I love the whole process that goes with cooking sauces, chutneys and relishes. From collecting suitable jars and bottles to growing the ingredients myself (you don’t actually have to do that bit…), chopping veggies and adding to the magnificent four gallon enamel pot that once belonged to my Dad. He gave it to me a few years before he died, and using it isn’t just seriously practical – it’s very sentimental. I love the scent of vegetables, vinegar and spices wafting through the house, having something to stir and taste each time I wander into the kitchen, and the fact that it might take a whole day (or even two!) to make a good sauce. It’s worth every minute. If you’ve never attempted making your own sauces or chutneys, don’t freak out! It’s a much easier (and weirdly relaxing) process than you might think.
I’m going to write up a few of my chutney recipes over the coming weeks – all made from home grown ingredients. We’ll start with the simplest of them all, Zucchini and Corn.
We didn’t just have an abundance of zucchini this year, but also corn and capsicum. The corn in particular was to die for. I almost felt bad using it to make relish, but then…nah. I didn’t. Now, these quantities listed are for a double batch. Feel free to halve them. You can also play around a little bit with spices, garlic and chilli. But *don’t* change the quantities of your sugar, salt and most importantly, vinegar. This has to do with the preserving process, and keeping things safe. This recipe will make about 8 quart-size jars.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1500g of zucchini, diced. This works out to be around 8 largish zucchinis.
- 2 red capsicums, diced.
- 1 green capsicum, diced.
- 2 cups of corn kernels (fresh from the cob, if you can). Works out to be around 3 – 4 large cobs of corn.
- 3 onions, sliced.
- 3 cups of white vinegar.
- 2 ½ cups of white sugar (seems a lot, but this is a big batch of relish).
- 1 medium chilli – this is optional. I did one batch with it this year, once batch without. The spicier version is the family favourite.
- 8 teaspoons of turmeric.
- 5 teaspoons of mustard powder.
- 3 teaspoons of mustard seeds (or whole grain mustard).
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder.
- 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.
- 3 tablespoons of salt.
- Cornflour to thicken at the end of cooking.
HOW IT’S DONE:
After you’ve chopped everything up – throw it all in the pot (except the cornflour). Seriously, that’s it. Just chuck it all in. Bring it to the boil, then turn down the heat to low. Now, I have recipes where they recommend simmering for an hour. I cook it all day – well, for at least five hours anyway. Leave the lid on your pot for the first couple of hours, then remove, which will help to reduce your mixture. Make sure you remember to give it a good stir regularly. Keep tasting it, too, and feel free to add more of your favourite spices (or chilli!)
*Do note that I don’t use any oil in my chutneys. There’s good reason for this. Firstly, you don’t need it. With the vinegar and combined vegetables, trust me when I say there’s plenty of fluid in this mix. It won’t burn if you stir it every now and then. Secondly, oil can be a carrier for botulism when you’re working with preserves. So I’d rather stay safe than sorry.
To thicken your relish at the end, add a couple of teaspoons of cornflour to a small jug. Add water and mix until it forms a smooth, thin paste. Add to your relish mix in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Best to go a little at a time with this, remembering your relish will also thicken as it cools.
Ah, the controversial bit. Depending on which country you live in, and what your food safety laws are, there are different recommendations for the preservation of food. What do I do? Well, I wash all jars – make sure they are the type where the lid will ‘pop’ up and down – on a sterilisation cycle in my dishwasher. Yes, even the brand new ones.Then, I add a couple of jars (and their lids) to a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove. I make sure I’m wearing thick rubber gloves, too. Fill jars with VERY HOT relish mix, leaving about 1cm at the top. Wipe away any mess around the lip, and fit the lid. Some preserving jars will have a flat lid and a metal ‘skirt’ to fit around them. If your jar has sealed properly, and depending on the heat in the room, within about half an hour, the lid will ‘pop’ down with suction from the cooling relish. I store my sauces and relishes for over a year in the pantry if they’re unopened, in the fridge once they have been opened.
Other methods include water baths and pressure baths. I recommend checking them out for yourself and seeing what you feel most comfortable with, depending on the quality of your water and sanitising conditions. A good website for all things preserving can be found here:
Zucchini and corn relish is super-delish on ham, corned beef or salami. I’ve been using it as a dip, spooning a couple of tablespoons over cream cheese and serving with crackers and a crumbly tasty cheese. But my favourite use for it has turned out to be as a pizza sauce! Yep, a few spoonfuls on a pizza base, salami and a sprinkling of cheese – AMAZING.