The humble tomato.. my goodness have a learnt so much about you this summer. You are wonderful, plentiful, strangely mysterious and a very welcome addition to our garden.
This season has been our first 'proper' attempt at growing tomatoes. Previously we had grown a few cherry tomatoes here and there, but this year, I was determined to have enough tomatoes to make passata. So as soon as it was warm enough, in they went, any type we could find, seeds and seedlings, along the side fence, with a few eggplants, capsicums and some lovely basil.
All was going well, fruit began to appear and we were dreaming about the prospect of fresh tomatoes for summer, but on closer inspection, things were not all peachy in our patch. One of our large heirloom varieties was not looking well and it was clear some little critters had come home with the seedlings we had bought. Snails too were getting into anything low to the ground and the usual suspects, our gang of slater bugs were also joining in the fun. At the beginning of summer, I was pretty sure I'd be making one tiny jar of passata from the baby romas I'd managed to salvage.
We took some action, removing one of the plants we decided was just causing too much trouble and trellising as much fruit up off the ground as possible. We also decided to harvest almost as soon as the fruit began to turn red, in the hope that we could ripen them on the kitchen bench and save anything we could from our garden critters.
Thankfully after a little helping hand, we began to see some wonderful harvests and every few days we were gathering a basket or pot of delicious fruit. We still had the occasional unwelcome visitor borrowed deep inside, but on the whole our bounty has far exceeded my expectations. Things are slowing down now and this weekend I think we'll remove the a few of the plants that have almost finished and make way for some leafy winter veg.
On reflection, I think next year we might grow our tomatoes in pots or raised beds, up high and away from our creatures that call our garden home. I'm also going to extra note on the varieties we choose and their specific appearances and needs. One variety we grew while tasting wonderful had a rather unusual mottled appearance which put us off at first, so a little more research will come in handy next season I feel.
Now we are working quickly, to bottle what we can ready for winter and of course enjoy our bounty fresh on toast, homemade pizza and in summer salads. One recipe I was eager to try was my Nan's tomato relish, which in our family is quite legendary. I never really liked the taste as a child but I remember the wonderful aroma filling my grandparents Surfers Paradise apartment when we would arrive for our summer holiday visits.
I was delighted to discover my Nan's original handwritten recipe and after confirming that it was indeed the 'right one' I spent Australia Day, making my very first batch. They really are little pots of joy and a very special moment in my cooking adventures.
6 pounds of tomatoes
4 large onions
Handful of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder (I blended my own using these ingredients as a guide)
2 teaspoons of mustard (I used ground mustard seeds)
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 pound raw sugar
2 tablespoons of plain flour (to thicken if necessary)
Note: I was cheeky and also added a couple of tablespoons of my favourite Byron Bay coconut chili sauce.
Core, peel and chop tomatoes and finely slice onions.
Cover with a handful of salt and leave for at least six hours or overnight if convenient.
Drain off juice and in a large pot barely cover with brown vinegar.
Bring to the boil and boil for ten minutes.
In a small bowl mix curry powder together with mustard and add in a little vinegar to make a fine paste, then add to tomato mixture.
Then add cayenne pepper and sugar.
Boil for an hour and stirring regularly to stop the relish from sticking to the pot.
Mix two tablespoons of plain flour with a little vinegar and whisk in to avoid any lumps.
Bottle into clean, sterilized jars and enjoy!
Much Love, light and happy preserving