When I was a child I spent a large part of my holidays with my maternal grandmother. She lived in the country on a farm with my aunt, uncle, and their two children. There was always lots of fun and adventures and plenty of things to occupy me. Cows to milk, dogs to be walked, chickens and turkeys to be fed, and eggs to be collected. These memories are some of my most cherished times and on reflection, I learnt a lot from the time spent with her.
Granny used to cook each week for one of her neighbours and I can remember helping her measure, sift and stir huge bowls on her old kitchen bench. It might be a tea cake, sweet biscuits, or scones, and it always looked delicious. She hardly ever needed to turn to a recipe and would encourage me to feel, look, and observe the consistency. I thought she was amazing and locals would often speak about what a terrific cook she was.
I recall vividly that she would always be sourcing a box of this or a case of that as the season dictated. It might be ripe tomatoes which would instantly become relish and sauce, or crab apples and quiches that would transform into jelly. She also received a number of unusual melons and she would turn them into melon and pineapple jam which was a great hit with her family and friends.
So this week I am inspired by her memory and have decided to turn my very green tomatoes that simply refuse to ripen into green tomato pickles.
I read a number of cook books but the one that was most helpful was one by Darina Allen. Her book is all about the forgotten skills of cooking and has a chapter devoted to the art of preserving. Darina explains that historically, preserving was all about not wasting fresh produce and that making jam or relish was a simple process. She gives many recipes and methods of preserving and I have used her suggestions in this simple relish recipe. It is tomatoes, onions, vinegar, mustard and curry powder, all cooked together with preferred seasonings.
This is coking at its simplest however there is something so soothing about watching your produce simmer and turn into a delicious condiment. It is an excellent way of using up your over abundance of tomatoes, and it tastes absolutely delicious. The pickles are a lovely blend of the tart green tomatoes, coupled with a delicate mix of spice. The vinegar almost overpowers things but at the last minute it blends in with the other components. I must admit to loving the acidity that vinegar offers, so this aspect of the pickles is very appealing to me.
I think it will be an excellent accompaniment to a ploughman’s lunch.
M. Environ Ville