Super-Concentrated Tomato Paste

(“Estratto di Pomodoro” – “Strattu ri Pumaroru”)


 


Tomato paste is made by drawing out part of the liquid in the tomato juice, through vaporization and condensation.
The extract of tomato is the primitive way to preserve tomato that goes back ages. In Sicily the commercial extract of tomato is available in gourmet stores; it is tomato paste dried by means of fans circulating hot air, it is convenient to use because the taste of tomato can be added to food without changing the texture.
Aside from the look and the consistency, there is no similarity between the extract of tomato and the “strattu”.
The “strattu” is made with tomato sauce, cooked with onions, herbs, salt and spices, then dehydrated manually in the sun with the help of Mother Nature. In the Iblei Mountains, nearby Syracuse, the sun is stronger in the months of July and August and every housewife makes the “strattu” to use in the coming winter. Maybe because of the light, gentle hot winds, or because of the care they use in its preparation, the best tasting homemade extract is made there.
After the sauce is made it is placed in special wooden trays with small rims, exposed to the sun, covered with a screen and going into the process of drying and concentrating the sauce by turning it frequently.
The “strattu” is delicious when reconstituted with water to obtain a delicious tomato sauce for pasta. It is convenient in the preparation of a quick and tasty condiment for fish, chickens, or rabbits.
Mr. Curcurato was in the province of Syracuse in the summer, to experience the preparation and savor this sauce and he took some pictures as the local housewives were processing the “strattu”.
To make the “strattu” is easy, but must be prepared in a dry climate, the best way to taste it is to have a friend or relative bring some from Sicily.

 

Ingredients:

  • ½ bushel of tomatoes
  • 6 large chopped onions
  • ½ teaspoon of oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup of basil
  • 2 bay leaves


Preparation

 

The Sauce
Wash the tomatoes, cut in half and place in a large pot, add the remaining ingredients.
Cook over a high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then lower heat and simmer until sauce thickens, from 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the water contents of the tomatoes.
Set aside to cool, remove bay leaves and strain using a vegetable mill.

The “Strattu”
Transfer tomato sauce into wooden trays 36’ X 18’ with a low rim and expose to the sun to let the ultraviolet rays change the sauce into sauce concentrated. Cover with a screen to protect from flies or animals, turn every few hours.
Expose the sauce for 5 days and on the 6th day combine all the sauce into 1 tray.
To preserve use large glass jars, wet your hands with oil and press the “strattu” down to let any air out, cover with oil and store in a cool place.