Our tomatoes, as I’ve said, are just about spent, so this year the glut comes (mostly) courtesy of local farmers’ markets. Peaches, apples, tomatoes, more tomatoes … I have taken time off work to spend time doing fall clean-up/replantings in the yard and for a can-orama. (OK, so it’s not directly about my garden…)
I won’t count the number of jars of tomato chutney, tomato sauce, tomatoes, apple mint chutney, piccalilli (really a Brit thing), peach jam and blueberry jam (did I forget something?) in the cupboard, mostly from the last few days, but suffice it to say that three shelves are just about packed and some of you may be getting a jar for Christmas. It’s all very easy, and I credit the Brit’s mother for getting me started and teaching me that you don’t need to water-bath everything. (shhh … don’t tell the USDA!) For a long time, I only used regular jars that I’d wash, put in the oven cold and heat up to sterilize, taking them out just as they are needed, filling and then putting a layer of plastic wrap between food and lid (very good when you are making chutney because it keeps the acidity from coming in contact with any metal. I have rarely had a jar go bad on me (and you can tell when that’s the case). I’ve now expanded my jar collection to proper canning jars.
I know this will soon be trendy or already is because the New York Times food section had a cover story on canning (tied to a new book) earlier this summer. My favorite recipe comes courtesy of a book published by Australian Women’s Weekly. I’ve modified it a bit, mostly to take short cuts, and I always add in extra tomatoes. They call it chili coriander jam, so let it thicken plenty. And use it everywhere. I have given it to friends and had the jars returned with requests for more (or heard how quickly it disappeared, sometimes eaten straight from the jar).
8 large tomatoes/2 kilos/4.4 pounds of tomatoes, cored (more, more!)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (more, more!)
10 small fresh red Thai chillis, stems removed (or whatever you want in whatever quantity to add a bit of heat)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
3/4 cup red wine vinegar (or substitute another vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, just not balsamic or something fancy. Mine comes in a one-gallon jug)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use white, recipe calls for palm sugar, which is brown sugar to us)
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
and just at the end, 1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro leaves and roots
I put everything except for the fresh coriander in a big pot and start cooking it down, stirring as needed to keep anything from sticking to the bottom. (The recipe says to put garlic, ginger, chillies and seeds in a food processor or blender until chopped and well-combined. That’s one of the steps I skip. That and softening the tomatoes in the oven.) Simmer, uncovered. Once the tomatoes are soft, I use my immersion blender to chop everything up so it’s more like a sauce but still has some texture. The recipe has you do this at the end, but I figure I can better judge this way just how thick it is. Sometimes I have gotten a bit impatient, and the chutney has turned out too runny. The recipe says to simmer it for about two hours or until thick. I always find it takes longer, hence the impatience.
At the very end, stir in the coriander. Spoon it into hot sterilized jars and seal while hot. Store it in a cool, dry place (like a cupboard) and refrigerate after opening.
If this is too Asian for you, try changing the spices to something more Italian, like fennel seeds and fresh basil. Skip the fish sauce if you are vegetarian. Don’t otherwise be put off by its smell. It’s in your Thai and Vietnamese food all the time.