By regular garden to table contributor - Kerrie Maloney
There is nothing more comforting than coming in from the cold to the warmth and smell of delicious aromas.
We gardeners are obsessed with the weather and phrases like ‘it has turned cold’ pepper our conversations. The harvesting and preserving of seasonal Summer and Autumn fruits and vegetables has been done and I have a well stocked freezer of slow roasted quinces and other delights that are just waiting to be incorporated into lovely warm desserts and cakes. There is no doubt that the weather has turned chilly and it is that time of year when we can take advantage of the warmth of good bake up. I like to put a big roast in the oven and let it cook slowly whilst I venture out in to the garden to do the pruning, weeding and garden maintenance tasks that need to be done in order to have a glorious garden in Spring. There is nothing more comforting than coming in from the cold to the warmth and delicious aromas of slow cooked/roasted foods and baking.
It has been a poor year in my garden with very little produce, largely the result of extensive building works next door and unfortunately the death of my much loved and prolific quince tree. Once the building works are finished the garden will be much more shaded and less suited to produce. It is the ongoing challenge for gardeners to respond and adapt to change; there has been much soul searching about how to develop the new garden but I suspect that it will become more decorative with lots of ornamentals and have less produce. It is fortunate that the citrus are further away from the building area so have not been damaged and we have been able to save the rhubarb plants.
Fortunately I have friends with extensive vegetable gardens and fruit trees who seem more than happy to supply me with their excess produce. I have developed a reputation for ‘using up’ and It is not uncommon for a box or basket of fruit to appear at my front door. Most gardeners hate waste and often have much more produce than they can use and are happy to get a cake, jam, chutney or a container of processed fruit back in return. The lack of produce in my own garden has not stopped the stocking of the freezer; there are many containers of slow roasted apricots, quinces, pears, stewed apples and rhubarb or the making of pickles, relish and chutney.
This past week I collected chillies from a neighbour, they were in a basket at the gate with a sign that had them labelled as Rocoto chillies and suggested uses. They had been there for a few days so I took a generous quantity, I think the twenty times hotter than jalapenos may have put people off. I made them up into a chilli jam that included tomato and apple; I refer to this as the ‘hot stuff’ and issue a warning to prospective diners. It is delicious if you love a condiment ‘with a kick’.
Hot Chilli Jam
1.5 kg tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and coarsely chopped
1kg pears or apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 head of garlic peeled
250 hot red chillies, deseeded and coarsely chopped
2 cups ml cider vinegar
2 cups brown or white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
Put the tomatoes, apples/pears, chopped onions, garlic, chillies and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat.
Simmer, stirring frequently for about 30 minutes or until the pears are soft. Use a food processor or stick blender and puree until the jam has is smooth.
Add the sugar and salt, Simmer, stirring occasionally until the jam is thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow and jam to stand for a few minutes.
Spoon or ladle the relish into hot sterilized jars. Seal.