August 16, 2005
【食驗室】自製番茄糊 Home-made Passata
At the first few years after I moved to Italy, when it came to summer my in-laws were always requesting their children to go back home to help making passata (tomato concentrate) for the year’s reserve. Michele and I were not the ones to go, for the reason that our working time weren’t (and still aren’t) stable and I had never done something like this before. Others were in their summer vacation and had some time to spare. So up to now Michele and I are always the one to help consuming, waiting for my in-law’s call to go and pick-up ten bottles or so.
According to Michele, the habit to make passata for winter preserve is from south Italy. Many southern areas are important production area for tomato. From July to September, it’s the season for San Marzano tomato. This tomato of four to five fingers’ thickness is most suitable for passata. Even though almost every kind of tomanto can be used for passata as long as ripen, passata made from San Marzano is famous for its strong and fresh taste. It’s neither acid nor sweet. Many southern people have the habit to produce home made passata during production season and preserve it for winter.
The health conditions of my in-laws are getting worse these years. Though they are thinking to make it, their physical energy cannot really afford such tiring work. They’ve been talking about it so much that I started to think about giving it a try myself. So we chose a not-too-hot morning, called my in-laws asking for the right ingredients, and then went shopping for passata making.
Tow and half kilos of tomato, two sticks celery, one medium carrot, four cloves garlic, one big onion, and a bunch of parsley and basilic, simple as it is and no more than that. Chop everything into small pieces. Put celery, carrot, garlic and onion into a deep pot and pour enough water just to cover everything. Cook over high heat until vegetables are cooked. Add tomato, mix roughly and then add a cup of water. Continue cooking over high heat for about fifteen to twenty minutes and then add salt to taste. I was using a sever liters pot. Cook until the tomato is reduced to one-third, and it’s ready to pass the vegetable mill. Add basilic and parsley five minutes before switching off the fire.
The cooked vegetable mixture has to be passed through vegetable mill and then bottled. My in-laws have the machine version vegetable mill that can separate the tomato puree from the residual seeds and skins. We don’t have that kind of luxury and can only use the manual vegetable mill and process the mixture spoon by spoon. After the puree was bottled, we wrapped the bottles, put them into water and re-cooked the bottles for half hour for vacuum and disinfection. The bottles were then taken out from boiling water and covered with thick blanket to cool slowly. It’s normally ready after covered with blanket for two to three days.
Two and half kilos of tomato were made into three half-liter bottles of passata. I was wondering how much tomato my in-laws were using to produce enough passata for five families? Michele then told me that the big aluminum pot with fifty-centimeter diameter and seventy-centimeter height I once saw in the garage of my in-laws is the main apparatus for passata making. They prepared four to five pots of it every time and hundreds kilos of tomato were used at least. It really surprises me! If not for flavoring it according to personal taste, it’s not really necessary to spend so much efforts doing homemade passata. After all, one can easily find it in supermarket with low cost. However, Michele’s mother is a good cook and cannot really accept the ready-made mass production in the supermarket. Whatever she is able to prepare herself, she will never go for the ready-made stuff.
For me, it’s probably the first time and the last time. It seems to me that I’m digging a hole for myself… I can’t never use “I don’t know how” as the excuse to escape!!