At this time of year if someone mentions “doctoring” up, it would be logical to think they meant for the flu. Images of aspirin bottles, cough syrup bottles and boxes of tissues may come to mind. However, “doctoring” sometimes happens in the kitchen.

I recently was reminded of this while making supper. Dad had suggested we have spaghetti and meatballs. While normally I’d buy some lean ground beef and with a few added ingredients make my own, this time I decided to buy the meatballs and a few jars of sauce. The idea was to heat up the sauce in the slow cooker and add the pre-cooked meatballs at the right time to not only heat up but to pick up some of the flavor of the sauce.

As I added three jars of sauce to the slow cooker (I used two meatless flavor sauces and a tomato-basil sauce), I noticed that there was still sauce clinging to the sides of the jars. This sauce didn’t slide down the glass easily, in fact it looked like it was clinging for dear life and was determined to stay exactly where it was at that moment.

Now I hate to waste food and throwing out the jars with usable sauce still in them seemed like a waste. Yes, I could add some water and swish the jars around to loosen that stubborn sauce before adding it to the rest in the slow cooker. I didn’t, however, want to just water down the sauce with no added benefit.

That’s when a memory flashed through my brain. I had just entered my teenage years when I learned Mom added something to boughten spaghetti sauce. I knew she always “doctored” any pre-packaged foods to give them a more homemade taste but I hadn’t known about this ‘secret’ ingredient before then. Or if I did, Mom likely redirected my attention as parents do when children get too curious.

Mom would take a half cup of Morgan David and add it to spaghetti sauce. This deep flavored red wine added a richness to the sauce. Of course, any alcohol content would have dissipated as the sauce cooked but the flavor was delicious.

So as I sat looking at the stubborn sauce still clinging to the inside of the jars, I mentioned to Dad that I wish I had a bottle of Morgan David in the house. Dad, who was sitting in the small sitting room that is attached to the kitchen, noted that there were several bottles of wine in the refrigerator and couldn’t I use one of those.

I checked the frig but found only a moscato, which is a sweet white, and a Pinot Grigio, a dry white. Neither were what I was looking for as a substitute to Morgan David. So Dad, helpfully, went to check the old refrigerator that now resides in the basement but provides added cold storage. He returned with two bottles, one being a raspberry wine which made me shutter to think of spaghetti sauce with a raspberry flavor to it. The other was from the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair, which is held at Mount Hope each year.

Now it had been several years since we had been there so I knew the wine was not a recent purchase. But wine should age well otherwise why would people have wine cellars where bottles have been stored for ages. So I figured I could at least open it and see what it was like.

It was a smooth wine with a wonderful concord grape flavor. Not quite like Morgan David but it did have a richness all its own.

I lined up the three almost empty sauce jars and poured about a quarter cup into each. Swished the jars around and poured the sauce-wine mixture into the slow cooker. Only time would prove whether this was a good decision or not.

Soon the meatballs went in as the sauce was bubbling away. The aroma, I must say, was wonderful. No heavy grape scent, just the wonderful smell of a rich spaghetti sauce.

But the test is in the tasting.

It was awesome. The rich flavor I wanted was there and it no longer tasted as if it was just store-bought sauce and yet, I didn’t have to start from scratch and take hours to make the sauce. Dad liked it so well he had to have seconds, he said.

While the flavor was a little different than what Mom would make, the richness was there.

In talking with a co-worker I mentioned the addition of wine to the sauce and she said she hadn’t ever heard of doing that. I don’t know where Mom learned to “doctor” spaghetti sauce like this, but I’m glad whoever knew passed on this little trick. I had forgotten it for years, but as I sometimes suspect, she’s there with me in the kitchen and guiding my hand from time to time.

Thanks Mom for this little “secret.”

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