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This is the second year I have made Bordeaux Sauce. A recipe that has been handed down in my family and is a version of piccalilli. My grandmother had given me the recipe that she had in turn received from my Nana (my grandfather’s mother). The family believes that she was given the recipe from her mother whom was from Ireland. Now much like many words that are French in origin, the British will often mispronounce them. As is the case with Bordeaux Sauce, we were told to say it as Bodock. On a side note, there is a castle in England named Belvoir. They call it Beaver castle.

My aunt (whom we call Aunt, really I’m not kidding) just recently asked me to make some and send it to her in Florida. I really like the stuff so I said sure no problem. The recipe calls for grinding the ingredients. The first time I made it I did not have a grinder, no not the sandwich (definition: grinder is a sandwich that the rest of the country mistakenly calls hoagies or subs), a meat grinder. After making my first batch I swore that I would get a one when I made the sauce again. The recipe is as follows:

Bordeaux Sauce Bordeaux


  • 1 bushel of green tomatoes
  • 10 green bell peppers
  • 2 red peppers, hot
  • 4 lbs onions
  • 1 cup canning salt
  • 1 gal apple cider vinegar
  • 7 lbs brown sugar
  • 3 lbs white
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp allspice

Grind the tomatoes, peppers and onions. Then add the salt and let mixture sit for one hour after which pour off the liquid. After removing the liquid add mixture and remaining ingredients to stock pot and simmer for 1 hour. Should yield 16 to 18 quarts.

cutting upSeems pretty straightforward right? Ok people, if you don’t know by know there is never any anything straightforward for the Reaper. Well I ran into a few snags with the first batch. For one, I did not have a bushel of green tomatoes. I didn’t even know how many tomatoes are in a bushel. Upon investigation, ie… internet search, I discover that a bushel is roughly 50 pounds. I had about 10 pounds and really I was guessing on that. So what does this mean? Yep, MATH once again! OK then I have 10 lbs and that is 1/5th a bushel so then you don’t even want to know how long it took me to figure out that I needed to 1/5th it! I highly recommend that trying to figure out the whole 1/5th thing it is a joy. Really don’t take my word on it try it for yourselves.

This year I was only able to get about three lbs of tomatoes from my garden and most

These were not the two, but they are of the same species and were probably sharing the garden too!

Yep a deer and a woodchuck!

of them were cherry. Why so few you ask? Let me give you a picture and you can draw your own conclusions!

So how did I get the rest? I belong to the Newburyport Freecycle Organization.

Welcome! The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,117 groups with 6,565,380 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). www.freecycle.org

I put out a call for produce and especially green tomatoes. I had three people respond back and I was able to get the remaining tomatoes that I Greenneeded and green peppers, hot peppers, banana peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, wax beans, eggplant and pumpkins. A wonderful bounty that I could use and enjoy with the added benefit that it did not go to waste.

So now that I am actually ready to make the Bordeaux Sauce I can’t find the recipe anywhere. And with me that could be just about anywhere. Then I remember that I was given a cookbook of family recipes from my mother-in-law and low and behold that is where I had put it. So two hours from the time that I was first ready, I am really ready. So step 1) grind the tomatoes, peppers and onions. Ok now where the hell is the grinder? After 30 minutes of looking for that I give up and get one of my Santoku knives and the sharpener (cutting this much produce will put a hurting on your knives) and start cutting up tomatoes. It is a long process both wet and tiring. Remember we are processing 50 lbs of tomatoes. After awhile the juice started to bother me (tomatoes are quite acidic) and I do believe I have a blister on my finger. On the plus side I did not cut the tip of my finger off! Not like when I made the squash soup and a story for another day! Don’t worry it didn’t really hurt Santokus are quite sharp!


Cutting tomatoes with the santoku.

So all in all the beginning of the adventure was going well. On to cutting up the peppers, both hot and bell. This went well and I was able to not wipe the capsicum (hot pepper juice) in my eyes or on my lips, as is the custom on most days that I cut up hots! Yeah I am also surprised that I have not done myself in to date! My family does not refer to me as Grace for nothing.

The final grinding/cutting process is the onion. I later find out that if you place the onions in the freezer for 15 minutes you will get no irritation. I also know that if you wear goggles (like those you swim with) you will be fine. Well since I did neither I was really worried as I had to cut up 4 lbs of them! So what did I do? I placed clear packing tape in front of my eyes and stuck it to my face. Go ahead and laugh, it worked and no tears! Don’t judge!! My daughter is upset because she did not get a picture of this rather awesome sight.

Finally I am ready for Step 2)… Holy moly this is going to be a two-day process, at least. Step 2) states to add the salt and let mixture sit for an hour then pour off liquid. Wait what? You pour off the liquid, huh, you all know that I did not do this step either times that I have made this recipe. I did not even see it until I went to write the directions in this posting. So you can or don’t even bother with pouring off the liquid. Step 3) and the next day because the two steps before this took way too long, you add the mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a large stock pot and simmer for an hour. While this is happening, sterilize the jars. I do this in the oven. Heat oven to 225 F and place the washed and air dried jars on the center rack. Leave them in the oven for 20 minutes and you now have a way to sterilize jars without wasting water. Ok this will be the last time I do this as a very very good resource SB Canning pointed out that this practice can be unsafe. I checked for cracks in the jars and they are fine. I still process the lids in a water bath. By the way I am using pint and pint and a half jars.

This was a sticky situation!

This was a sticky situation!

Now to can the sauce, you need a canning funnel and a ladle to scoop the mixture. As you fill the still hot jars from the oven you want to leave about an inch from the top and be sure to wipe the inside rim. Get your canning pot ready too, add water about half way and turn on the heat. Make sure your rack is in the pot; you don’t want the bottles sitting directly on the pan. Hand tighten the lids and add the jars to the pan. Then cover with more water to about two inches above the bottles. Bring to a boil and let process for an additional 15 minutes. I was able to make about 20 jars of this wonderful family recipe. Or so I thought!

I was telling my grandmother about making it:

Me:  I made Bordeaux sauce about 20 pints
Gram:  Nice, I would like some
Me:  Cutting up the tomatoes, peppers and onions were hard
Gram:  What about the cabbage? Bordeaux Sauce has cabbage in it.
Me:  What are you talking about, I made the recipe that you said was the sauce?
Gram:  No you made piccalilli.
Me:  Are you kidding me?
Gram:  No, how much mustard seed did you put in? Nana always put in a bit much?
Me:  There is no mustard seed in this recipe.
Gram:  Well her recipe had it.
Me:  Gram!! Who’s recipe is this?
Gram:  I don’t know?
Me:  Its in your hand writing and you said it was Nana’s!
Gram:  Are you sure?
Me:  Oh for the love of all that is! (Sitting down with my head in my hands).

So she gets out her many varied handwritten recipes and starts to look for the actual recipe for Bordeaux Sauce. You know the one that I had thought I had been making for the past two years! She finally finds what she thinks is it. But alas, it is just a list of incomplete ingredients! Yep folks, it is always an adventure here at The Suburban Reaper. Or should I say misadventure?

I do have the recipe now, thanks to my cousin’s wife. She copied Nana’s recipe book and I was able to verify with her that I had neither the Bordeaux Sauce nor Piccalilli recipe. I had unknown person’s grandmother’s recipe. She gave it to me and I will try to make it soon, as I do have some green tomatoes left. But that will be an adventure for another day!


The Prairie Homestead, great site check them out