I can't believe a whole year has passed since last year's family passata day! Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that we transformed my parent's suburban garage into a homemade tomato sauce factory. And here we were again, doing it in 2014.
Fortunately we called ahead this year to book our boxes of tomatoes. When we picked them up we were told that ours had been put aside, but they were not able to get another delivery of tomatoes until after the weekend. You can only imagine the frustration of the farmers not being able to sell tomatoes in the peak of their tomato season! I made a mental note to make sure that we pre-order our tomatoes each year from now on. It does confirm however what we already suspected, that the "tomato season" is alive and well in Melbourne.
This is one backyard food tradition from the homeland that is being preserved by many Italian families around Melbourne and across Australia. We see more and more in our stores, with the "next generation" coming in to purchase equipment and supplies to keep this tradition alive. We have also seen a growth in interest of young people from all nationalities that are conscious about sustainable living and sustainable foods, wanting to learn this traditional craft and start their own "passata days".
With all the grandchildren another year older, it meant that the nonni had to take extra care to ensure there was enough food to feed the growing and forever hungry crew on the day, so preparations were made ahead of time to plan the menu. The flip side to this though, was with the grandchildren another year older, we had more able hands to cut the tomatoes, and all round more man-power to get the job done as efficiently as possible! And we did! The kids were amazing this year! They seriously worked along side us all day. They cut the tomatoes, processed them through the machine, filled the bottles, capped the bottles, stacked the bottles and helped with the clean up at the end of the day.
We made a head start on the Saturday afternoon, cleaning all the tomatoes, sterilising the equipment and crates, and setting up the tables and chairs.
By the time we all arrived on the Sunday morning, we had a quick espresso and settled into our seats to start cutting the tomatoes at about 10.00am. There were a couple of sleepy heads that didn't arrive until later, but they will remain nameless :) We decided this year that we would all initially cut the tomatoes to try to make real ground, before we started processing them through the machine. This seemed to work well and kept the machine working at full capacity, to keep up with the supply.
We rested for lunch around 1.00pm, having cut all the tomatoes which was a great effort by all. Lunch was lovingly prepared by the nonni and served in our makeshift restaurant in the garage, which only added to the authentic mood of the day. We were spoiled with not one, but two types of pasta, pork rolls, crackling and homemade salami. A few beers and some wine complementing the meal.
After lunch it was back to work to finish processing the tomatoes through the machine, bottling, capping and boiling our bottles of fresh homemade tomato sauce. We were all done and dusted by 3.30pm which was a fantastic effort. Everyone chipped in to get the cleaning done as quickly as possible. All there was left to do was eat a delicious afternoon tea and the kids enjoyed a well deserved dip in the pool.
Our family of 16 managed to survive the day working together and enjoying quality family time. I know how precious days like these are for my parents. This is one day of the year when their children and grandchildren are all in the same place at the same time, safe and happy, working together to produce something that is simple, natural and fresh. But we're not perfect... Just like any other family there was the usual sibling squabbles and a bit of ribbing. And no passata day is complete without a tomato fight and a water fight. We worked hard, had heaps of fun and now we will reap the benefits of a years supply of homemade tomato sauce to use as a base for all our favorite pasta dishes and home cooked meals. There's no limit to what we can do with our liquid gold!
If you would like to see more photos from our family passata day, you can view them out on our Facebook page.