We have had an Indian summer in this part of the world. Whilst the summer has not been scorching hot (too much! 🙂 ), the benevolence of summer weather has continued into autumn this year. This climate has ensured that I have been harvesting tomatoes for three months. I have already made two batches of peeled tomatoes and bottled these in the Vacola. This week I had amassed enough tomatoes on the verandah table to do a quick session of tomato puree for the coming year. We live in country Victoria and that means domestic and bush rats turn up and gnaw holes in my produce. I get around this by picking tomatoes and allowing them to ripen on the back verandah table.
Preserving the harvest has become important in my life as the process brings to a conclusion the concept of growing our food and preserving the excess. I have long been a believer in “food meters” and not the popular concept of “food miles”. If I can walk 30 meters to the vegetable garden, harvest produce and put it up for the coming year, then I am very happy. I am using my dear late parents’ old tomato machine here as it is motorised, thus bringing to an end that tedious, hand cranking handle that my brother and I used to have to turn round and round all day in our youth, whilst helping our parents put away puree for mum’s delicious cooking.
The general acquaintance of this machine and its marvellous way of separating the skins and seeds from tomato puree would probably be in the memory of most children of Mediterranean parents who migrated to Australia after the war.
I had to put two large pans of puree onto the stove. The puree was reduced to a certain thickness after one hour. Cooled off and then bottled up in my Vacola outfit. I always do what my parents did and that is add leaves of fresh basil into each bottle before sealing up and cooking in the outfit to create a vacuum seal. This is why when I plant tomatoes, I always plant basil at the same time to ensure both are ready to use. Tomatoes and basil are a marriage made in culinary heaven.
A time consuming task but one that provides me with immense satisfaction as I know that not only have I made up 15 jars of delicious organically produced tomato puree for the pantry but I have also participated in preserving my cultural heritage. I wish people would realise the immense emotional, health and financial value of growing produce at home.
We are the sum total of all our ancestors.