Originally meant as a repository of sort for published manuscripts and articles, but reading amazing food blogs lately, I was encouraged to include topics on food and gardening and share other topics of interests to other women like me, who love to garden, fine foods and good cooking.

Friday, April 28, 2006

What you can do with surplus tomatoes

Tomato preserve, Ketchup, Tomato Jam...

Back when I have never seen nor heard of tomato paste and tomato sauce (and therefore, spaghetti sauce in tins), I would see my mother slice, deseed and boil tomatoes in a huge cauldron. (This she did when at harvest time, the prices of tomato would be too cheap, like, a bushel weighing eight to ten kilos would cost only Php2.00 to Php5.00. She would then decide to just cook them or feed them to hogs as picking and bringing them to market would cost more.) When the pulp is nice and soft, she would pour everything on a bamboo sieve (bistay in Pilipino and bikse in Pampango) to remove the skin. What remained was a watery tomato concentrate, which she would then pour back onto the huge cauldron, add a little rock salt, then bring to a boil again for several hours until a desired consistency is reached. By this time, the tomato concentrate has turned into dark red, almost brownish color and would be very thick in consistency. It looked very much like what we now use as tomato paste, which she poured into sterilized jars. Since we had no refrigerator back then, she would keep it in the wooden cupboard. She called it tomato preserve and we would use it in place of fresh tomatoes long after harvest season in May was gone. One time, she also experimented on "tomato jam" which she did by doing the same procedure for tomato preserve, except that she used sugar instead of salt and added grated young coconut to it. But we, her children did not really like it, preferring star margarine and a sprinkling of sugar on our pandesal or hot monay. The thought of using "sweetened tomatoes" as a spread on bread was something that simply did not appeal to us as we would always regard tomato as a vegetable.

Last spring, David dug more plots for our veggie garden, so I was able to plant four different varieties of tomatoes--Russian red, Moneymaker, Beefstake, and Gardener's delight. Harvest time, we had more tomatoes than we could consume, harvesting an average of one kilogram per day. Seeing so much ripe tomatoes on our kitchen bench, waiting to be processed, I did what my mother did with our surplus tomatoes. This time however, I froze them whole, halved and quartered. I also made that tomato preserve. However, I did not have to use a sieve to separate the skin and the flesh. Plus, I did not add any salt as I would be freezing it anyway.

I learned how to skin tomatoes from a neighbor, so it came in handy when I had to do the tomato preserve and ketchup.

Here's how to skin tomatoes:

Pour enough boiling water on the tomatoes.
Then cover for two to three minutes.
Drain. Wash with running cold water.
The skin would break and should come off easily when peeled.

Searching for more ways to preserve the tomatoes, I found a recipe for ketchup from a book, "The Cook's Garden" by Mary Browne, Helen Leach and Nancy Tichborne (Mary Brown, Helen Leach and Nancy Tichborne, Published 1980) I altered some of the procedures to make it easier.

You might find it useful too, so I am sharing it with you.



6 kg ripe tomatoes
6 medium sized onions
6 cloves garlic
25 g pickling spice
1 tsp celery seeds
basil (a large stalk and leaves)
marjoram (a large stalk and leaves)
2 bay leaves
6 Tb salt
6 cups sugar
30 ml glacial acetic acid

Skin tomatoes. Deseed if you like. Chop roughly and place in a large preserving pan. Add the sliced onions and finely chopped garlic. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until there is sufficient liquid to prevent the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Tie the pickling spice and celery seeds together. Add the muslin bag and herbs. Add the salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved.

Puree in a food processor. Pour the sauce back into the preserving pan. Add the glacial acetic acid and bring back to the boil. Boil until the desired consistency is reached. This may take from 5-30 minutes depending on the variety of tomatoes used, the degree of ripeness and the season.

Heat clean jars in a slow oven. Pour the boiling sauce into the hot jars and seal immediately.

If you're curious how sweetened tomato tastes here's how to do it:

Tomato Jam

1 kg ripe tomatoes
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups coconut milk
(You can try adding shredded young coconut)

Skin and deseed tomatoes. Chop coarsely then place in a preserving pan. Add brown sugar and coconut milk. Bring to the boil until the desired consistency is reached. Pour in sterilized jars.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Car Boot Sale (One Fine Autum Sunday)

I have always been interested in how car boot sales are being conducted. Several times, David and I planned to participate in the local one, (in fact, he has put together some old stuff--pre-loved things we could not find use for anymore--in a big box ready to go into the car boot any time), but the not-so-pleasant weather every time, would always prevent us from going.

Last Sunday, we decided to go for a drive to Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton, (a 30-minute drive from our place, Featherston), where we hoped to get some good photos of autum leaves, or at least of those fallen ones being tossed and turned by the autum breeze. On our way, we called by a mushroom farm and bought a box of huge, flat, fresh mushrooms!

It was mid-morning when we reached Masterton but had to stop first at the car boot sale on Essex street. It was in a large vacant space where several cars' boots were opened and makeshift stalls were set up, and just about anything was on sale.

Car boot sales, according to Mr. Google, "are a mainly British form of market in which private individuals come together to sell their unwanted household items".

Since some of these people want to get rid of old stuff (like books, kitchen utentils, used toys, used clothes, pre-loved books, old tools, magazines, memorabilia, plants, herbs in pots, etc,) almost everything was sold at almost knockdown prices.

In New Zealand, the car boot sale has evolved into a combination of a garage sale and a flea market, where not only private individuals who want to get rid of their unwanted household things participate but commercial sellers as well. Like, Jack, who was selling eggs from his chookie farm. When we found his car at around 10:30 a.m. he had already sold at least 40 trays of his eggs. It was also brisk business for a group who were selling fresh veggies like cabbages, water cress, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., which were unloaded from a truck in several plastic crates.

Wandering around the area, we found several items of interest to us. David fancied a plate made of alluminum with interesting old photos of a lake in Queenstown printed on it. I was delighted to find an old couple who were selling at least four kinds of nuts harvested from their garden--chestnuts included. The chestnuts were not being "roasted on an open fire" though. They were fresh. Just the same, I bought a kilo for myself.
David bought for me a pack of figs, a kind of fruit which has a bulbous shape with a small opening (the ostiole) in the end and a hollow area inside lined with small red edible seeds. I have never seen nor tasted this fruit before so he wanted me to give it a try. But I was more excited about my chestnuts (it's been years since I last had a taste), so soon as we arrived home, I tossed a handful into a pot and roasted them on the stove top. The old woman from whom we bought them told me to toss them for about ten minutes, so I did, humming "chestnuts roasting on an open fire...". It was just disappointing that they were not as fragrant as the ones we see being roasted in big woks in Quiapo or elsewhere during Christmas season. Anyway, they were still uncooked after ten minutes, and since the pot where I cooked them has burned at the base, I thought of just giving them a wee zap in the microwave. Which was a bigggg mistake! A few seconds after pressing the start button, the chestnuts started popping up like firecrackers being fired up, giving me a wee fright. Lesson learned, never, ever cook chestnuts in the microwave.

Dinner that day was baked mushrooms, tomato soup and toast, plus popped chestnuts.

Here's how to make those yummy, baked flat mushrooms:

4 flat mushrooms
4 tsp olive oil
4 tbp grated cheese

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Lay mushrooms upside down on a baking tray. On each piece, sprinkle a teaspoon of olive oil. Then top with grated cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

By the way, strolling at the Queen Elizabeth Park at this time of year is just amazing. Each time the wind blew, huge trees would let go a rain of leaves in red, gold and yellow, adding to the pile of already crisp, brown leaves that has carpeted the lawn. And as the winter season approaches, more leaves will let go of their hold on the twigs to give way to new growth next spring.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Feijoa (Also known as Pineapple Guava)

First to fall on to the ground were a couple of medium sized fruits from the tree by the veggie garden. That was March 27. Every day thereafter, we gather an average of one and a half kilos a day. Almost a month since then, we still gather as much amount of feijoa every day, but expect the quantity to gradually diminish until the feaijoa season ends in June.

The first time I saw a feijoa fruit in 2004, I got really excited because it looked very much like the guava, which I love and sorely miss to this day. I wasn't particularly impressed the first time I was introduced to its taste though. My husband, David, cut one feijoa in half and scooped the jelly-like pulp in the center and asked me to try it. It didn't taste too bad, but found it a little bland and unappealing. Or probably, because it looked like the guava, I was expecting a sweet taste with a hint of tartness that we find in most of our fruits back home. It did not meet my expectations so I did not give it another try that year to my husband's disappointment. He soooo loves the feijoa --on its own or with ice cream and whipped cream (!!!) and wished we would enjoy it together.

The following year, there were just too many fruits falling on to the ground, it was a pity I couldn't appreciate them. But David never gave up asking me to give it another try. So I did, to please him. But this time, instead of cutting it in half and scooping the jelly-like pulp, I peeled the thin skin, sliced it thinly and sprinkled a little salt like I would with guava or mango. And it worked! It tasted so much nicer than the first time I tried it. I have since been enjoying the feijoa with my husband, although, I still do not like it with my ice cream.

But here is a better way to enjoy feijoa:

250 gms feijoa peeled and chopped coarsely
1 cup milk
2 cubes glazed ginger (or a thumbnail size fresh ginger)
1Tbsp honey
2 cups cubed ice

Put everything together in a blender and process to a smoothie. Adjust sweetness according to taste.

Rich in Vitamin C with a sugar content of 6 percent, the feijoa usually falls on to the ground before it is ripe. So they have to be gathered and held in store until their flavor has fully developed. When the fruit has turned slightly soft and the jellied sections in the center becomes clear, (which may take 2 to 5 days after natural fruit drop), it is ready to be eaten. the feijoa is still unripe when the jelly-like pulp is still white, but past its best when it starts browning at the center.

I don't really know how to describe the taste, but the jelly like substance in the center of the fruit has a distinctive sweet/sour flavor and the flesh around it is granular and a bit tart. Its other name is "pineapple guava", and some say it has a rich, guava-like flavor with a hint of strawberry and pineapple, but I can't really tell.

Depending on its variety, the feijoa, which is about 5 centimeters long, may be oblong or round and looks very similar to the guava. It is green in color even when ripe, with a thin, tough, waxy skin. Cut in half, the fruit has white or yellow-green flesh around a jelly-like pulp, in which very tiny seeds are embedded. The feijoa, byt he way, is native to southern Brazil, northern Argentin,a western Paraguay and Urugua. In the 1920's it was intoroduced to New Zealand where it is now grown organically.