Fabio Leonardi Use, Care and Maintenance: 5 Tips on Getting the Most Out of Your Tomato Milling Machine
You’ve researched the best tomato milling machines on the market, checked out the buying guides and reviews, and made the investment in the Fabio Leonardi milling machine that’s best for you and your tomato sauce operation - now it’s time to clean, care and maintain your machine to make sure that you get the most out of it for years to come.
At Consiglio’s we have more than 40 years of tomato milling and canning experience, with our annual tomato tradition sometimes processing up to 30 bushels! Here are our tips on how to get the most out of your tomato milling machine.
1) Never Run Your Tomato Milling Machine Dry
Easily one of the most important tips for taking care of your tomato milling machine is to make sure that you never, ever run the machine empty - this means always making sure that there are tomatoes (or apples, or berries, or whatever you are processing) down in the neck of the machine before you turn it on.
Milling machines work by feeding the fruit or vegetable matter being processed down to an auger, which then presses the fruit or veg against a perforated screen, separating the puree or sauce from any seeds or skins - the puree passes through the small holes in the perforated screen, while the seeds and skins continue to be forced along to a separate exit hole at the end of the milling attachment. In order for this to work effectively, the screen and the auger need to fit very tightly together, which creates a lot of friction between the two parts. Having tomatoes in the milling machine before turning it on keeps these parts lubricated while in motion and keeps everything running smoothly. Running the unit empty, however, creates extra friction between the screen and auger which often results in screens “bursting” or splitting at the seam. To avoid this, make sure that there are always tomatoes in the neck of the machine before turning it on, and that there is always a steady feed of tomatoes into the machine while it is running.
2) “Break-in” Your Auger and Screen the First Time You Use Your Machine
As mentioned in the point above, tomato milling machines such as the Fabio Leonardi work because of the very tight fit between the units screen and auger - and, to ensure this tight fit the auger will initially be just a touch too large, making it imperative to “break-in” the auger and screen before you use the machine for the first time, and then again any time you replace your screen and auger.
Luckily, this process is quite simple: just run one small batch of tomatoes through the machine, and you’re good to go! Typically, one hopper (the bowl where the tomatoes enter the machine) is enough to fit the auger to the screen. You will, however, need to discard this very first batch - part of the fitting process results in little metal flecks being shaved off the auger. These shavings are completely normal, and will ensure that your auger and screen fit tightly and run smoothly together.
Tip: Instead of using (and then ditching) tomatoes for this process, some people prefer to use stale bread that has been soaked in water. You’ll want to make sure that you have roughly a 1:1 ratio of stale bread to water to make sure that the mixture is wet enough to pass through the screen and auger.
3) Dampen Your Tomato Skins Before Re-Processing
A good way to increase the yield of your tomato milling operation is to pass the discarded skins from your first batch through the unit a second time - this can increase your overall final sauce volume by as much as 10 to 30%! While re-processing skins is a great way to increase your haul, they are a fair bit dryer than the initial pass of tomatoes, meaning that you will need to dampen them slightly before running them again. The easiest way to do that? Mix them with a bit of the tomato juice you’ve already harvested in your first round of milling! Combine the skins with a roughly equal amount of tomato sauce and run them through the machine again - the sauce will help keep the machine from running dry, and you’ll get a greater volume of finished product for your efforts.
Once re-processed once or twice, you’ll have gotten just about all you are going to get from your skins and seeds and can dispose of them - or, you can borrow a tip from Joel and Dana over at Well Preserved and dehydrate the skins to preserve them for future use in everything from dry rubs, soups and baking!
Once your tomato processing is done for the year, you’ll want to thoroughly clean the milling attachment and motor before storing everything for the winter. To clean the attachment, simply remove the attachment from the motor and disassemble the screen, auger, neck and tow pin. The motor can then be wiped down with a damp cloth, and the milling attachment parts can be hosed down in a bucket, or carefully washed in water and a mild detergent.
When cleaning the milling attachment, take care to keep track of the small pieces of the tow pin!
Once clean, be sure to completely dry every piece before preparing to store the unit until next season - much like cast iron cookware, any moisture left on the surface can cause corrosion.
Once clean and dry, you’ll want to prepare your tomato milling machine for storage over the winter. To do this, leave the milling attachment (screen, auger, tow pin and neck) disassembled, and lightly rub each piece with a coating of either olive oil or vegetable oil - this coating will create a barrier between the surface of the metal and the environment, keeping away any moisture in the air and preventing oxidization while in storage.
After the lightly coating of oil, we typically wrap the milling attachment parts in tissue paper. This serves the dual function of keeping the oil from drying out, and also from getting all over the box you’ll be storing everything in. Once oiled and wrapped, we recommend placing the tow pin components in a small ziploc bag to keep them together and organized.
When picking a place to store your milling machine, we recommend being mindful of any dampness or large temperature fluctuations - a cool, dry place will be best!
Although we focused primarily on processing tomatoes in the tips above, these same steps hold true for anything that you’ll be processing with your Fabio Leonardi machine, whether it’s apple sauce, hot sauce, or even berries. If processing large amounts of tomatoes, using your machine for multiple uses (tomatoes AND apples, for example), or running multiple batches over the course of the year, you’ll want to be mindful of the natural wear and tear that you auger and screen will experience over time with use. Since these parts are meant to fit together very tightly and work with a large amount of friction, they will eventually wear and need to be replaced - this is completely normal, and will depend on the amount of use these pieces see. To make sure you are prepared for tomato season (or any other season you might use the machine), we recommend keeping a replacement screen and auger on hand, OR inspecting your screen and auger a couple weeks before you plan to use the machine - this will give you enough time to order and receive the replacements well before your produce is ready to process.
Find our replacement screens and augers for the Fabio Leonardi machines in the links provided. In the event that you do need additional replacement parts, you can find our post of Fabio Leonardi Replacement Parts and Part Diagrams here.