Sunday, August 18, 2013

That's Italian! Passata

What to do with the bounty of local tomatoes available by mid-August?  If you're Italian, you get the family together and can your tomatoes for the coming year.  My sister and I aren't Italian, but, with a little help from our Italian friends, we got the low down on the Italian "way".  Three hundred pounds of tomatoes will provide us with enough incredibly fresh, tasty, healthy passata- a light tomato sauce- for the next six months. The thing is, this sauce has a minimal amount of salt and a maximum amount of tomato flavour.
64 500-ml jars of tomato goodness- passata

300 lbs of roma tomatoes
 (each box holds 25 lbs)
Elyse (my sister) underestimated the yield per 25 lbs box, so we ended up canning twice the amount of jars we had planned for.  She will enjoy 64 litres of tomatoes (from 200 lbs of roma tomatoes) and I will have half that amount. 

Here is what you can expect: 25 lbs of roma tomatoes will provide you with 8 litres of passata.  That's 8 x 1 litre jars or 16 x 500 ml jars... And, timewise, expect to spend about one hour for every 25 lbs of tomatoes.  All well worth it! 

We tried out two new tools this weekend: a large tomato hand press and the food puree attachment for the KitchenAid.  Both worked admirably and I would highly recommend them.  The KitchenAid attachment was great to press the juices from the tomatoes.  The hand press' bigger hopper allows more tomatoes to be processed at once.  We each used one of the "tools" then passed all of the seeds and skins through the KitchenAid a second time to catch all of the pulp for our sauce.

To make a twenty-five lbs batch of tomatoes- 8 one-litre jars.
25     lbs of roma tomatoes
1/4   cup of salt (or to taste)
16    tbsp of lemon juice- two tbsp per litre (add to the jar, before adding the puree)
(note that the traditional recipes do not add lemon juice, but I add it to ensure the acidity level for safe canning.  My sister omits the lemon juice)
16    fresh basil leaves (optional, but very traditional)

Wash 9 one litre canning jars in hot soapy water.  Place in a 200 degree oven to sterilize.  Or, alternatively, I wash my jars in the dishwasher on high heat and keep them hot there until ready to use.

Place the tomatoes in a sink full of water and clean them.  Cut off the stem end and any soft or bad spots.

These tomatoes are ready to puree.
On the stovetop, place your filled water bath canner and bring to a boil while you prepare the tomatoes.  Begin warming water in a smaller pot, for the lids and bands.  Add these just before filling the jars. 

Place the cleaned tomatoes in a large stockpot, add a little water (about 1 litre) to the top and bring to a simmer.  Cook just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes soften- about 20 minutes for 25 lbs of tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes from the pot and drain. 

Puree using the KitchenAid
 Puree the tomatoes using the KitchenAid vegetable puree attachment, a hand cranked tomato mill or a regular food mill.  Set aside the discarded pulp and seeds and process them a second time.

Filling the jars
Place the puree in a large clean bowl.  Add the salt, taste and adjust.  Remember you can always add salt to your sauce when you cook with it later.  Remove your hot jars from the dishwasher (or oven) and place on a dishtowel covered counter- to prevent hot jars from cracking if placed on a cold, hard surface.  Add two tablespoons of lemon juice, then ladle in the sauce, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.  If using, add a couple a fresh basil leaves.  Gently tap the jars to remove any air pockets that may have formed.  Clean the rim of each jar, then seal with the canning lids. 

Carefully place jars in the boiling water bath and process for 40 minutes.  (if using 500 ml jars- 20 minutes) Make sure the boiling water covers the jars by about one inch.  Remove the jars from the water and place them on a towel covered counter.  Allow them to cool before moving them to a cool, dry place for storage. Don't forget to label and date!  The sealed jars should keep for up to one year.  Store opened jars in the refrigerator to be used within a few days.

Elyse's 64 1-litre jars of passata!

We had a great time canning our tomatoes.  Three hundred pounds of tomatoes took us about 15 hours.  We're looking forward to some great cooking this winter!

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