Friday, August 21, 2009

you say tomato

It's (almost) too hot to blog. 34°C/93°F out there on this Thursday afternoon. One of my boys officially had Hitzefrei at 11 a.m. today - that's when they send the younger kids home in the middle of the day because of the heat. The older ones have to stick it out but luckily for Boy16, Biology was cancelled so he got to leave early, too.

The heat has been great for the garden, providing we water everything before it all wilts and I had some luck with my tomatoes this year.

Seeing all those unripe ones made me start thinking about fried green tomatoes, something I've never made before. I know y'all from the southern U.S. are saying "Yawn, been there, done that" but where I come from, we only ate 'em red and ripe. I got my courage up and boy, were they tasty!

After all that down home goodness I decided to try something more fancy, a tomato tarte tatin based on the famous French apple tart. Somewhere (somewhere!) in my recipe files (and I use that term loosely, it's actually just jagged scraps of paper stuffed in a box) I had a recipe ( carelessly ripped out of the food section of a Vancouver newspaper a couple of summers ago) I'd been meaning to try out for ages. Do you think I could find what I was looking for? Nope, but as usual, my beloved internet came through and offered up that very recipe on page 24 of this book preview. Who knew?

My first attempt was made in a springform pan. Big mistake. Don't do it. It dribbled while it was baking, smoked up my kitchen and ended up a soggy, inedible mess. Another entry for Mausi's Big Book of Kitchen Disasters.

But practice makes perfect and the second attempt was fabulous. This time I made individual tarte tatins (or would that be tartes tatin?) in little ramekins. Cute, are they not?

These were intensely flavoured - sweet, sour and savoury all at the same time with the coolness of the fresh mozarella adding a lovely contrast. I can see myself making these again and again.

Now, check out Pepe, my one and only sweet pepper this year. When Mr. M brought the plant home many weeks ago Pepe was just a tiny little thing, one of many would-be peppers, his label promising that he'd grow up to be bright red some day. Unfortunately all his other little pepper friends dried up and fell off, but Pepe grew and grew.

He stayed green for so long that I'd almost given up when all of a sudden he started changing colour and transformed himself into this racy number.

The only question then was do we stuff him, put him in a salad or turn him into some delicious tomato and pepper relish?

My mother-in-law has been gifting us with jars of relish for what seems like eons. Mr. M is just wild about the it so he was pretty upset when Oma announced that she didn't feel like making any this year. Fine, I said, give me the recipe and I'll make it.

Here's how it turned out

First things first. It's very common in Germany to re-use old jars and lids for making jams, jellies and relishes. No boiling water baths or any kind of processing that I'm aware of. The goods are simply cooked up, put into sterilized jars and inverted for five minutes so they'll (hopefully) seal themselves. This is the way the mother-in-law has been doing it for years and no one has died yet, but I know the recommendations in other countries are quite different and after some extensive reading I didn't want to take any chances on this stuff since it contains some low-acid ingredients. I did in fact use old salsa jars, however for safety's sake the relish is being stored in the fridge and we're using it up very quickly.

This is a sweet, mildly spiced relish that pairs wonderfully with grilled meats. You could probably doctor it up in any number of ways after you'd tried the basic recipe. After watching my husband pick the whole spices out of his dinner for years, I decided to be a genius and put the peppercorns and cloves called for in a tea ball, removing them after cooking. So much easier. The mustard seeds, being very small, can be left in.

So, what to call the recipe? I have no idea where my mother-in-law got it so we'll just have to attribute it to her. If you speak German, you'll know that Schwiegermutter is the word for the woman who gave birth to your spouse. But the Germans love to abbreviate things and since Schwiegermutter is such a long word, they'll sometimes shorten it to Schwimu when the mother-in-law is out of hearing range. It doesn't stop there. If you're an umpire, a Schiedsrichter, they'll call you a Schiri. If you're doing an apprenticeship, instead of being know as an Auszubildende/er, you'll answer to Azubi. And if you're still wearing your hair in that short-in-the-front long-in-the-back style commonly know as a mullet in English speaking countries, the Germans will tell you you're sporting a Vokuhila - vorne kurz, hinten lang.

So now that you know the scoop, back to the recipe. I proudly present you with

Schwimu's Tomato and Pepper Relish

1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
500g tomatoes
250g onions
4 T. vinegar
200g brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. sweet paprika powder
4 whole cloves

Seed and chop peppers, peel and dice onions. Peel tomatoes* and dice. Place vegetables and spices in a large pot, using a tea ball for peppercorns and cloves if desired, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 30-40 minutes. Remove tea ball and spoon relish into sterilized jars. Process according to your level of comfort. Makes about 4 jars. This recipe doubles easily but adjust the salt according to taste.

*How in the world do you get the skin off a tomato? Well, first you cut a little cross in the bottom of each tomato and place them all in a large, heatproof bowl. Then you pour boiling water over them and let them sit for a minute. After that they need to be scooped out with a slotted spoon and plopped into ice water for another minute or two. The skins will then slip right off with a little help from a paring knife.

What are you doing with YOUR tomatoes this year?

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At August 21, 2009 2:29 a.m., Blogger Maribeth said...

We just made 9 pints of Heavenly Jam (or Peach Jam) today. Hmmmmm! Good!

At August 21, 2009 8:20 a.m., Blogger illahee said...

my tomatoes disappear into my three small children before i have a chance to do anything with them! i really want to try that relish, though. sounds great!!

At August 21, 2009 2:11 p.m., Blogger Jul said...

I'm so happy for today's cloud cover, or I too would be declaring it too hot to blog.

Your tomatoes look gorgeous! We only have 5 plants on our little balcony, so each and every tomato goes right into my mouth the day it is ripe. Towards the end of the season I'll pick all the remaining green tomatoes and make them into salsa or something.

Last year we had a single bell pepper for the longest time. We named him Felice.

At August 21, 2009 2:31 p.m., Blogger Thimbleanna said...

Those are some mighty fine tomatoes, although, after being the only red pepper to survive the shriveling and falling off, I'm sad to see your luscious red friend chopped up! Very interesting to hear how the Germans handle their canning. I used to make salsa every year -- boiling water bath and all. On year, by early spring, the remaining jars all had a little white spore in them. That scared the bejeezus out of me, so now anything "canned" must be frozen.

At August 21, 2009 2:34 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

We've been eating tomatoes and zucchini from our garden for some time now. The zukes are done, but the tomatoes continue to flourish. We've also eaten lots of beans, and I've been making a good amount of pesto from the basil. It hasn't been our best produce summer, but not bad overall.

At August 21, 2009 3:04 p.m., Blogger Blogging Mama Andrea said...

I'm packing my bag as we speak that second tomato tartin tatin looks delish. Really, I'm on my way (I'll bring the Chick as payment okay?) You tow play and I'll eat!

At August 22, 2009 4:43 a.m., Blogger Lilian said...

Fascinating, as usual!!! I love your beautiful Pepe, the pepper.

Anyway, I want to go straight to the point and answer your question, I'm making tomato sauce (with peeled tomatoes) and freezing it. I'm scared of canning -- I'm always afraid it'll spoil.

We're also preparing several dishes with tomatoes, the latest of which is pissaladiere, a kind of French "pizza."

At August 22, 2009 8:06 a.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Mmmm. That tomato tarte tating looks too good not to try.

At August 22, 2009 5:06 p.m., Anonymous Patricia said...

My favourite abbreviation used to be 'Schniposa' - Schnitzel, Pommes Frites und Salat - at our local Gasthaus. Thanks for the recipes, both the salsa and the tarte tatin look very doable.

At August 23, 2009 2:30 a.m., Blogger poppy fields said...

Well, my dog keeps eating them before they get ripe. But the ones I get at the market usually end up in a tomato mozzarella salad...

At August 24, 2009 1:02 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

those look so good (as always) and enjoy your writing (as always). am curious if the relish tastes similar to a traditional salsa?

At August 24, 2009 9:34 a.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

Oh, it all looks so droolsome! What do you use for brown sugar? I can't find any here, only Rohzucker.

Also, in Switzerland, an apprentice is called a Lehrling. The things ypu learn from reading blogs, eh?

At August 25, 2009 6:11 p.m., Anonymous expatraveler said...

Oh all that food looks so incredible! But you know I still think your garden resembles that of your parents house in West Van. Although I can't really see the view and I know your place in Germany is smaller, but still that planting green thumb exists.

At September 01, 2009 6:50 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I think I'd like to adopt you as a live-in roommate for awhile, Christina! You wouldn't have to pay a cent...just do all the cooking! :D

At September 14, 2009 4:19 p.m., Anonymous Edelweiss Cowgirl said...

Mmmm. I may have to try that relish recipe. And I'm a Texas gal but have to admit I've never had fried green tomatoes - for shame!

At September 14, 2009 11:34 p.m., Blogger *Ulrike* said...

Now I must say I love fried green tomatoes! I'm sure you have seen that movie too. I will have quite a few of them left so I will be frying up a storm. I am definitely going to try the relish too. I have to remember to tell my mom about the short name for mother-in-law. I wonder if she has heard it before.
The next thing to try will be the tomatoe tartin as that looks yummy!!

At September 16, 2009 3:34 p.m., Blogger honeypiehorse said...

Wow, where'd you get all the great weather? Too hot to blog? In Germany? Today? It was great meeting you in Munich by the way, sorry I missed the rest of the event but it was a double birthday weekend.

At September 28, 2009 1:32 a.m., Blogger Mike B said...

Yeah, we get the recycled jars with strawberry preserves from the Schiegermutter, and I must admit I let the Partnerin have the first couple of tastes before I venture in. She assures me that this is safe, but I let her put her money where her mouth is. Simply shameless.


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