August 13, 2012

Too Many Tomatoes!

Beautiful and tasty tomatoes come in all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes.

Tomatoes are a funny crop to grow. Sometimes, even if you think you have done everything right and the plant looks healthy and the flowers are opening with the promise of a good harvest, the crop ends up light and it hardly seems worth the effort. Other times, you do all the same things and end up with such a large crop you just end up forcing them on to your friends, co-workers, anyone you can think of really. There's a reason for that. It's a bit of a trade secret and I was told about it by a commercial grower in North Queensland when I was working for him one winter/spring. It's not really a secret but it doesn't get written about very often so I promise I will in my next blog which will be about growing tomatoes organically. It won't be far behind this article, that's a promise.
This article I want to deal with ways to extend the harvest and use that glut to expand the productivity of  the tomato crop. I have some very good, very simple recipes to make a few condiments from tomatoes that can be stored and used at your leisure and I have tried them all and I can assure you they are very tasty, especially the tomato relish. They are also adaptable, to suit individual tastes just by adding the ingredients you may think they are lacking. I am reproducing these from a cookbook that I came across in a second hand shop, that was prepared as part of our Bicentennial celebrations, (1989) called Australia The Beautiful - The Cookbook, as a celebration of our cuisine. I should also note, that the general public were invited to submit their best recipe to a panel for selection for inclusion into the book, all recipes were taste and simplicity tested and the panel selected the best on that criteria. ( *Part of the quality testing was storage ability, very important in times of  good harvest and a self-reliant system.)
First I am going to reproduce the Introduction here because I believe there is a message in it for all of us. I do this for the purposes of education and information only, so I if I break any copyright laws.
I humbly apologise. I have no commercial intent whatsoever.

Introduction From Australia The Beautiful - The Cookbook

(First Published 1989)

 There is no subject as universally popular as food and cookery.Other passionate interests
may come and go, but the enjoyment of a good meal - or something as simple as a slice of
crusty bread and butter- lives on.

Australia has always had much to offer on this irresistible subject. Animals and fish cooked
in their skins over hot coals or in camp ovens stayed tender and juicy, the skin (discarded after cooking) keeping flavour and nutrients in tact. Seeds and nuts were ground to make flour; beautiful
and clear honey was collected from wild bees; turtle eggs were made into a kind of firm omelet; wild vegetables, and fruits and berries added interest to the diet.

By the 1830s, the settlers themselves had gone a long way towards reproducing what was needed for the British culinary traditions. Familiar vegetables and fruits were now flourishing in the new land, even such delicacies as asparagus and strawberries along with the staples. Beef, pork and mutton had been introduced, and the delights of Australian fish and shellfish were acknowledged. Visitors to Australia were astonished at the abundant meals offered three times a day. Dinner could hardly be distinguished from lunch, except that more puddings appeared at the evening meal!

With the gold rushes of the 1850's, ships began bringing adventurers from every part of Europe, America and the Orient, and international culinary influences began. The Australian passion for Chinese food can be traced back to the influx of Chinese prospectors in the 1850s and 1860s -
cannily turning their skills to market gardening and restaurants, gold mines that couldn't run dry.
Today, with almost one in four Australians of non-British decent, we are more than ever eclectic in our approach to food. Our food industry has also grown into one of the most self-sufficient in the World, producing virtually everything needed for good cooking itself,... including some of the worlds best, best-value wines to wash it all down!
And there is an extraordinary resurgence of enthusiasm for cooking itself, a desire to chop and slice again, to make sauces from scratch, to experiment and innovate.
Economy is one motivation, because it's certainly cheaper to spend your time in the kitchen than spend money on pre-prepared and packaged foods. But there is an increasing emphasis on cooking and relaxing, creative art as well as an essential skill.
Politicians and executives find relief from their problems when they concentrate on a recipe. Young people enjoy using ingenuity to produce interesting meals from wholesome, bargain-priced finds at the markets. The artistic can show off their skills in the presentation of a dish. There is satisfaction for everyone in the kitchen. May this book add to your satisfaction.
Julie Gorrick, Joy Hayes
In the same spirit, I hope these recipes add to your enjoyment of good food.

The tomatoes that make the best sauces and relishes are harvested sun-ripened from the
vine while they are still firm. The flesh is filled out  and they are packed with flavour.

Jill's Tomato Sauce

2 kg (4lb) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
375g (12 oz) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped 
1 cup of malt vinegar
1 1/2  cups of sugar
1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and ginger
1 tablespoon of salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper
Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently for 11/4 hours, covered. Puree the mixture in batches in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade (or press through a sieve). Return to the saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until a sauce consistency. Pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal tightly.
Store in the refrigerator.
* I used the sieve method when I tried this recipe and it works fine but is a bit of a chore.
If you have a lot of tomatoes available, you can cut the seeds and watery pulp out and this reduces the cooking time by quite a bit. I had such an abundance that I made two batches, one to the recipe and one adjusted to suit my taste. I had so much sauce I was forced to find a place outside the fridge in a cool shady place ( a cellar would be ideal) and I am happy to report it can last up to a year without refrigeration. I encourage everyone to experiment with this sauce because the first version was a bit runny, but was a perfect base for a good pasta sauce, with the addition of the fresh herbs, basil, marjoram and garlic and a little bit of olive oil included to help bind the sauce to the pasta.

Tomato Relish

3kg (6lb) of ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons of salt
250g (8oz) of onions, peeled and sliced
6 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
13/4 cups of malt vinegar
750g (11/2 lb) of sugar
2 tablespoons of dry mustard powder
2 tablespoons of mild curry powder
2 tablespoons of cornflour (if necessary)
Place the tomatoes in a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt and stand over-night. Place the onions and garlic in another bowl and sprinkle with the remaining salt and stand overnight. Next day, drain all the liquid and from the tomatoes and onions and discard the liquid. Place the tomatoes, garlic and onion in a saucepan with the vinegar, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the sugar, mustard and curry powder and stir until dissolved. Boil for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture is not thick enough, thicken with cornflour blended to a smooth paste with a little water.  Pour into hot, sterilised jars, seal and store in the refrigerator.
*a smooth cornflour paste should feel slippery to the touch, not sticky
* This relish needs to be kept in the fridge, mainly because of the garlic content (which is notorious for being hard to preserve in jars) but also because the flavour and thickness change if it's stored for too long on the shelf or in the larder. 
* That's a lot of garlic right? and salt! Well, not really because the salt does a number of things. It pickles (preserves) the ingredients and draws out the moisture in all the ingredients treated  this way as well as the bitter elements in both the onions and the garlic. It balances them, so to speak.
* When pickling with anything but especially vinegar, it's best to use a non-reactive container, such as an enamel pot or a ceramic or glass bowl (even plastic is fine). Stainless steel is fine for the cooking process but avoid aluminium as it reacts badly and leaves a metallic taste in the pickle.

Green tomatoes for chutneys, pickles and relishes should be harvested when
the fruit has filled out and the base shows a white star.

Green Tomato Chutney

1kg (2lb) of green tomatoes, chopped
250g (8 oz) of onions, finely chopped
250g (8oz) of cooking apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2 small, fresh red chillies
2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh ginger
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
1 cup of chopped dried raisins (or sultanas)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
11/4 cups of malt vinegar
Place the chopped tomatoes, onions and apples in a saucepan. Crush the chillies with a rolling pin or clean bottle and tie in a muslin bag (or disposable cloth) with the ginger. Add to the pan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about two hours, stirring occasionally, until thick. Remove the muslin bag and stir into hot, sterilised jars. Seal tightly and store in a cool place, out of direct sunlight.
*This chutney is quite savoury, rather than sweet and it stores exceptionally well.
*Try and get fresh ginger. The powder and preserved ginger both have different tastes than fresh.  
*Fresh ginger stores pretty well in a traditional vegetable safe. (plans coming soon)
*Edible ginger can be grown in the flower garden, if you like having some flowers for beauty. (I do)

Fruit Chutney

1 teaspoon of mustard seed, lightly crushed
3 3/4 cups of malt vinegar
1 teaspoon of whole cloves
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon of whole allspice
1 x 2.5cm (1") cinnamon stick
125g (4oz) of  dried apricots, chopped and soaked in a little boiling water until softened
1.5 kg (3lb) of cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
750g (11/2lb) of onions, peeled and chopped
750g (11/2lb) of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
11/2 cups of (dried sultanas)
11/2 cups of raisins
1 tablespoon of salt
21/4 cups of brown sugar
Place the mustard seed, vinegar, cloves, bay leaves, allspice and cinnamon in a (non-reactive) saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil (moderate heat) and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 4 hours,* then strain into a large saucepan. Drain the apricots and add to the saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and add to the saucepan with the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, stirring often, until thick - about 11/2 hours. Ladle into hot, sterilised jars, and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place.
*This method, up to here is the classic pickling liquor for pickled onions, with less vinegar and, perhaps a small whole chilli (up to you). The malt vinegar can be swapped out for apple vinegar, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar. The tastes vary greatly but that is an individual (or family) taste  choice again. The first is the sweetest and the last is the sharpest.
*Yes, I said these were tomato recipes and the main ingredient is cooking apples but it's also fairly sweet as well. I have a sweet tooth but others might find it sickly. You can reduce the apple content by half, double the tomato content, and use white wine vinegar to adjust the recipe. Call it a tomato chutney if you like.
*If you are worried about getting cooking apples out of season, the better growers substitute green Golden Delicious apples instead at the same time of year as tomatoes are coming into season in temperate climates, so if you can source these they make a good cooking apple as they are not too sweet but not too tart. Some growers use this method to thin the crop, which results in larger ripe fruit for market. If you have room, they are an excellent addition to an integrated system as they have these multi-use, extended season qualities.
*Remember to label all of your jars with a name and date of bottling, so you can keep track of what's in the jar and how long ago it was made.
*You can reuse jars as long as they are clean and well sterilised. If you sterilise your jars in water, a good tip is to dry them in the oven at 100 C  (~39 F).
I hope you have enjoyed this post and at some time soon, you will enjoy these recipes made from home-grown produce. I will be adding more recipes (in time) from the same book and a few of my own as well. I have one last tip for tomatoes for you. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper on your tomato sandwiches and add a layer of roughly crushed/ hand-shredded basil, with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add a layer of Buffalo Mozzarella cheese and you have a taste sensation! Have fun with these recipes, if you have your own favourite tomato recipe, send them in and we can build up a real library together.

Source Material:
Australia The Beautiful Cookbook


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