Storing the season for year-round stews of organic tomatoey goodness – is there a better way to spend a Saturday? I think not.
Recently we held our annual Passata Day – much squishing and boiling and eating and talking and drinking, which all resulted in a truckload of preserved tomatoes, ready to take on other lives.
There’s probably going to be tomatoes around for a few weeks yet so if you can, grab some seconds/stewing tomatoes, organic if you can manage it, and get bottling! Here’s how we do ours:
How to make Passata
Firstly, there’s a thousand ways to do this, but this is how we make our passata – it’s as simple as it gets.
Start with saucing tomatoes – like romas, or san manzanos – they have a higher flesh content and will result in a thicker passata.
First, figure out what you’re bottling into – we use 750ml beer bottles because they’re cheap, reusable, of uniform size, easy to seal and space-efficient for storage.
But any jar with a good seal will do the job – though keep in mind that you want your jars to be vaguely the same volume, as they’ll all be preserved together.
Then, make sure your bottles are clean as a whistle, and sterilise them. You can do this in a number of ways – by boiling them, heating in an oven, or with iodine.
For the purposes of this mass-passata-athon, we rinsed the clean bottles in an iodine solution of 1ml iodine : 1 litre water – this is enough to sterilise them yet ensures that even if there’s a bit of iodine water left in the bottle, the dose of iodine is equivalent to eating a seaweed salad. Safe as.
IMPORTANT: add a basil leaf to each bottle, prior to filling with tomatoes. Because, basil.
- Wash and chop tomatoes into quarters
- Squish tomatoes through a passata machine – hand cranked or motorised, whatever you have – to remove skins and seeds.
- Add salt, if desired.
- Bottle them up! Don’t forget your funnel for this part.
- Cap or seal as needed. If you’re using beer bottles, red caps are useful to let you know later that you’re not about to add home-brew to your pasta.
Put your jars in a pot of water that covers 3/4 of the jar and bring to the boil – hold that boil on simmer for 40 minutes and there you have it – preserved tomatoes.
For this stage, we used vacola boilers, which have a special metal plate in their bottoms to prevent jars jiggling around once they’re boiling, so the jars dont crack.
If you don’t have a plate like this to put in your boiler (a round cake rack also works well) then might we recommend you put each jar/bottle in a sock before adding them to the boiler. Works a treat.
Once the time is up, you can remove them immediately if you have more bottles to process (careful: extremely hot) or let them cool in the water.
Eat it as you go
Making passata is hungry work. So boil some up while you’re about it, and serve it up with the best fresh (or homemade) pasta you can lay hands on, fresh herbs, bread, and butter.
An important part of the day, as it inspires you onward! Wine helps also.
Lable + Store
Especially if your passata is in dark glass, labels are a fine idea.
Because 6 months later, a slowly-moving vicious stuff in an unnamed brown bottle in your pantry may not inspire you (or your gift recipient) with confidence to make a feast from it, given that it could be a bottle of successful passata or alternately a deeply un-successful bottle of (insert preserving/brewing experiment here).
So labels are good. Don’t forget to add which year you made it.
After that, store them somewhere dark and temperature stable. If you run out of room in the pantry, the garage might be good, or under the house. No worries if they get dusty in the meantime, they’re sealed, remember?
And there you have it. Crushed tomatoes for the year ahead. It’s one of our pantry staples and I LOVE it because i know that even if I’m feeding our family a super-simple meal of passata + pasta, it’s good, nutrient-dense grub.
Huge thanks to all the beautiful humans that came to our Passata Day at the 107 Rooftop Garden this year – may it become a yearly tradition for you all, long into the future…