I have very fond memories of my Nonna filling up bottles (often beer bottles) and jars with tomatoes and preserving these tasty little fruits, she would do this every year without fail right into her later years and considered it to be a very important job in preparation for the winter.
Times have changed and you can pick up a tin of tomato’s or bottle of passatas in almost any local super market, so why would you bother to make your own which is a very time consuming process when you get the same result out of tin… Well, apart from being a nostalgic process which transports me to hot summer evenings in Italy were I can still smell all the delicious flavours in the air…The taste of freshly preserved tomato’s just doesn’t compare to anything you can buy.
At this time there are an abundance of tomatoes of all different shapes and sizes, the pista resistance has to be the San Marzano, as they contain less water and have more flesh than other varieties. Unfortunately I am not able to find San Marzano easily, so have decided to use some amazing British grown tomatoes that I found in my local farm shop. The principle is the same and these still work well and are just as delicious.
To start: Remove the stalks and gently boil the tomatoes for approx 10 minutes or until the skin begins to crack – then plunge into cold water allowing the tomatoes to cool down.
Once the tomatoes have cooled then peel the skin off and gently squeeze them so that the pips and juices are removed
Add the tomatoes to a sterilized jar, add a basil leave and seal.
A money saving tip is to use jars from everyday condiment such as marmalade or chutneys etc. as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized, they are good to go.
To create a vacuum lay a cloth or wire rack at the bottom of a large saucepan. Put the jars on top and fill with water so they are completely covered. Heat the pan until the water is boiling then simmer for approx 15 to 20 minutes.
Turn the heat off and allow the pan to cool to room temperature before removing from the water, as they cool you should hear a clicking noise as the vacuum is formed.
If you wanted to make a passata then add a little salt and fresh basil to tomatoes and and pass through a mill. Not so easy to find in the UK but can be found on the internet.
This will eliminate any pips or skin and will give you a smooth sauce. It can also be added to other dishes or poured over onions and garlic, to make a quick sauce for pasta.
All that’s left to do is label and store ready for another time.