Some of you may know Pina, our store manager from our Reservoir store. What you may not know is that she and her family members are tomato passata-making extraordinaires! I had the privilege of attending their 'Passata Day' last weekend, to experience first-hand their family's tradition of making sauce. You may recall in our last newsletter on our recent Passata Making Course (and Recipe), and my reference to Pina's passion for homemade food? Well now I understand where it comes from! Pina's family make their own sausages, salami, pizza, pasta, olives, preserves and biscotti. They do it because they are passionate about great tasting, natural, preservative/additive free food, and they are passionate about preserving these homemade food traditions.
Pina's parents, Domenico and Giovanna Federico have been making homemade passata for as long as Pina can remember! A backyard food tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, from Pina's father's ancestors in Sulmona, Abruzzo, in Italy.
Pina's family put one weekend aside each year in February to make their homemade passata. She does not recall a year when they have not done this.
The Saturday afternoon is spent washing the tomatoes, sterilising the equipment and setting up the garage. 16 boxes of the tomatoes were delivered to the family home a couple of days before. They always purchase their farm grown tomatoes from Tony and Maria at 22 Lawson Crescent, Thomastown (0418 379 215).
The family arrive at nonno and nonna's house early Sunday morning and get straight to work, starting cutting the tomatoes into quarters. Each tomato has been inspected and any bad tomato discarded. This job is initially shared by all family members. Pina's sons, Gianni (15 years) and Massimo (10 years) are now also old enough to cut the tomatoes which now helps speed up the process. Nonna is always keeping a close eye on quality control and efficiency of the process.
Once a couple of the crates have been filled with the cut tomatoes, the family members branch off into their assigned roles. Traditionally, Pina's brother Paul takes charge of putting the tomatoes through the machine. The family's passion for this slow food tradition is evident just by looking at their machine. Pina's father Domenico has made modifications to our machine, literally attaching it to the kitchen sink. It is seriously awesome! The crate of quartered tomatoes is literally poured onto the kitchen sink and plunged through the sink hole into the machine where the pulp and skin are separated from the juice. The juice runs down the shaft and straight into the bucket, ready for salting and bottling.
This year the uncle is assisted by his nephews, Gianni and Massimo. The photo below captures beautifully the sign of the times, and a mix "old age" tradition V's "new age" technology, as Massimo thought he could actually plunge the tomatoes through the machine with one hand, holding onto his IPhone with the other :)
The pulp and skins are put through twice more, to ensure that the very last drop of the juice has been extracted. Juice is added to this process to minimise the strain on the motor, as the skins become drier.
As with most patriarchal families, the nonno is charged with the most important of roles in this process, which is to add the right amount of salt to the tomatoes. Just enough to assist in the preserving process, but not too much to spoil the taste. I'm told it's better to under-salt than over-salt, as you can always add more to the sauce when cooking.
On this day, Pina's eldest son Gianni is responsible for filling the bottles. Again one of our non-spill bottle fillers has been skillfully attached to a construction disigned by Pina's father, to again add efficiency to the process. The nonno sits close by, inspecting the work of his grandson and making sure his is filling them to the correct level.
It's obvious though, that both the nonno and nonna are thoroughly enjoying their grandson's involvement and contribution to the process. It's not only the end result of fresh homemade passata that keeps this passata day alive, it's the preservation of a family tradition, passed down through the generations, with the hope that Paul, Pina and her children will carry this on well into the future.
Once the bottles have been filled, the nonno then caps the bottles and gets them ready for the boiling process. Pina's family still use the beer bottles for their sauce, claiming that they have never lost a bottle through preserving them in this way.
Meanwhile, Pina and I continue to quarter the tomatoes with her mum, chatting away about anything and everything. This process and assembly line of designated jobs is continued until every last tomato is cut into quarters and taken through the various processes.
As with all passata days, the highlight of the day is usually the special lunch that is prepared for the hungry workers. In Pina's family, this is traditionally done by the nonna. On this day, the family were spoilt with a homemade zucchini fritatta and fresh panini. Pina was quick to point out that the zucchini is homegrown, and the pancetta and salami in the panino is homemade!
After lunch the filled bottles are then very carefully stacked into the old gallon drums. If stacked properly they can fit approximately 100 bottles into each drum. Once the water comes to the boil, the bottles are slow boiled for approximately 2 hours and left to cool down overnight. To do this, they have four gallon drums boiling away on the gas burners.
The process from start to finish is definitely a full day. The process then ending on Sunday at approximately 9pm following the big clean up. But the family are satisfied with their new years' supply of fresh homemade passata, totalling approximately 300 bottles!
The passata will now form the basis of many of the family's meals for the next twelve months. Some of these dishes including the sugo for their gaming meats, ragu, marinara, minestrone, lasagna, bolognese or polpetti.
If you would live to see more photos from Pina's family Passata Day, you can see them all on our Facebook Page.
Pina's mum, Giovanni has very kindly shared one of her delicious family recipes. Enjoy :)
Nonna Giovanna's "Classic Sugo" recipe.
1 x onion finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
Lamb shoulder or chuck steak (diced in chunks)
2-4 bottles of passata
Parsley (roughly chopped)
Basil (roughly chopped)
Salt and Pepper
Saute' the onions and garlic in the olive oil.
Add the diced chunks of lamb or chuck steak to the saute to brown the meat.
Add the bottles of fresh homemade passata.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the basil and parsley.
Cook on simmer for approximately 2 hours.
Serve with your favorite style of pasta. Buon appetito!
There are many variations to Giovanna's recipe, which we will share with you over the next few weeks.
Our Advanced Homemade Winemaking Courses will be commencing in March, 2014. If you would like to read more about our course, you can read our previous blog on our 2013 Advanced Homemade Winemaking Course.
To help celebrate the Australian tomato season with you, we have included heaps of our passata/sauce making equipment and supplies in our Specials this week.
Have a great week!