Here's a recipe for 'the' tomato preserve of Estonian women that I ended up making last night instead of slow-roasted oven tomatoes that so many good foodbloggers have been praising. Slow-roasted oven tomatoes have been featured by Molly, Alanna (and again), Kalyn, Lydia, Jeanne, even Dorie, and by Thredahlia closer to home) - all versions sound fantastic, and I bought some tomatoes at the market on Sunday morning for that purpose. But then I realised that slow-roasting really means slow roasting, and as we needed the oven for something else last night, I reached after my mum's tried and trusted quick tomato & onion relish recipe instead. I used to dislike it as a kid - too much onion, too much pepper, a bit vinegary - but have now come to really like it. When I asked K. to taste the finished product and share his thoughts about it, he claimed it tasted exactly like his mum's tomato and onion relish. Come to think of that, my mum's tomato & onion relish does taste very similar to my aunties' and grandmothers' ones indeed. It really must be the choice of tomato preserve for many Estonian women..
So if you've still got lots of tomatoes to 'deal with', yet haven't got the time to slow-roast the tomatoes, then consider this recipe. It takes about half an hour from start to finish, and it makes an excellent addition to cold meats and any other warm savoury dishes during the winter..
My mum's tomato & onion relish
1 kg ripe red tomatoes, quartered
500 grams onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
100 grams caster sugar
5 tsp coarse salt
10 black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1-2 Tbsp vinegar (30%) *
Cut tomatoes into quarters or eights, depending on size, and put into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, until tomatoes have gone a bit mushy.
Add the sliced onions, sugar, salt, peppercorns and cloves, and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes, until onions have started to soften.
Stir in the vinegar, and immediately pour the relish into hot sterilised jars. Close the jars.
Keep in a cool, dark place for a few months.
* The most common vinegar for preserving in Estonia is of 30% strength. You may need to re-adjust the amount for your usual vinegar.
UPDATE 23.10.2007 - my fellow Estonian foodblogger Thredahlia (yes, our future Harold McGee:), claims that you don't need vinegar in this relish at all, as the inherent acidity of tomatoes helps to keep this fresh & good without it. Although I've already reduced the amount of vinegar above, I'll make a vinegar-less batch coming weekend to compare. Thank you, Thredahlia!!