Contadina's Blog

Living the contadini life among the olive groves

Pergola and pomodori – many hands make light work July 30, 2011

Filed under: Garden,Pergola,Recipes — contadina @ 6:53 am

Just a quick update, as I’ve been too busy to blog. Some cooler weather has meant that, with the help of our current helpxchangers, we’ve managed to get quite a lot done.

The girls soon move our rubble mountain

Breaking rocks in the hot sun

First off Amy arrived and she spent a week helping Jeremy cement posts and the top of the wall, which comes up to the house. She’s also been great helping around the house and helped me jar some more passata.

Then Jamie and Carlena arrived and together with Amy they managed to move our mountain of rubble (from when we had to dig up and relay a couple of floors) to become the hardcore base of our new pergola floor.

Jamie and Jeremy then had fun smashing all the rubble and found that compacting it with our roller-assisted rotavator (gas bottles filled with water) worked a treat. Next week they’ll lay the screed and it’s big enough for a table to sit twelve and a decent dance floor.

You put this here for us right?

The first sand delivery to lay the pergola screed

The girls meanwhile made our final batch of passata – bringing the grand total up to 140 bottles to keep us going throughout the year.

Each time I make passata there is slightly more than my giant water-bath will hold, so I’ve also made tomato ketchup and tomato concentrate.

estratto drying on the trullo roof

Tomato flavours intensify in the sun

Sun-reduced concentrato as it’s called in Puglia or estratto di pomodoro, as it’s known in Sciliy,  is so rich in intense flavour and colour that it puts any shop bought tomato concentrate to shame. To make, just pour passata into shallow dishes and cover with sea salt. It’s traditional to spread it out on wooden boards, but shallow dishes are easier to clean. Leave out in the sun each day and remember to bring in each evening. Keep stirring it to help the sun dry the paste faster. In our last heatwave it only took me two days to make estratto. Once it has become a deep, dark red colour and taken on the consistency of clay fill small jars with it and cover with olive oil. The jars will keep for a year but store in the fridge once opened, always covering with a layer of oil.

We’ve another heatwave on the way so I’ll sun-dry some tomatoes to store dried and under oil, and so complete this year’s tomato odyssey.

store under oil and liven up your sauces and soups

After two days this is the result

I’ll be making some “it’s much better than Branston” chutney today with our purple plums so remember to tune in next week for the recipe as it’s seriously good (I’ve got quite a few Italian’s hooked on it).


4 Responses to “Pergola and pomodori – many hands make light work”

  1. Dancing under the stars! How wonderful! 🙂
    How many helpers at a time can you absorb? Do they camp?
    Looking forward to the recipe!
    V xx

    • contadina Says:

      I figured three would be just as easy as two to feed and it’s worked out really well. We’ve joked with them about introducing a star system to increase competitiveness, but it’s not really necessary as they’ve all worked like troupers and we’ve all had a good laugh in the process. We’ve currently only got the big bell tent, which could sleep four (but is more suited to a couple) but two of our helpers have their own campervan, so they are camped up under an olive tree.

  2. arcadian1 Says:

    What an interesting way to make tomato concentrate. Do you have to add salt each day or is it just the one sprinkling? Anyway, it sound sreally good and something I hope to try one of these years when the tomatoe scome on early enough and the sun is still high in the sky. Can’t wait to see your plum chutney.:)

  3. contadina Says:

    Just the once Mike. I was dubious at first, but having sat and watched them for a considerable time the first time I made some, the initial salting (and it’s just a sprinkling) deters all bugs. I do cover figs with muslin when I’m drying them in the sun, however, as my northern-European genes are a little too squeamish at the thought of flies being attracted to them.

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