My sister used to tell me that I was a natural born homemaker. She even made up a song about it. And yes it is a little bit true. Despite my strong feminist sensibilities I do get a bit Virgoan about domesticity. I like wearing ye olde aprons and I like things to be nice and I like arranging and cooking and boy, do I like preserving. It started off with tomatoes, a few years back. I started to get really antsy about the number of tins of tomatoes we were buying. Tins from Italy (have you wondered how it's even possible for Italy to supply so many tomatoes to the world?). It's not just about the tomatoes from across the seas factor but also the incredible amount of carbon emitted + embodied energy in all those bajillions of tins we all use, not to mention the freaky BPA in the lining of said tins. We decided to take matters into our own hands. If we were going to eat tomatoey things when tomatoes are not in season then we needed to take charge of preserving them when they were seasonally available. Enter the Fowlers Vacola preserving system. We have a gorgeous green preserving pot from many years ago and it's such a joy to use with the thick sturdy glass preserving jars. I'd order 10kg boxes of organic cooking tomatoes from Alfalfa House in Sydney and we'd spend days jarring up tomatoes for the cooler months. We did a really basic raw pack method where you just shove chopped tomatoes into your jars then put the special lids and clips on and boil them from 40-minutes in the big pot. One year we ended up with around 60 jars - enough to see us through to October! We've not begun the big tomato preserve for this year mainly on account of us now living in southern climes where tomatoes have only just started to ripen.
However we have not been without the tomatoey preserve action entirely. Our local food co-op - Candelo Bulk Wholefoods is really great at marking down fruit and veg when it starts to get a little worn. So over the course of a week I compiled a mega bowl of $1 - $2 a kilo organic tomatoes and what better way to start the tomato preserving than with tomato sauce. Wowee, has it gone down a treat! Oh and just to be clear I'm talking tomato relish type sauce, you know, sweet and spicy good with sausage rolls and cheese toasties and meat and eggs. I used a variation of a recipe we got some years ago from our friend Claire. But just today realised I'd unconsciously used the recipe from Frugavore by Arabella Forge. I guess there are only so many ways of making tomato sauce. Part of the thrill has been how readily the kids have adapted to this homemade version of the sauce from a bottle from the supermarket they love so well. Ah sweet relief.
Prior to the tomato beginnings I dipped my toe into the realm of savoury jams a la onion jam. Our local producers market was experiencing the Spring paradox wherein Spring has sprung yet the produce is still catching up (of course!) so there's a bounty of silverbeet, onions, leeks, potatoes, lemons and that is all. What's a preserving lover to do but make some onion jam?
The end result was a dark, sticky mass of sweet fragrant deliciousness so good with sausages!
The house was awash with the aromatic amazingness of apple cider vinegar, sugar, lemon, cloves and caraway seeds. It took my breath away. I'll post the recipe at the end for those so inclined.
PS: The plums on our tree have ended and for a last hurrah I whipped up this pretty little cake. It's a stone fruit cake rich with vanilla bean and polenta and yoghurt and rapadura sugar. A real delight after a light meal.
(makes about 8 - 10 small jars)
3kg of onions (peeled weight)
3/4 cup salt
12 cups sugar
6 cups of apple cider vinegar
3 tblsn lemon juice
6 tspns whole cloves
9 tspns caraway seeds
1 tblspn of grated lemon rind
Slice the onions thinly (preferably in a food processor). Mix with the salt and leave to stand for 2 hours.
Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
Place the cloves in a small piece of muslin and tie at the top.
Bring the sugar, lemon juice, lemon rins and vinegar to the boil while stirring. Add the bag of cloves, caraway seeds and onions.
Bring back to the boil for 2.5 - 3 hours or until a jam-like consistency.
Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Pour into warm, sterile jars and invert until cool.
Extra-delicious tomato sauce
(makes 4 - 5 passata size jars)
4kg of ripe tomatoes
6 cooking apples
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 cups of apple cider vinegar
4 cups of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tspn mixed spice
2 tspn whole cloves
2 tspn cayenne pepper
Peel and core apples and chop roughly. Peel and chop onions. Chop tomatoes.
Put chopped veg into large pot and add vinegar and garlic. Cook for an hour or more.
Take off the heat and blend.
Return to the heat and add the spices, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for another hour or until thick.
Pour into sterilised jars and invert until cool.