine of a screen). Judging by your pics yours looks right to me. I just used mine last night with cooked tomatoes and cranked 4 gallons of cooked tomatoes through in under 10 minutes. And I didn’t even cut them in half.

    Here is my mill, in use with our applesauce last week:

  4. Brandie says:

    Yes, you need to cook the tomatoes first. I’ve tried it both ways with my Victorio-style grinder and found it is critical to cook the tomatoes. Quartered and cooked until saucy, they went through quickly and only dry skins and seeds came out the waste chute.

  5. MooMama says:

    I have a newer version called a Sauce Master, but I routinely grind a bushel at a time. I use roma tomatoes and cut them in slices. When I do through in some slicing tomatoes I tend to cut them in quarters (or smaller for the really huge ones). I always grind them raw – never cook them up in advance.

    The first thing I noticed about your style of saucer is that it doesn’t have a cover over your mesh. That would drive me crazy!

    With my saucer I also don’t push the tomatoes down hard – kinda let them slide down on their own. Only when I don’t have much sauce flowing down do I use the reamer to push more down.

  6. Germaine says:

    I’ve never used this particular piece of equipment, but I have something called a Foley Food Mill that my mother used for over sixty years. It works on a similar principal of forcing pulp through small holes and leaving the skin and seeds behind. I’ve always cooked the food first and then put it through the mill. This will probably up your yield per bushel.

  7. carol says:

    I made oven baked tomato sauce yesterday. It was soooo good! I pushed it through a mesh sieve (ugh) but it went easily, garlic, herbs and all. It was baked for 1.5 hours, first, and that made it pretty easy. It was unbelievably good.

  8. Karen says:

    I have always rinsed/washed the tomatoes first, and pulled off the green stems then coarsely chopped right into the pot…bring to a boil then simmer for a while (at least 15 minutes. Since they are softened, they go through with no mess or strain. You would need to do a similar procedure with apples…they will not go through unless cooked down first. But you dont need to remove skins or seeds…the mill will do that for you.

  9. Heidi says:

    I was wondering the same, Dot. We drop them in boiling water for about 15 seconds, then in ice water til they’re cool enough to handle, then peel ‘em, cut them into chunks, and run them through. 12 litres to a bushel sounds about right though, depending on the type of tomato. We get anywhere from 10-12 qts per bushel, and a litre is 1.05 qt.

  10. Leeann says:

    I have had a vittorio strainer for about 25 years. It looks to me as though the screen you have on it may have too large of holes. Mine has a fine (tomatoes, apples) mesh and coarse one as well. I never cook my romas, but quarter them long ways, and like mooma don’t push them thru-sort of let them take the lead. And remember- this is an old school piece of timesaving equipment…still faster than peeling coring and chopping.

  11. Economist says:

    I have been privileged to make tomato sauce for the past few years with a family of Italian Canadians. They precook the cleaned romas (the ripest they can find), stab them with a fork or halve them before passing them through a food mill something like the one shown and the skins and seeds separate into one pail and the remaining pulp and juice is caught in another and bottled and processed. There is very little waste. They averaged 16 litres per bushel this year. We bottled 8 bushels in about 3 hours not including the water bath process.

  12. Kathy says:

    help – I’m just coming off our first Squeezo experience and baffled by what we got — just thin juice! I pre-cooked (maybe overcooked) a half-bushel of Roma tomatoes and, along with 7 pints of pure juice got *almost* 2 cups of thick sauce. People seem split on whether to process raw tomatoes or pre-cooked, but either way I think we did something very wrong, and we just can’t figure out where all the tomatoes went…

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