spicy heirloom tomato relish and the giveaway winners

Spicy heirloom tomato relish

There's no better way to symbolize summer in a kitchen, than a bunch of colorful and mismatched heirloom tomatoes. They are vibrant with hot and radiant colors, it's as if the sun got absorbed into one big juicy ball of deliciousness. Whether eaten fresh or cooked their flavors are rich and as appealing as their looks. 

Beautiful Heirloom Tomatoes

These heirlooms turned out to be perfect in my spicy relish. I've been looking to create a hot relish for a while that would remind me of a good Indian pickle that would be hot and sour but mildly sweet. The cider and dash of brown sugar help to enhance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and the heat of the chilies and spices. As with most Indian chutneys, pickles, and relishes, this tomato relish is fantastic with any meal.  Just a note of caution, whenever selecting tomatoes for canning, go with red or pale yellow tomatoes versus the greener ones as the greener varieties contain a toxic compound called solanin. Canning is a cooking process that concentrates flavors and compounds and using a large number of green tomatoes will increase the amount of solanin.  So please keep this in mind while preserving tomatoes by any concentration process.


I could have peeled the tomatoes before cooking them but it just didn't feel right. I like the texture, it somehow makes the relish feel and taste even more "tomatoey" .If you want to get rid of the skin, then cut a cross or "X" mark at the bottom of each tomato, then dunk the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds and transfer the tomatoes into an ice-bath. Let them cool and the skin will come off easily when you peel. 

Heirloom tomatoes

The Siggi's dairy giveaway is over and I chose the entries randomly using Rafflecopter on July 17, 2013. The five lucky people in no random order are...

1. Holly H.
2. Tiffany G.
3. Matt W., and
4. Jason B. 
5. Sarah M.

By now you should have received an email from me and will have 48 hours to respond or I will select another winner. Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to the kind folks at Siggi's Dairy for sponsoring this fun and delicious giveaway! and the giveaway winners

Hot and spicy tomato relish

spicy heirloom tomato relish

yields: approximately 2 quarts


10 lb heirloom tomatoes
2 cups vegetable oil (peanut)
1 tablespoon dried red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup red onions, finely chopped
3 thai chili peppers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
kosher sea salt

1. Wash and wipe the tomatoes dry, remove the stalks if any and dice the tomatoes into large chunks. Discard any seeds. Keep the tomatoes aside.
2. In a coffee bean grinder, grind the chili flakes, fennel, coriander, and cumin to get a coarse powder. 
3. Heat the oil on a medium high flame in a large thick bottomed saucepan. As soon as the oil begins to smoke, add the ground spices and turmeric. Stir for 15 seconds and reduce the flame to a gentle simmer. If the spices begin to burn, discard the oil and begin again. 
4. Stir in the onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Trim the stalks off the chilies and slit them across their length. Add the chilies to the saucepan and cook for another 2 minutes with constant stirring. 
5. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and increase the flame to a high. Add the vinegar and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the flame to a medium high. Stir constantly to avoid any burning. Continue to cook the mixture until most of the liquid has evaporated and the oil begins to separate from the tomatoes. The mixture should turn into a thick paste. Taste and adjust the salt as necessary (You can also add a little vinegar to it, if you want to make it more sour). Remove the saucepan from the stove and transfer into 4 clean and sterile 500ml canning jars. Process for 15 minutes and store in a cool dry place. 

indian-style sweet and sour pickled rhubarb

sweet and sour rhubarb pickles

This is the season for fresh produce and I enjoy taking advantage of it whenever possible. Though it's the end of spring here and the start of summer, the temperatures have been a bit cooler than usual and I haven't really ventured out to the local farmer's markets in D.C. as much as I would like to. Rhubarb has quickly become a favorite in the kitchen and I always pick up some at the farmer's market. This time I decided that I'd do something completely different and work on a pickled recipe for this season, just to have a little stash tucked away for the cooler months to come. 

chipotle chili pepper

Indian pickles are very different from western pickles. They combine a complex mix of flavors and spices. The diversity in flavors can vary from super hot to mild, to sweet to tart, or a combination of all or some. They generally use a bit of oil and some acid and sometimes sugar to preserve the vegetable or fruit that's being pickled. This pickled rhubarb recipe incorporates all of those tastes and preserving agents. Honestly, I wasn't really sure how rhubarb would taste when pickled but amazingly enough it absorbed all the flavors making it very tasty.

Pickled Rhubarb

The end product was tender and sweet, sour, and mildly hot. The rhubarb stalks got soft as they aged and pickled in the vinegar and were ready to eat after a week. This pickle goes delicious in sandwiches with roast meat (beef and lamb), chicken, turkey and even vegetables. It also goes really well with simple meal of rice and fish. Feel free to adjust the recipe quantities, if you want to make more, I made two jars and will probably scale this up once I pick up some more rhubarb (I got a couple of requests to make some more).

Grape vines sprouting back in Spring sweet and sour rhubarb pickle

indian-style sweet and sour pickled rhubarb

yields: two 500 ml jars


8 rhubarb stalks, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 dried chipotle chili pepper, whole
2 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and julienned
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup jaggery or raw brown sugar
2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Cut the rhubarb stalks length-wise in half and then cut them into 4 inch pieces. Divide them equally into two clean sterile canning jars. Keep covered with a clean sterile cloth or paper towel.
2. Heat up a thick bottomed-sauce pan on a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and heat till the oil. When the oil is hot (but not smoky), slice the chipotle pepper in half and add it with the seeds into the hot oil. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and immediately add the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek seeds. (If anything burns toss the oil out and begin again). 
3. Carefully add the jaggery and stir continuously. The jaggery will melt and being to caramelize a little in the oil. Slowly fold in the vinegar (be careful at this stage) and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Cook the liquid for another minute or two. Switch the stove off and add the salt (taste the liquid to make sure the salt and sweetness is enough and adjust accordingly. Do not add water at any stage, just add more vinegar). 
4. Pour the hot liquid along with the spices into jars containing the rhubarb. Place one chipotle pepper in each jar. Seal with sterile lids and process for 20 minutes to can. Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Let the pickles age for a week before opening. 

parsi eggplant pickle

savory eggplant pickle

Ever since it arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I've been completely absorbed by my copy of Niloufer Ichaporia King's "My Bombay Kitchen", which is probably one of the best cookbooks that I have read in a while. Niloufer weaves a rich tapestry of story and food to describe one of the most unique and ancient cultures in the world. She walks you through the origins of the Zoroastrian people in Persia and their subsequent migration to the shores of India where they established themselves into the well-respected Parsi community. The book is complete with photographs of her childhood and family along with descriptions of some of the customs and cultural elements. Of course, beyond the amazing collection of recipes, she talks about food and its importance among the Parsi. This book is more than just a cookbook, it is a fascinating account of people, history, culture, and food and it should come as no surprise that this book received the coveted James Beard award in 2008.

eggplant and jaggery

As soon as I came across Niloufer's Parsi eggplant pickle recipe, I felt a strong desire to indulge a little. You see, eggplants are probably one of my favorite vegetables and it was hard to pass up an opportunity like this. This pickle recipe has a bit of everything in it, it is deliciously hot, sweet, sour, and salty. It hits all of the taste buds in the mouth and all the notes of your culinary senses. Pickles are a staple in most Indian meals with a little bit served as an accompaniment to each meal. They can revamp a simple or boring meal into something much more exciting which is exactly what this eggplant pickle does. 

parsi eggplant pickle

Breathing in the delicious aromas from the cumin, fenugreek, and fennel seeds while they sputtered in the hot oils, was heavenly. The flavors get even more bolder once the vinegar and jaggery cook with the eggplant cubes over the stove. Jaggery is a type of raw sugar that can be found at most Indian grocery stores but a lighter variety of brown sugar would do equally well in this pickle. For this particular recipe use fresh eggplants that are not bitter such as the Thai varieties to get a great tasting pickle. I prefer to buy my eggplants on the day I plan to cook them otherwise they get brown and bruised (They ripen very fast once plucked from the plant and will brown even in the refrigerator). Since I made a batch of this pickle, we have eaten it daily with almost every meal possible which makes me worry that maybe I should have made a larger batch!

fenugreekseeds and eggplant pickle

parsi eggplant pickle 

yields: approximately 2 quarts


2 cups vegetable oil like peanut or mustard (I used peanut oil)
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3/4 cup garlic, thinly sliced 
3/4 cup fresh ginger root,  finely julienned and peeled 
2 tablespoons Kashmiri chili powder or any other hot dried red chili powder (cayenne)
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
5 pounds eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (do not peel)
1 cup fresh green/red thai chili peppers, halved
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup jaggery or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt

1. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pan or deep pot on a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot add the fenugreek, cumin, and fennel seeds. The seeds will begin to sputter, immediately reduce the heat to a medium-low flame to prevent the seeds from burning.  
2. Immediately add the garlic and ginger to the oil. Stir till they turn golden in the hot oil. 
3. Add the Kashmiri chili and turmeric powders and cook for 15 seconds.
4. Add the eggplant and halved chili peppers to the hot oil and spices. 
5. Stir in the vinegar and sugar. Stir the contents of the pot carefully, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the contents with a lid. Cook the pickle for one hour with occasional stirring. If the eggplant begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, then add more vinegar (but never add water). 
6. Season the pickle with the salt and adjust the balance of the sweet and sour by adding more jaggery (sugar) and/or vinegar.
7. Transfer the cooled pickle into clean and sterile canning jars. Make sure there is a little bit of oil floating on the surface of the pickle in each jar. Seal the jars and process for 20 minutes (canning time can vary depending on your altitude). 

spiced fig preserves

It's getting chillier by the day and something tells me this winter is going to be a little intense. Thankfully, I have some canning recipes in the works that are helping me stock the pantry up. Yes, I might be surviving on a whole lot of jams and pickles this cold season. I thought my previous post on the poached fig sauce would be the last, but I was so wrong! The last time I came back from my grocery store, a couple of figs magically popped up in my grocery bag. I could have just eaten the entire batch directly but then I knew I would miss them for the rest of the year. So what's one to do but stretch their presence out a little longer, perhaps till the next fig fruiting season? Since canning is my new culinary addiction, I turned to making a sticky and sweet fig preserve with bold flavors that would happily remind me of autumn.

This preserve uses whole figs that have their stems removed but I keep their skins because I like them. If you are not a big fan of the fruit's skin, then by all means peel them off with a paring knife. Use good quality dry spices for this recipe because they will make the preserve taste better. The cinnamon flavor is gentle yet warming but the dry ginger powder gives the figs a delicious and bold zing. Instead of using brown sugar in this recipe (which you most certainly can try), I find honey to be my preferred choice of sweetener for the fig preserve, somehow that marriage between honey and figs is truly blessed. Yeah, I also like to add a bit of booze to everything I cook, so here it is a cup of Riesling. It brings everything together in my opinion without taking away from any of the flavors of the figs. Serve this on top of some thick plain yogurt for breakfast or spread it over buttered bread. You can also serve this with some sharp cheeses at your parties for an appetizer. Remember with this preserve, a little of it goes a long way!

spiced fig preserves


3 cups chopped figs with stems removed
2 cups of a good quality honey
1/4 cup crystallized ginger 
juice of one fresh lemon
1 cup riesling wine (a good quality moscato would also be good here)
1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger powder

1. Put all the ingredients together in thick bottomed saucepan. 
2. Heat on a medium to high flame and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Stir constantly. This should take about 10 minutes. Don't be surprised if the viscosity of the honey decreases and the hot liquid begins to thin, this is absolutely normal. 
3. Mash the figs with a potato masher to release the fruit's pulp. 
4. Reduce the flame to the low setting on the stove's dial. Cook the figs for total time of 1 hour. Stir the mixture once or twice every 5 or 8 minutes. The volume will reduce during the process.
5. Transfer the hot preserves to sterile four, 4 pint jelly jars and seal. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool for another 5 minutes in the water bath before removing to cool and store.

Here is the label that I designed for this set of jams, feel free to use them as needed. Click on the image to the right to download the label pdf.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table   

Update: The recipe has been updated to reflect the addition of the lemon juice.

blueberry chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

Summer has ended and here I am in the kitchen trying to seal every bit of my memories in glass jars that will remind me of the good and happy times. This past summer was etched with fun trips, great family visits, and new experiences. New recipes and tastes to be tried and savored and my blog completed its first year. This is also my first summer of canning and preserving and I will admit that it is very addictive. The summer harvest was as generous with its bounty as it was with its experiences and I took full advantage, especially the fruit. Yup, you might have noticed that I'm always leaning towards the sweeter end of things.

Chocolate chips

So here I am sharing a story of how I combined possibly two of the best ingredients that will remind me of a wonderful summer. Deep and dark chocolate with rich sweet blueberries all tucked away in a jar waiting to be opened and remind me of the warm sweet summer. I will admit, I was a little nervous about this jam, chocolate can be a bit overpowering when it comes to blueberries and a more concentrated flavor is needed to balance both the berries and the chocolate. The splash of citrus juices will help fortify the blueberries and they will hold their own against the chocolate. I added a little bit of pectin to quicken the jam process because chocolate gets scalded easily and you don't want to end up with a burned product. Burned chocolate is no fun. All in all, this is one jam that must be shared. Spread it on buttered bread slices for breakfast, drizzle it on pancakes, slap it on grilled pound cake, or anything else you could concoct at the moment. Gulping a spoonful always works too!

Note: Some cooks recommend dissolving the pectin first before adding it to the liquid. I added a teaspoon at a time and did not have a problem combining it into the jam. Also, I've made this jam a few times and stored it over a period of one year, it appears that the acidity is enough for it to be canned. You can also reduce the amount and make enough jam to store for a shorter period in the refrigerator.

This recipe was adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.

blueberry and chocolate jam

blueberry chocolate jam

yields: 12 individual 4 ounce canning jars


3 cups sugar
3 pints wild blueberries (I used frozen, fresh is perfectly fine too)
10 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate chips
juice of one lemon, fresh (no pulp)
juice of one lime, fresh (no pulp)
10 ml orange juice, fresh (no pulp)
5 teaspoons fruit pectin powder

1. Mix the sugar and blueberries in a large pot and cook on a medium flame. (If you use frozen blueberries then use the juices too.) Macerate the blueberries during this period with a masher and stir occasionally. Cook for about 10-12 minutes till the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the entire mixture through a ricer or sieve and process to remove all the skins. You might have some tiny seeds that seep through the ricer/sieve, that is perfectly fine. Squeeze as much pulp and juice as you can. 
2. Add the pureed blueberry syrup into a pot and bring it a gentle simmer on a small flame. Stir in the chocolate chips. At this stage you need to stir the mixture continuously to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. 
3. Add the lemon, lime and orange juices to the mixture. Stir continuously for 15 minutes. Add the pectin to the mixture, a teaspoon at a time. Mix till it is completely combined. Perform the wrinkle test to make sure that the jam is ready to set. (Wrinkle test: Take a tablespoon of the hot mixture and smear it on a clean plate. Put the plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. When you remove it, run your finger through the center, the gel should wrinkle on the surface. This indicates that your jam is ready to gel). For some reason if your jam is not ready to gel, cook for another 5 minutes, take it off from the stove and repeat the wrinkle test. It took me two wrinkle tests to get the right consistency. Pour the jam into 12 clean 4 ounce canning jars and process for 10 minutes. 

Update: I recently designed some labels for my jars and thought I would share them with you. Do let me know what you think of them. Just note that each label is about 2 inches wide.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table