The wind gods smiled down on us this morning and we awoke to flat calm though the forecast was for strong winds until Tuesday. It was time to make passata and the well oiled machine sprung into life, though minus me, who slept in until 7 a.m. because unlike the experienced Italians I believed the weather forecast. My arrival therefore at 7.45 a.m. was greeted with many ” Sleep well Mike” “troppo vino Mike” etc. Bottles were ready, buckets filled with water, the wood fire lit, pots cleaned, racking and muslin laid out and caffe already drunk. I felt a little guilty as a fresh expresso was made for the dormouse.
I am normally assigned the role as I always am at these events of general dogsbody. It is a role I am happy in as it usually bears little true responsibility so my lack of country ways doesn’t ruin whatever it is that is being made or harvested. “Pick this up” “drop that over there” “pull Mike pull” are orders I can cope with. So my first order was carry a few boxes of toms out of the shed.
Surprisingly after a couple of years of doing passata I was this year given a real task. Take off the spider looking like leaf tops from the tomato and in my own bucket wash them and toss any bad’uns out. Such responsibility, I was not used to and quite quickly was reprimanded for being over eager in the reject department. I was fearful that by being less than ruthless I might end up poisoning the whole batch. However I soon settled into the rather pleasant task of sorting and bathing my toms.
and no I hadn’t decided this morning to paint my toe nails. Aurelia was quietly told to make sure I wasn’t tossing away half the crop now I had been given some responsibility.
I rinsed my toms in another bucket to make sure they were clean and then drained them out and carried them to the big pot on the fire and tossed them in.
They boil happily in there until the skins split and then are transferred to the draining rack. Someone has to keep the wood delivered to the fire and watch that everything is progressing, as well as choosing when they are ready for the transfer. I haven’t been promoted that far up the corporate ladder as yet.
The tomatoes now sit on a rack with muslin over it and the water gradually seeps off and runs away. There seems no laid down time for this, just intuition I guess but quite suddenly a table nearby was cleared and the passata making machine was assembled and plugged in. We were about to make the first passata of 2013. My drumroll was greeted with confused expressions and a , it’s what we do very year Mike, look. But honour of honour playmates I was to run the machine.
Now I won’t confuse you dear readers with complexity and competency required in this task! Suffice to say you need to be good with a spoon and be prepared to be covered in passata by the time you finish. The machine has a mind of it’s own and every now and again seems to burp on the tomato diet it is being fed. Normally just as you are peering in to see what is clogged. I realised why I had been given this job as I again went to the outside tap to wash my face so I could see again.
Nor have I started shaving my legs, my watcher was never far away as this was a rather crucial part of the process. But this is the passata pouring out, while the bucket to the left is where the skins end up as they come out of the end of the machine. I actually felt I had done a great job on this bit until somebody pointed out that I had somehow managed to move that skins bucket with my foot and for 20 minutes they had been happily ending up on the floor alongside it. Oh well there’s always next year.
You then scoop out the passata from the bucket and bottle it like so above. These bottles are then placed in an huge empty old oil drum wood placed underneath and lit and boiled for an hour to seal the tops. The passata is then ready for storing to be used during the year.
200 odd bottles later we were sent happily on our way home. Me for a long shower as I seemed to be the only one covered in tomatoes. Maybe I need a few more years to get this off pat.
Tomorrow I will tell you about this Hannibal reference ( and it’s not Anthony Hopkins but another one). Lovely music though.