Autumn is tomato season in the valley and that means bottling time. In early April we organise the annual passata day, where we buy in loads of tomatoes, squish them, bottle them and boil them, then store the preserves for the winter months. Every year we get braver and braver and more organised, especially now that I've come to the sad realisation that I can't actually grow all the tomatoes myself, and that it's best to order most of them in from a grower 20 minutes away.
Next year, though, maybe I might invest in a proper tomato squisher, like this one, to tackle the one hundred kilos I aim to squish, although giving the children the task of cranking the handle makes light work of the chore. With bottles washed and sterilized, tomatoes chopped and cored, they are pushed through the mill before being filled into bottles and capped. Then we light a fire, fill an old drum with the bottles, cover with water and boil for an hour over the fire.
Two families feasted on a celebratory birthday lunch while the bottles boiled with home grown beef, (a steer called Bobby) grilled on above mentioned fire, salad and tomatoes from the garden all washed down with Aperol Spritz. To keep to the Italian theme.
Although I truly love the idea of enjoying those bottles of sauce all winter, passata day achieves so much more than a full pantry. To me it's an all too rare opportunity to spend a beautiful day with family and friends, actually making something delicious to share. But passtata day also shows my children the importance of seasonality and waste reduction. And even though it's not necessarily our heritage, we're creating a family tradition that values the importance of preserving local, seasonal food.
That's something worth bottling.