Pickled and Preserved
I have been collecting jars for a couple of years now silently hoping that one day my soon to be prolific garden would produce an over abundance of fruit or vegetables that would necessitate my bottling the surplus. Sadly the filter in my dishwasher has been caked with the remnants of sticky jar labels several times over and the bottom drawer in my kitchen is filled to capacity with unused glass jars and lids, as is a whole shelf in my cupboard at the farm.
I’m sure many of you have had the pleasure of growing cherry tomatoes and have seen how productive their sprawling limbs can be. But my cherry tomato garden is something else! Firstly it was never planted by me, it just sprung up from the ground after a healthy dose of chicken poop and mulch. At the end of a healthy crop of cucumber vines I decided to dig up the garden bed, treat it to a nutrient rich face mask of chicken run clean out and let it sit until I could decide what I wanted to plant in there next. This particular garden bed has the benefit of the warm north facing brick wall of the three bay shed. This accompanied by the wire mesh trellis that the cucumber vines clung to for the last six months made the perfect niche for a very healthy crop of cherry tomato trees. Not bushes mind, trees!
Not being one for having any knowledge about pruning or thinning out the garden I just let the plants do their thing. I was amazed that without any training they clung to the brick work and worked their way up the trellis to the top of the garage roof! Once they surpassed the roof the tops flopped over for lack of support but still continued to produce. As luck would have it many of the tomatoes grew in between the mesh and the brick work making it very hard for all but nimble fingers to work them out without squashing them during harvesting. Luckily the gauge in the wire was about a four by four centimetre square so it was tough for small fingers but not impossible.
I filled container after container after container of tomatoes. Some were so big they were like a baby “real” tomato. I gave away some and ate a few and was still left with an abundance. So I took the stalks off, washed them and stuck them in the freezer. Until just recently a power outage and the need to have some of my containers back, meant it was time to get cooking!
On a trip to the USA last year we rekindled our love of Mexican food, in particular the lovely fresh salsa and corn chips they serve up free of charge to keep you quenching your thirst with Margaritas and beer. I had made a mental note never to by pre-made salsa again and so I googled a salsa recipe once I got home. I tried a couple of versions and came up with one that Benny approved of and as close to the real thing as I could find.
In the meantime I had been growing jalapeños for the same purpose and whilst not yet at full height were producing a few that I could throw in the salsa. So with some store bought coriander, garlic, some more chili, and limes we were away.
I love to have a day to myself to cook and so while I was on a roll I looked up another recipe to use up all the dwarf eggplants that one of my crop circles had produced. We had been given a jar of Eggplant Kasundi (from the Bramble Patch in Stanthorpe) a middle eastern style chutney, from a guest at the resort and we had just scraped the bottom of the jar onto the last sandwich. Now those of you who know my husband will be well aware that he has an aversion to vegetables, so for me to get him to eat tomatoes and eggplant in any way shape or form is quite a feat. So google to the rescue and I found a recipe for this as well.
All the cooking done, I put the jars and lids in our old oven (otherwise know as the crematorium). Soon an acrid smell started to emit from the oven and I cracked the door to take a peak. I had forgotten about the rubberised goo they paint the inside of the lids with these days to help make the seals liquid tight and stop corrosion from the inside contents. This rubbery stuff was bubbling and black and oozing and smelling out my house now that the door was cracked open. I grabbed the tray with a tea towel and ran it out into the yard to smolder.
Just a word to the wise, jars and lids are quite nicely sterilised by a couple of runs through the dishwasher and as long as you fill them when they are hot and the contents hot (and the right levels of preserving agents in your recipes etc) then they will be fine and dandy to store for a month in the cupboard until opened.
Well after all my efforts I made four jars of each and put lovely little printed labels on to show that they were home made with love. Gave away a couple of jars to a friend, served up some at my latest dinner party and now I have more empty jars and more labels stuck to my dishwasher filter. Oh joy!