Well it’s been a busy few months with Christmas and holidays and work and new babies (not mine) and birthdays and celebrations and catching up on my reading and even a brief overseas trip to Thailand. Needless to say, I have once again neglected my blog to enjoy the long summer days. But, alas! Summer has come to an end. The days are shorter, the weather doesn’t know what to do with itself and I am spending more and more time on the couch with wool and tea.
I have re-learned how to crochet as I had deserted it in disgust at my wretched attempts of failure but have since been taught what I have been doing wrong (thanks Kree!) and now I am realising the sweet simplicity of it and how easy it is to create different shapes and textures. And so, I have retired my needles to the back of my cupboard and have become a ‘hooker’.
Last week I made a huge batch of tomato relish in my new 14L pot – an 11th anniversary present from my gorgeous partner – and now have several jars sitting around the kitchen. And as I was learning how to crochet in rounds, well I combined my two hobbies and I made bonnets for the jars.
You see, my housemate’s friend has a pickle club and she was heading there today. I was planning on going, but was too tired and also Frankie Magazine was going to be there doing a piece on the club and I definitely did not feel like being there for that! All the people who attend seem to be graphic designers and make these amazing labels that look so professional, so I thought I would make mine look ridiculously kitsch as I didn’t think brown paper and twine would fare so well.
So I downloaded a free ’70’s style font off the net and printed off some poor quality labels that were colour-coded to match my ‘bonnets’ and voila! I have retro style preserves. So groovy.
I think the funniest thing about them is that my printer is so terrible that the colours look really faded and so it appears as if the jars have actually been sitting around since the 1970’s. I love them for how ridiculous daggy they look!
My housemate, Padma, made amazing eggplants stuffed with walnuts and pomegranates from a middle-eastern recipe and covered the tops in arabic newspaper. I thought they looked gorgeous!
The aim of pickle club is to take 6 jars of your preserves and they all go into the middle and then you choose 6 of someone elses to take home. Two of my jars went off today without me as Padma was two short and she bought home: beetroot marmalade, preserved lemons, piccalilli, pickled zucchini, pears in ginger syrup and a plum spread. I can’t wait to see what they all taste like!
I doubled the recipe when I made it this time and it only just fit into my 14L pot. It does cook down though, but you will need a very large and heavy-based pot to do this in. I BURN IT EVERY SINGLE TIME WITHOUT FAIL! So my suggestion is: PAY ATTENTION! Do NOT wander off to do the weeding or some knitting or read a book unless you set a periodic timer so that you remember to stir it!
So here’s the recipe for ‘Kathy’s Tomato Relish‘ (not doubled), which I have taken from Stephanie Alexander‘s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ which is my kitchen bible.
1 tablespoon cloves
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
600ml wine vinegar
1 kg sugar
Tie cloves, allspice and peppercorns in a square of muslin.
Put all ingredients EXCEPT SUGAR into a large, non-reactive stockpot.
Bring to the boil and boil steadily for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Add sugar and continue to boil, stirring every 20 minutes or so for a further 2 hours.
Remove the muslin bag and press it well over the pot to release all of the juicy flavours before discarding it.
Pass the relish through the coarse disc of a food mill and, using a funnel, bottle at once into hot, sterilised jars.
Cap and allow to cool before storing.