I had a batch of delicious red capsicums on hand these past few days so my thoughts turned to preserving, as they do at this busy time of the year in the kitchen. The big, damaging cyclone up north means the inevitable price rise in vegetables due to completely ruined food crops. Deciding to put up the capsicums for winter use was quickly arrived at.
I have been writing up and making preserves recipes since last spring. Slowly my preserves book is thickening up with tested recipes that we have come to enjoy. This particular relish combines caramelised onions with red capsicums; a rather enjoyable combination to say the least. We tried the first batch the other night on a turkey loaf. The combination of turkey, brown rice and vegetables topped with the mildly sharp yet sweet flavour of capsicums and onions really added to the meal’s enjoyment. My husband and I consume a largely plant based diet with meat only being the “incidental” part of the meal. I can produce more recipes with vegetables and grains these days than with meat.
Caramelising onions does take time but the end result in this relish is worth the extra time involved. I finely chopped up the capsicums and added them to the onions and garlic blend.
All the vinegars, sugar and herbs and spices went in and then it was a case of visiting the pan every so often in the early stages to check on the progress of the reduction. Relishes and chutneys must be reduced right down to drive out any moisture from the vegetables as moisture can ruin a batch. You have to watch the reduction process towards the end of the cooking time as the relish can start to catch in the pan.
The change is subtle but over approximately 1 3/4 hours, the contents of the pan turned from a cheerful red to a richer brown. You can tell when the relish is ready to bottle as lifting out a portion on the big serving spoon shows no fluid at all; just an unctuous concoction whose fragrance permeates all through the house and beyond into the garden.
Jars are washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed off and then set into an oven to dry out and heat up to complete the sterilisation process. Have a look at my “high tech” utensil on the right. No need to purchase expensive funnels for preserving. My dear husband Jonathan cut down a big plastic milk bottle in half. I use the handle of this cut down bottle to stabilise the funnel as I shovel in spoons full of delicious relish into the hot jars.
The end result of today’s effort are eight jars of caramelised onion and red capsicum relish. When we open a jar in the winter time to come, the fragrances of summer will once again remind us of how fortunate we are to be able to grow our own vegetables. I have come to the conclusion that country living is true quality of life. Hard work but worth the effort. My husband and I measure the concept of “richness” in terms of quality of life. Some days after finishing cooking yet another batch of chutney, relish or tomatoes, I feel like a millionaire.