Our tomato harvest has been wonderful already this year and we have lots of green ones left on the vine with plenty of time left for them to turn. We really have had a wonderful summer in terms of sunshine and warmth (I am saying this from the comparative comfort of a 16°c day and we have recently had plenty of rain. I have spent an awful lot of my time the last couple of months complaining that I was too hot and wishing it would rain to quench the brown, solid lawns and fields. Hindsight is a wonderful thing). This summer’s weather has been perfect for tomatoes if not for everything else in the garden. We have collected a large mixing bowl full over the last few days alone. Half the bowlful are currently oven drying for use in future tomato breads.
I neglected to change the soil in the greenhouse this year, opting instead to just add plenty of our home-made compost. I know, it’s lazy, wrong and neglectful with the potential to spread disease. I promise to change the soil this year, honest. The bonus of this though was lots and lots of self-set tomatoes. I planted most of them up in small pots and popped them on the outside wall, not giving them a great deal of hope as we never have much luck with tomatoes grown outside here. They grew and demanded large pots. I obliged and, in my shoddy gardener’s way, even gave some of them a stake to grow up. They have forgiven me my shoddiness and grown beautifully producing a bounteous crop that have been ripening for the last month or so.
The rain that we have had over the last few days has caused some of the damsons to start falling from one of our trees. So, I went out today and picked a couple of branches worth before they were all on the ground.
It occurred to me that I could combine both bowlfuls in a ketchup.
2kg of tomatoes and damsons combined
200g onions, chopped up fairly small
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed with the side of your knife
570g distilled white vinegar (It comes in bottles of 568 g, so that is what I used)
A muslin bag or clean tea towel containing the following spices and tied with kitchen string: (if you don’t have all of these in stock or don’t like the flavour of any of them, make up your own pickling bag according to what you like and have access to)
2 tsp black peppercorns
2 dried chillies, these are hot so add more if yours are mild
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
5 allspice berries
1 star anise
200g demerara sugar
25g sea salt
Chop the larger tomatoes in half. Put the tomatoes, damsons, onions and garlic into a large preserving pan, add the vinegar and the spice bag and cook over a medium heat until everything has softened and the tomatoes and damsons have collapsed (about thirty minutes). Strain through a sieve into a large bowl, pushing the fruit through with a large metal spoon. Keep going until all you have left in the sieve is the damson stones, skin and bits of resistant onion. Clean the preserving pan and add the puree back in. Add the sugar and the salt and give it a good stir. Taste and see if it has enough flavour from the spices, if not put the spice bag in (it will taste overpoweringly vinegary, don’t worry that will mellow as it matures). Return to the heat and simmer gently, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve fully. Continue to simmer for about an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced to a sauce the consistency of ketchup. Pour into clean, sterilised bottles and seal and it will keep for about 6 months. If you place the unsealed bottles into a large pan and pour in water until about 2 inches from the top of the bottles and boil the water for 10 minutes, then remove the bottles and seal, the ketchup will keep indefinitely until opened. Leave to mature for one month before using so that the flavours can develop and the vinegar tang can mellow.