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Where I make tomato relish and pick up crochet (again)

18 Mar

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!

Tomato Relish

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

30g salt

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.


Pear and Fennel Seed Chutney

6 Dec

I got this recipe from a 1970 edition of the ‘Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery’. I find most older books have great, simple recipes for chutneys and preserves.

This one is still in pounds which I didn’t bother to convert as my scales have a switch that can change the measurements from grams to pounds. You can find a conversion calculator here.

Pear and Fennel Seed Chutney

2 1/2 lb pears

1 green apple

1 lb white onions

2 cups (1 lb) sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup seeded raisons

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

Peel, core and chop pears and apple.

Chop onions,

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil.

Lower heat and simmer until thick and syrupy (about 1 hour), stirring often to prevent sticking.

Seal in jars when cold.

Mango and brandy-oh

21 Nov

It’s mid November, which means that , apart from being my mum’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mama!), it’s getting close to Christmas.
And when it gets close to Christmas that means it’s preserving time!
For the last few years I have been giving my family jars of my homemade preserves as presents. The first year I did this, I spent the last week leading up to Christmas cooking frantically until all hours of the night, before getting up, going to work and beginning all over again.
Now I am a bit more prepared. I collect jars throughout the year and begin cooking in November.
Preserving seems so old fashioned, but I really love it. I keep jars in the cupboard for emergency gifts and they always come in handy for impromptu barbeques.
I’m delightfully happy that there appears to be a mango glut this year; they are already so ridiculously cheap! I picked some up for a dollar each, so I have a dozen of the sweet fruit just waiting for me to start cooking and eating. Mangos have a beautiful pine-needle aroma and the scent just screams summer and Christmas to me, so it feels fitting to include them in my Christmas hampers.
So this week I’ll be wearing one of my vintage aprons (yes, I collect them) and dancing around to Rosemary Clooney – “Mangos” while I make the first preserve of the season:

Mango and Brandy Chutney

Olive oil

1 1/2 tbs of mustard seeds

3 red onions, chopped finely (I use a food processer)

A thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped into sticks

1 1/3 cups of brandy (the nicer the brandy the nicer the chutney!)

6 large mangoes, peeled and roughly chopped

2 1/2 cups of caster sugar

1 1/3 cups of apple cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop (a couple of minutes)

Add ginger and onion and cook, stirring until soft.

Add brandy and cook for about a minute before adding the mango, vinegar and sugar.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until it has thickened.

While chutney is hot, divide amongst hot, sterilised jars and seal tightly – it will splutter as it hits the jars, so be careful you don’t burn yourself

Turn them on their lids for a couple of minutes before turning them right side up to cool.

Label them and store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Refrigerate after opening.

I covered the tops of mine with brown paper and wrapped some kitchen twine around the lids. I used a decorative stamp on the top and hand wrote the name and date on in a black pen. I found small wooden spoons at a local shop and attached them witht the twine. I think they looked quite pretty, but I’m not sure what I’ll do this year!


I made my chutney and it turned out perfectly!

I made six jars and it yields about 2 litres.