26 January 2015

The best fast tomato relish recipe

My Country by Dorothea Mackellar

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Although I was busy on the weekend with this, that and the other, I wanted to make tomato relish to go with the corned beef I'd just cooked for our week's cold cuts. I thought about it for a while and decided that if I took a couple of shortcuts, I could make a decent relish in about 30 minutes, or close to it, of actual work.  I checked my stockpile cupboard to see if I had the makings, and yes, I did. Octonauts to the kitchen pod immediately!

It's difficult to streamline preserving recipes because they need the time for the jars to sterilise and on the stovetop simmering while developing flavours. I'm not a fan of microwaved jams and relishes, this is as close as I get to a fast preserving recipe. My stockpile ingredient that made it all possible were four large (440 gram) cans of diced Australian tomatoes. When I knew I had them on hand, I knew I could cook and bottle the relish in the time I had allowed myself. There would be no washing and peeling of tomatoes, no cutting, just take the lid off and pour. I prefer to make relish with fresh tomatoes but I'd rather have this home made relish than no relish, so I just got on with it. Often, close enough is good enough.

Above: the vegetable, spice and vinegar mix, cooking.
Below: and then four large cans of diced tomatoes were added.

I got my Maslin pan on the stove, cut up five smallish onions, a couple of cloves of garlic, one hot chilli, finely diced with half the seeds, the green head of a new bunch of celery, finely chopped, one  finely chopped red capsicum, salt, pepper and two teaspoons of good quality curry powder. If you have no curry powder, use a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of turmeric. Add a dash of cooking oil and sauté the vegetables and spice for about five minutes, stirring frequently. You want everything toasted, not dark brown. Instead of using the vegetables I used, use what you have in the garden or fridge. Zucchini, eggplant, more peppers, whatever is on hand will do in a relish, but I do think relish must have onions. Overall though, this is a good recipe for using excess vegetables.

Add the four tins of tomatoes, stir thoroughly, add ¾cup of balsamic vinegar (or any good quality vinegar) and ¾ cup of sugar (brown or white). Stir everything together, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about an hour.  Stir the relish during the hour to make sure it's not burning.

The beauty of the maslin pan is that it allows ingredients to cook without burning, due to the thick base, and the wide top allows steam to easily escape. This assists in giving you a thick relish because much of the water in the tomatoes will evaporate off.  If you don't have a maslin pan, use a large saucepan with the widest top you have.

Twenty minutes before the relish will be ready, place washed, wide-mouthed jars in the oven to sterilise. The lids need to be boiled for ten minutes. The jars should be sitting open side up. Set the oven to 150C/300F and allow to heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove the jars from the oven, being careful not to touch the inside.

So the payoff for 30minutes work and about $10 worth of ingredients: nine jars of homemade tomato relish that will serve us well in the months to come. 

With the relish hot in the pan and the jars hot from the oven, use a canning funnel or jug to fill the jars. When the jars are full to the brim, use a tea towel to put on the lids and tighten. Turn all the jars upside down and leave them on the kitchen bench to cool overnight. If you sterilised the jars and lids properly and filled them with just boiled relish, the sugar and vinegar will help preserve them in the cupboard for about six months. I think the taste deteriorates after that. If you're not sure of your method, store the jars in the fridge. They'll keep very nicely for a few months.

I just checked the online Woolworths to see how much commercial relish goes for these days. It's anywhere between $3.71 and $7.51 for the Jamie Oliver jar. Pffffffft!  So if I were to buy these nine jars it would have cost me somewhere between $33.39 and $67.51. Mine took 30 minutes to make and cost about $10 for all nine jars. And I can tell you this with no doubt, my friends, mine tastes much better than anything mass produced, and I don't care what name they put on it. :- )

Tomato relish is a tasty addition to sandwiches, especially those with meat or cheese. It's excellent as a sauce for BBQed meats, chicken and fish. It's delicious with scrambled eggs or an omelette. If you have no tomato sauce, use the relish as the base layer on your homemade pizzas. It's certainly worthwhile giving 30 minutes to this very versatile relish. Of course it can be eaten the next day but if you leave it to mature for a couple of weeks, the relish will benefit from your patience.

What are your relish, chutney and sauce shortcuts?

23 January 2015

Weekend reading

Thank you all for the sweet and thoughtful comments left this week. They make me feel like I'm in the middle of something enriching, warm and significant. I hope you have the chance to relax over the next few days, even if it's for an hour, with your feet up reading the paper. What ever you do, enjoy it. xx ♥︎

Just a quick note about the forum. We encountered some problems when we tried to update the soft ware and that spiralled into another problem. We're working on it, it just takes time, but I'm hoping we'll be back by the weekend. I apologise for the inconvenience.

It's official - 2014 was the hottest year on record According to records kept by Central England Temperature series, 2014 was the hottest year in the UK for over 300 years.
Free February edition of Old Farmers Almanac
The UK's Women's Institute is 100.  Happy birthday girls!
We can't control how we die
The life of a dying young man is a lesson for all of us
Essential oils might be the new antibiotics
Urban gardens are blooming
Homemade charging station
Infant peasant dress - free pattern
Little girl's crossover pinny - free pattern
Baby boy's romper tutorial and free pattern
Newborn pants from upcycled jumper - free tutorial
Woodworking projects for beginners - there are some great project here

22 January 2015

A pictorial walk through the week

I thought I'd do a pictorial post today with few words. I think I talk too much sometimes. :- ) I hope you enjoy this look at photos that won't otherwise make it to your screens.

This is to show you just how untidy my hair is since my last hairdressing appointment last year some time. I forget when. Lucky I've only been out once since mid-December. I updated my photo over there on the sidebar;  I took it today, and yes, I was wearing the same top. :- )

So, what do I get up to on all these ordinary days of mine? Early morning tea and toast at 7am, although I'd already been up for three hours.

One Barnevelder egg. The girls have stopped laying so much during the hot and humid weather. We have 11 chooks and although we often get five or six eggs at this time of year, there are many days we get only one.
One of the many wonderful things about living this life is the variety of things I can do in one day. Here is another nightie being started.
 Of course, our daily bread is baked.
 And some pizza at the same time.
And then some fresh air and editing on the front verandah.
Lots of cherry tomatoes and a few green goodies to be picked.

The beginnings of another chicken casserole. Hanno had a sore tooth and this was all he could eat.
We had Jamie here with us all last week. I know all the Octonauts now.
And, naturally, I was sitting in the garden, watching over our domain. Happy to be here and wanting nothing else. Life's good. I hope yours is too. ♥︎

21 January 2015

Making elderberry drinks

Last week our elder tree (sambucus nigra) was heavy with berries. It's the first year there have been enough berries to do anything with. All the previous five years we've had plenty of flowers for elderflower cordial, but the berries dropped off before they were ripe. So we were really pleased to be able to pick a basket of berries and have the luxury of deciding what we'd do with them.

When Hanno was a little boy, his mum used to make elderberry soup, and he still has fond memories of that. We may make elderberry soup in the future but for now we decided on a summer drink that gave us a healthy boost. I made elderberry cordial.

For those of you who are looking to grow fruit trees, I think elderberry would be a great first tree. It can be a bit of a nuisance if it sends out suckers but it needs moist conditions for suckers to develop, so that doesn't happen often here.  When it does sucker, it's very easy to put out the suckers. Unlike many fruit trees, you can be picking flowers in the first or second year and here in our climate, we have berries in our fifth year. There are flushes of flowers all through the year but I'll have to see what happens from now on with the berries developing. Elder grows very well from cuttings so if you know someone with a tree, ask for a cutting. You can use the fruit for jam, wine, champagne, cordial, soup and immune boosters in winter. 

The workers, Hanno and Jamie, went out picking in the backyard a couple of days ago.  Hanno picked half the berries off the stalks. Traditionally you do that using a fork, I found it easier to do it by hand. You need to remove the berries without stalks as the leaves and stalks have a slight toxic quality and you don't want any in your elderberry delights.

Making elderberry cordial is very easy once you have your berries off the stems.  Wash them to remove any dust or bugs and place them in a saucepan. With a potato masher, squash the berries to remove the juice. Add a cup of water, bring to the boil and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

If you have a food press, pour the juice into the press and process the fruit to squeeze out all the juice. You'll end up with the pulp and seeds in the press and the juice in the jug. If you don't have a food press, mash the berries to remove as much juice as you can, then strain them through a fine sieve or a sieve with a muslin cloth over it. Press out as much juice as possible and discard the seeds and pulp. Our chooks had the leftovers and loved them. 

When you have the pure juice, add the juice of one lemon, pour it back into the saucepan and for every cup of juice, add half a cup of sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring to prevent it from burning. When the sugar is completely dissolved, allow to cool and pour into a clean bottle. If you want to keep the cordial for a long time, sterilise the bottle.

Elderberries are full of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. To make elderberry syrup for colds and flu you'll need:
  • 2 cups elderberries, de-stemed and washed
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
Add the berries to a medium saucepan and, with a potato masher, mash the berries to release as much juice as possible. Add the ginger and water and bring to the boil. Gently simmer for 20 minutes. Process as above with the food press or a sieve, return to the saucepan and add honey. Stir until it's completely dissolved.

Cool slightly and pour into a clean bottle. If you want to store it for a while, sterilise the bottle.

I keep elderberry cordial in the fridge and dilute it with cold water or cold mineral water. It makes a very refreshing drink and the cordial costs a small fraction of what you'd buy it for in the shops.  If you don't have enough berries to make up some cordial, freeze the berries as you pick them and make it when you collect enough. The berries and the flowers are still very useable after they've been frozen.

Do you grow elder or have access to it? What are your favourite elderberry recipes?

19 January 2015

Cleaning the pantry

Well, after giving myself a week to do it, I finally got to the pantry cleaning yesterday. I usually leave things like that to the last minute because I perform better when I'm under pressure. Hanno and Jamie were at the market at Caloundra so I took the opportunity to empty both the middle shelves, the ones most of the things are on.  Luckily the kitchen bench is right next to it so it didn't take long to do one shelf, then the next.  

Before and after.  This is the shelf I'd like to add a back step to. 

I went through everything, made sure there were no lurking pantry moths or weevils, wiped the outside of all the containers and started loading the shelves up again.  I'm really pleased I didn't throw away too much food. I hate doing that. I had to bin a small amount of grain flour because it had a slight smell of rancid flour about it. A few items had small amounts in two containers so I combined them and washed the spare containers.

 Before and after.

This is the entire cupboard, before and after. Hanno does top and bottom shelves for me.

When I put everything back again I wished I had one of those shelf steps that you can use to elevate food at the back. I'm not very tall so it's a problem sometimes to see what's there and reach it. The next time I'm out I'll look for something useful that will fit neatly into the cupboard.

But now I'm happy I have a neat and tidy pantry again. I guess we all have different reasons for wanting our pantries to be clean and functional. For me, it gives me a feeling that I'm doing my job well, my job as a homemaker. It also helps me get through my cooking easily because it's all there, laid out, ready to use. I hope you had the chance to clean your pantry or stockpile too. It gives me such a feeling of satisfaction that I have to keep looking at it whenever I'm in the kitchen.  

If you have before and after photos, leave a link below so we can all go to your blog to see your work. This should provide some motivation for others who haven't done their pantry yet, who want to, but can't quite get there. Let's see them try to resist when we all show our photos.  :- )

17 January 2015

Biome and Eco Yarns sales

Biome, one of my lovely sponsors, is having an online and in store sale. There are plenty of great bargains for products such as Bokashi bins, lunch kits, water bottles, eternal coffee cups, Xmas decorations and much more. Just click here to see a selection of products.

We all know how important it is to send our loved ones off to work and school with a good lunch. Biome have a great range of good quality lunch boxes that will help you deliver healthy food that stays together and in one piece. The new Bento-style boxes are a great help because you can use the separate compartments to add variety and fun to the lunch.  The are some tips from Georgia Harding about how to pack a good lunch. Below is Tracey's video where she talks about the boxes and shows you some of those they have in store. The video starts with a very interesting book. ;- ) 

If you live in Australia and you want to join the Back to School Competition, click here. 

= = = = = = ♥︎ = = = = = =

Another of my wonderful sponsors,  Eco Yarns, is having an online sale too.  You can check out the sale items by clicking here.  

The knitters loom (above) is one of the items on sale. 

I can't do a post about EcoYarns without mentioning my favourite yarn.  It's 8ply organic cotton and the photo above shows just some of the beautiful natural dyed colours they come in.  At the moment I'm using it to knit a baby blanket for my grandchild due in April. If you want to knit something special, this is the yarn you want. 

I recommend both Biome and Eco Yarns to you. I've been dealing with both of them for a number of years now and I hold both businesses in the highest regard.

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