It seems that all traditions have to start one day.
Some Italian families have been making passata every summer for years, mates talk of hanging salami during winter.
Despite my Italian background (somewhat diluted Italian heritage) I have never been involved in any of this. I have vague memories of my grandfather and his lush tomato garden, the grape vines, some homemade grappa (or was that supposed to be wine), something being distilled off in the back of his shed.
So this weekend, we decided to start our own traditional passata making weekend.
Now unfortunately my wise old nonna passed away many years ago, so we were left to the devices of youtube, cookbooks (Whole Larder Love) and some “surely is can’t be that hard”. The 7th day above 30 degrees did add a slight degree of difficulty, especially since we decided that we wanted to try to reduce down the tomatoes first.
So off to the Queen Vic Market to pick up 32 kilos of roma tomatoes (Tomato city. Brilliant tomatoes, check them out), some jars, a couple of coffees. There would be plenty of these had that day.
The jars got washed and into the oven to sterilise while our two microbiologist wives supervised. Make sure we do this bit right!
So we washed, we cored, we diced into pots. Repeat. Repeat. 32 kilos of tomato is a lot of tomato. As we sliced and diced we looked at the pile of jars we’d bought. Is that enough jars?
We put pot after pot onto the stove. Once we ran out of large pots we grabbed the smaller pots, they went on the BBQ, the electric frypan came out, still not enough space. Into a bowl for later. We’ll throw them in once we’ve reduced some of this down. Man, 32 kilos of tomato is a lot of tomato.
We headed outside for a BBQ (ah, thank god I’ve got enough room on the BBQ with all that tomato cooking down) while everything simmered. Time for a coffee, is it too early for a beer?
Finally, we’ve reduced and the hot hot jars come out of the oven. A basil leaf at the bottom of the jar, then slowly slowly we filled each jar. Another jar, another jar. 32 kilos of tomato is a lot of tomato.
Eventually we filled all the jars and we’ve still got passata left over. Into tuppaware and into the freezer. We’re bloody full up on passata. The wife is going cross-eyed looking at the mess.
The jars that we do fill go back into the pots, covered with water and boiled to pasterise. Bloody hell 32 kilos of tomato is a bloody lot of tomato. After boiling we attempt to take them out. Hot. Damn hot. Lets leave them there to sit and head outside with a beer.
As the sun begins to set finally we can pull the jars out of the still warm water and line them up, check that they all sealed correctly. A few lids aren’t so great and don’t seal at all. They’ll have to go into the fridge and get used straight away. The rest we share between us, 16 jars each plus what went into tuppaware. We head down to the new pizza place (Cantina) for some beers and pizza, try to soak in some air conditioning and reflect on what hopefully will be the start of a new tradition.