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Stockpiling I

It’s wintry lately. Fog on the Brindabellas, frost on the car, etc. I could go on, but you get it. Winter draws its sexy cloak o’er the land and the fruits and vegetables swoon from the stalks. It’s stockpile time!

Food traditions are interesting: in particular, I get a kick out of “use it up” traditions. You see them in every culture, techniques for reusing leftovers, extending food past its best, or preserving in times of abundance in anticipation of times of scarcity. I think I love it because I get all hippie-zen and reflect on the beauty of the world turning and people learning to bend their food around the vagaries of the seasons. You see recipes that make use of abundance and excess in just about every culture: fatoush, ribolita, bread and butter pudding, almond croissants — all great ways of using up extra and stale stuff. And stockpiling: every single jam, marmalade, sauerkraut, kimchi, relish and pickle ever. EVER. They’re all about making abundance last through the times of chill and lack.

My tomatoes, planted late, yielded a measly five (5) tomatoes. And they were out too late to ripen (my fault, really). So this isn’t really making use of abundance as much as squeezing whatever I can out of the scant harvest. Enter green tomato relish! Wait — why stop at relish? We’re in a preserving frame of mind…can anyone say Pickle Party? Pickle party!! Woot!

This is why I don’t get invited out. But screw you, I don’t need to go out. I got pickling to do.

Few but beautiful, I have to admit.

Step zero: start the day before! Finely chop your beautiful green tomatoes. Finely chop an onion (I discovered, mid-chop, knife poised, my onion was smulchy and gross in the middle, so I dispensed with most of it). Pop the chopped goods in a bowl and toss with a liberal dash of salt: this will help slurp out a lot of excess water.

Step nought-point-five: jar preparation — whatever your method, you want your jars ready to go when the relish is done, so get things underway. I personally favour the technique of piling all jars and lids into a big pot and boiling the dickens out of them as long as possible, but I take no responsibility if you try this and get crippling botulism poisoning.

Step one: next day! Drain off the excess water and sling your tomato/onion/salt in a pot with some white vinegar. Bring it to the boil, and simmer for about half an hour. This step cooks the tomatoes and onions.

Step two: add sugar and spices! You will be aMAZed to notice as soon as you add sugar, a thick sauce forms over everything and begins bubbling. This step sweetens and flavours the tomatoes and onions. Simmer for another half an hour, but pay close attention and stir regularly. It’s thick and will burn easily at this stage, and you do not want the smell of burnt sugar/vinegar/onions in your house.

Step three: mix some cornflour and extra vinegar in a separate tub, then add to your relish to really thicken it. Cook it for another five to ten minutes, stirring vigourously, and then switch off the heat.

Your jars, of course, are ready at this stage. Try to avoid ladling hot relish into cold jars, as they ‘splode. True story. Ladling hot relish into hot jars, then allowing to cool, yields this beauty:

Yay!

From five tomatoes, I managed two smallish jars of relish:

Enough.

Which is enough to be getting along with. I didn’t get much out of my tomatoes this year, but what I did get I have put to good use. Hooray!

Proper recipe: Green tomato relish

  • 5 green tomatoes
  • 1 brown onion
  • a few tablespoons salt
  • 140gm white sugar
  • 200mL white vinegar
  • yellow mustard seeds
  • black mustard seeds
  • allspice
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornflour

What you do

  1. Finely chop the tomatoes and onion. Sprinkle liberally with salt and leave overnight. The next morning, drain off the extra liquid and put the tomatoes and onions in a pot with 100mL white vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for half an hour, stirring regularly.
  2. Add a generous pinch of yellow mustard seeds, black mustard seeds, allspice, and 140gm white sugar. Stir well and bring back to the boil. Boil for another half an hour, stirring regularly.
  3. Taste the relish now and see if you would like any extra salt or sugar: now’s the time to add it! Dissolve the cornflour in the rest of the vinegar and add to the mix. Cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly. When it’s thick, switch off the heat.
  4. Ladle the mix into hot jars. Let it get cool, but not cold, and put the lids on. As it continues to cool, it will seal tightly.

Use it wherever you like good condiments. I mostly go for crackers and sandwiches, especially with sharp, crumbly cheddar. Ooooh baby, brine my flank.

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