Tomatoes are vaguely evil.
There is something innately gross about them; in fact, they are the Terry Richardson of fruit, which is why I staged the exploitative shot below- to jolt you out of your complacency, obviously. Look at a tomato and wonder where anyone got the guts to twist one off that stinky, wicked plant for the first time and put it in their mouths. Just like Terry.
I imagine the wild-type fruit aren't much to write home about and the commercial crop here in New Zealand won't exactly get you coming in your pants either. They're hydroponic, mostly, or at least they taste that way- if I had to characterize their flavour, I'd say it was bland, watery, low-functioning green.
I'm using store-bought tomatoes for this relish as they're cheap ($2.80 a kilo), plentiful at the moment, probably at their seasonal peak or at least as good as they're going to get. A lot of people like to use the shittiest fruit they can get their hands on but this is a false economy and the eternal equation remains- crap in, crap out.
Don't worry too much about relative quantities- close enough is really fine. I'm doing double the stated amount today so your volumes won't look like mine. The recipe is fairly extrapolatable but doubling them as I'm doing is probably best left to someone who's made preserves before, just because you need a bit of experience to judge the cooking time and consistency etc. And I wouldn't suggest trying to triple a batch unless you have gigantic commercial-style pots and utensils. It's bulky and will spit like a bitch all over your kitchen once it's on the boil.
Start your Interstellar Relish in the morning or before lunch so you can give the salted tomatoes time to macerate. This is a slow cooking gig. Bring a book, put on a long-arse mix tape or reserve someone to talk to.
W H A T Y O U ' L L N E E D
- 1.5 kg of ripe tomatoes. Preferably on the vine
- 500g brown sugar (white is okaaay, just blander)
- 3 large onions, red or white
- About 750ml of malt/brown vinegar. Or white.
- 2 Tbs plain salt
- 1 Tbs curry powder
- 1 Tbs mustard seeds, black or yellow
- 1 Tbs cracked or mortar & pestle'd black pepper
- 1 Tsp or so of cumin seeds (optional) or cumin powder
5 or so regular sized jam jars, make it 6 if you've only got weeny ones.
* Nervous about preserves? Have a read of this and maybe check my other jam recipes first.
> Cut them in half like this, leaving only one side with the whole core as it's much quicker to remove. Chop them and the onions (laboriously, I know) into fairly small bits.
< This is 3kg of ripe vine tomatoes with a tablespoon for scale. Yours should look like half of this. Wash and de-stalk them, cutting off any bruises and manky bits.
< I fucked up here by leaving the chopped onions out, but throw all the chopped vege into a big flat roasting tray or similar (doesn't need to be heat proof) and salt the shit out of it.
You're aiming to get the water out of the flesh, so mix it thoroughly and let it stand for at least 3 hours; overnight is also fine. Cover it with a tea towel or foil and leave it somewhere cool. The vege will macerate without your supervision.
While the tomatoes are bleeding out, pound up some spices and have a look around the kitchen to make sure you've got everything. Clean and set the jars, lids, jam funnel and any other utensils you'll be using aside, ready to go into the oven to sterilise @ 90-100ºC for about half an hour. (You don't need to do that at this point- wait til you're about half an hour out while boiling down the relish.) Just get them ready and out of the way.
> See what I mean about them bleeding out? If your tomatoes are home grown, they might not give up as much water, but you get the idea. Drain the mix with a colander or just spoon the liquid out and discard it. You could possibly use it in a soup or pasta sauce but I've never tried that and I'd guess it's über-salty.
Pour the vege into a large stainless pot, add enough vinegar of choice to just cover them, but don't go too crazy of you'll be there forever trying to boil it down.
Bring the pot to the boil and then remove from heat. Pour in the sugar and spices and mix it really well. Don't let any nasty sugar goobers hide on the bottom or that shit will burn like a fundamentalist in a hell of their own making. Once you're sure it's all dissolved, bring it back to the boil.
This is the boring part. Relish takes time. This double batch took a full hour to reduce and caramelise at a steady/low boil but if you're just doing the 1.5 kg version with home grown fruit, you could maaaybee possibly get away with half an hour. You can walk away from it for 10 mins while it's still thin and vinegary, but don't turn your back once it's getting gloopy or you could have major burny/sticking drama. Mine went down to half the original volume and began to spit volcanically at the 30 min mark.
Try to get a good even ratio of the solid and liquid in every jar as you're filling them. I like to make sure the vegetables are 'submerged' before I screw on the lid but that's probably just magical thinking as far as preservation is concerned. I've never had a jar of this stuff go bad, even after a full year. It's very stable stored dark and cool in a cupboard somewhere. Do keep it in the fridge once opened, though.
And there it is below- exactly why you've gone to all this trouble (yes I recycled this shot from the quail egg post, shut up). Interstellar Relish is great with virtually everything; in its capacity as desperate amendment to something that just will not stop tasting like arse no matter what you do- stews, pasta sauces, curries, soups etc- it more than earns its euphonious epithet. Divine with cheeses and smallgoods of every description.