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Green Tomato Sauce - hints for young players.

On my 50th birthday, I amused myself by making, for the first time ever, some pickles, sauces and chutneys. At that time, grafted tomatoes were all the rage and one plant produced a great excess of fruit. I found myself with 15 kilos of green tomatoes, a new book [the Women's Weekly Book of Preserves], a lot of sugar, onions, vinegar, jars. My companion was a Border Collie named Meg, a delightful personality but not a scintillating conversationalist.

Whether this book or something like it is available today I don’t know, but I can recommend it if you can find one. Everything you need to know as a beginner chutney-maker is in this book. Why this is done this way, and that is not done that way - explanations and clear reasons for this and that.

Today I had 4 x 9L buckets of mixed colour Tomatoes. They are Quick Pick, a determinate (dwarf) Roma-type. A bit hollow, rather soft for good eating, fair flavour and lots of them. From 7 plants, I harvested around 20-25 kilos of fruit. With the determinate plants, you get about 3 pickings which is good if you are doing some cooking with them. The plants were showing signs of advanced age: lower leaves with some kind of spot - very common in Tomatoes I’ve noticed - although there is always more shoots coming and more flower buds, they cease to produce well once their big effort is over. So pick everything you can and make use of all the fruit then chop off the plant at the soil surface leaving the roots in the soil. Drop the plant into the rubbish and make the soil ready for the next crop.

Weigh out the fruit for the particular recipe. Wash it, de-stem and remove any marked parts. Put it aside until you have gathered all the ingredients together.

With jars for jam-making, as you get them, wash them well, remove the label, dry them and store them for future use. Only use jars which have good lids, no rust inside. Use jars which had sweet or neutral-flavoured foods in them. Vegemite, pickles, peanut butter ... these jars will always smell like those foods and I never re-use them. On the day you want to use the jars, rinse them in water with a little vinegar. Pre-heat the oven to 160℃, turn it off. Place a clean tea-towel over the oven rack, upend the jars and lids to drain, close the door and leave the jars in there until they are needed.

Once the jam/sauce has reached bottling point, turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for around a half hour. Even though the jars are warm, hot mixture will crack them. Use a small jug to pour the mixture into the jars. Place the jars on plenty of newspaper inside a bowl or baking dish, if you have a spill or a breakage at least it’s not going to go everywhere!

Allow the mixture to cool completely under a gauze cover before they are sealed. Label with name of mixture and date it was bottled. Put away to mature in a cool dark place and start to eat the contents around a month or more from when it was made.

There's an Album in my pictures called (creatively!) Green Tomato Sauce which shows some of the steps involved.

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 11, 2012 at 15:01

UPDATE: although the classic idea is that the jars are sealed when cold, more experienced jam-makers seal warm. This system makes a vacuum seal and mostly it helps prevent any mould from growing.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on August 28, 2010 at 12:49
I know the feeling! I've rationalised and re-rationalised ... just for once I had enough jars although no sauce bottles. I've figured on keeping about 8 to 12 jars with lids and that's it, the rest go to recycling. If you end up with so much storage in your kitchen you can store a gross of jars, you'll forget what you have and where you stored it!
Comment by Scarlett on August 28, 2010 at 10:34
I do this stupid thing with jars where i keep them all until my jar drawer is overflowing and then I think it's getting silly and I can't find matching lids etc so I rationalise most of them into the recycle bin. then something comes along that i want to preserve and i kick myself whilst i scramble for suitable containers. One day I hope to have a kitchen with so much storage I will be able to break this idiotic cycle :)
Comment by Jane on August 27, 2010 at 18:33
Just read your blog so I know the story.

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