This month I am

in the thick of making preserves. So far, two batches of fig jam, tomato chutney, and green tomatoes pickles. And did I mention the marrow chutney? It’s all starting to feel obsessive.

The green tomato pickles were the greatest challenge. Among the thousand or so cookbooks in my library, there is a shortage of green tomato pickle recipes. I know there are two, but I couldn’t find them. Three years ago I made a batch that pleased me and everyone else; last year I tried to find the recipe, but couldn’t. I did, however, find a reasonable recipe, so I made a batch that was pretty good. Foolishly, I didn’t record where I found the recipes.

This year I did another search. I found a few recipes, but most of them included flour, which I didn’t want to use. (I’m not at all sure why a pickle recipe would include flour or cornflour.) Finally, I found a recipe in the revised and expanded second edition of Mildred Bellin’s Jewish Cookbook, published by Bloch Publishing Company in New York in 1958. The recipe called for half a peck of green tomatoes. I adapted, with memories of the earlier ones. All the recipes begin with sliced tomatoes and onions, salted overnight and then drained. If you use red onions, the pickles take on some colour.

This is the recipe I devised from Mildred Bellin’s book, but I can’t vouch  for it until the pickles have rested for a month or two.

1.8 kg green tomatoes; 2 good sized onions; quarter cup of salt. 

Slice the onion and tomatoes, layer in a glass or earthenware bowl, with the salt sprinkled through the layers. Leave overnight, and then drain thoroughly.

1200 mls water, 800 mls wine vinegar, 180 g raw sugar.  Also: two thick slices of fresh ginger tied in a muslin bag with a teaspoon of allspice berries, half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of coriander seeds.  Mustard seeds are added to the pickle – a good teaspoon.

Put the water and 500ml of wine vinegar in a preserving pan and mix well. Add the spice bag. Add the drained tomato and onion slices and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Drain the tomato and onion slices again. Add the sugar to the preserving pan with a good teaspoon of mustard seeds. When it is simmering, add the tomato and onion slices and any liquid. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, then spoon into sterilised jars. Top with the liquid.

I spooned the slices into jars, and poured the liquid into a jug. I filled the jars from the jug, and there was some over. The following day, I topped up the liquid in the jars. 

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