Tomato Passata (Passata di pomodoro)

If you have lots of home grown tomatoes or simply want to take advantage of cheap prices when local producers have a glut of fruit, consider making your own passata. I was inspired recently after watching a re-run of a cooking program where an Italian community bought boxes and boxes of Roma tomatoes at the end of summer. Everyone came together in the local community kitchen to make passata to be used at gatherings during the rest of the year.

The only problem was on the television they has a special machine that removed the skin and seeds from the tomatoes (I don't have one). After cooking, they bottled their passata in beer bottles and capped it using a beer bottle capping machine (costs around $60).

Then in a eureka moment, I remembered that I had an ancient juicing machine (Ronson) that belonged to my father. It works fine for the small batches I produce at home.

Tomatoes (it takes an extraordinary amount - about 1kg of fruit per large 700ml jar)
●  Salt

●  Balsamic vinegar

You could also add herbs, onion, garlic etc, but I prefer to add these when cooking the final dish.

Wash and quarter the tomatoes and process them through the juicer to remove the skin and seeds. If you feel too much of the pulp is being wasted, put this into a sieve and push it through with the back of a spoon or soup ladle and add this to the juice you have extracted.

Place the juice and any pulp into a saucepan and simmer gently until reduced by at least one third. I add a little bit of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon per jar of passata) plus some balsamic vinegar (you can use lemon juice) at the rate of 1 tablespoon per jar. (You can put both of these into the jar when actually bottling if you like). A bay leaf is traditionally added to the jar prior to sealing.

Boil a big pot of water and drop your bottles and lids in to sterilise. Remove with tongs and dry, then fill the hot bottles with hot passata and seal. Place the sealed bottles back into the pot of hot water and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes to complete the preserving process. I put a tea towel in the pot to stop the bottles touching the base of the saucepan and to prevent them banging against one another and breaking.

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