Tomato relish

28 April 2009
While there are many elements in a simple life, one of the important and helpful parts of ours, is that Hanno and I have both taught ourselves how to make many of the things we once bought. This wasn't a big stretch for us because we were both brought up in the age before supermarkets and sliced bread, when food was commonly made from scratch and we all made the best of what we had. We tried to forget that heritage and the life skills our past had taught us but now we're back on track and those memories help us almost everyday with what we want to do now.

I think one of our successes is that we have learnt how to combine our garden with our stockpile, pantry and grocery shopping. Now, instead of buying our sauces, mayonnaise, dressings etc, I make them from scratch with our home grown produce and store them for use in the fridge and stockpile cupboard. This not only helps us save money, but it also gives us healthier food with no preservatives. Slowly, we are regaining our independence and becoming more self-reliant.

Last weekend I made enough tomato relish to see us through the next few months. When I say relish, I mean not only a condiment that is used to add flavour on the plate, but also a sauce to add to cooking, on pizza tops, as a quick pasta sauce or to make a very tasty sharp cheese and relish sandwich. There really isn't a recipe for this because I change it every time I make it to suit what is growing in the garden at that time. This time is was:
  • Enough chopped tomatoes to fill a large pot - maybe 3 - 4 kgs (6 - 7lbs)
  • 4 large onions - chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes or one medium chilli - this depends on whether you like a spicy relish. Leave it out if you don't.
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups good quality vinegar - I used red wine vinegar
You will have to taste this as you cook it to make sure you like the taste. Take a tablespoon of sauce out and let it rest in a saucer to cool, then taste it. Learn to rely on your own judgement, changing recipes is one of the true joys of cooking. You might need to add more salt and pepper, more vinegar or more sugar, depending on your taste. You could also add any number of herbs or spices you like. The important parts are the sugar and vinegar, don't change those too much because they help preserve the food.

Put all the above in a large pot and slowly bring to the boil with the lid on. Then take the lid off and let it slowly boil for about 3 -4 hours. You want the volume to reduce by about one quarter. The longer you cook it, the more liquid will evaporate off and the thicker the sauce will be.

When it's cooked down to the consistency you want, remove from the heat and bottle it into clean glass jars or bottles that have been pre-heated. Fill the containers right to the top allowing only a small amount of headspace (this is the space between the top of the sauce and the top of the container). Turn the hot jars upside down and leave to cool overnight, then store in the fridge. Wait for a week for the flavours to develop before eating.

OR ... if you want to store the sauce for a long time, process in a water bath according to the instructions on your unit.

The amount I made in the photo will do us (with two small jars to give away) for about two months and it's fine to store it in the fridge for that amount of time. The addition of the sugar and vinegar help preserve the food.

Lis asked a question last week about whether it is safe to bottle up tomatoes. Lis, the newer varieties of tomatoes tend to be low acid and this poses a problem for the home bottler because successful water bath preserving relies on high acid food. Generally the heirloom tomatoes contain enough acid but the addition of the vinegar in this recipe overcomes that problem anyway. Other tomato recipes you might like to try could be helped with the addition of either lemon juice or citric acid. If you're not sure, just do up enough to last for a couple of months and keep them in the fridge, instead of processing them in the water bath and storing in the cupboard.


  1. This looks like a great recipe. When my tomatoes are in full bloom, I'll give this recipe a try.

  2. That looks great, Rhonda - thanks for sharing. I'll come back to that recipe when we get some tomatoes from our garden this coming summer as we always get more than we can eat fresh.

    Love the blog as always!


  3. Good morning Rhonda,

    It is so satisfying cooking from scratch and something that we should all be learning to do. I've never added curry powder to my tomatoes sauce so will have to try this. We have just had a huge refurbishment at one of the big chain supermarkets here where we live and I must say I really dread going down there to shop. So looking forward growing our own produce again. The commercialism is really getting to us both now. I can't believe the amount of packaging goes into everything we need to buy. eg Does our toothpaste really need to come in a box as well as the well sealed tube? What happened to the old Produce Store where you could buy bulk and use your own container? OH, I could go on and on.
    Have a great day.

    Blessings Gail

  4. Hi Rhonda, I make 24 pints of this every summer. The only thing I do different is to add 25 or 30 banana peppers ground up. We especially partial to it with cooked dried beans.

  5. We always made relishes and chutneys but never using the waterbath method. We simply boiled them up and stored them in the pantry. Perhaps we used more sugar and vinegar and therefore had no problems with food deterioration or the threat of food poisoning. Can't wait for you next blog.

  6. now i really can't wait to harvest my garden. i am definitely making this sauce. i make my own ketchup so this is very similar. i like the addition of curry powder. my ketchup comes out different each time i make it because of what i have available. joyce

  7. Hello ladies!

    Peggy, I like the sound of that sauce with beans. I think we'll have to try that.

    Melissa, yes sauces with vinegar and sugar were usually not processed but in these modern times everything seems to be processed/pasturised to within an inch of its life and processing is now recommended for cupboard storage. I would be quite comfortable eating homemade, cupboard-stored sauce and relish but I'm not comfortable recommending other do the same. ;- )

    Have a lovely day, everyone. I'm off to work now.

  8. I'll have to try this recipe in a couple of week. Thanks!

    1. Can you explain how you use ezy sauce as a base. Thank you

  9. Dearest Rhonda,
    My grandmother taught me to make tomato relish, she always used Wilds Ezy-Sauce as the relish base. (can be purchased from most supermarkets in Australia). She had used his product for years. I find it gives the relish a great taste. I store mine in the pantry & haven't had a problem so far but wonder if I should store in fridge?
    I enjoy your blog so much Rhonda.
    Take care & God bless

  10. this post reminded me of the delicious home made mayonnaise that my Auntie Elsie use to make.. condensed milk and vinegar I think.. it was delicious.

    do you chickens go off the lay at this time of year? they do here as they go through their moult. no eggs :(

  11. Hi Rhonda,
    In this recipe, could you leave out the sugar?


  12. Yum, I love tomato relish! Mum used to make it years ago and now I have found a lady who makes the same tasting recipe and she sells it at our local farmers market. I enjoy it on hot buttered toast or with cold corned beef. Delish! Next summer I will try and make some myself - I know an Italian gentleman who has good tomatoes.

    Cheers - Joolz

  13. OOOh that looks so good!!!!
    I'm sort of confused though...if I made this and don't have a canning unit, the jars would be okay in the fridge for 2 weeks? Sorry if I'm seeming kinda lame here, but I just wanted to make sure. :o)

  14. Melissa, I haven't heard of ezy-sauce. Is it similar to Fowler's jamsetta and saucesetta? If the sauce has been fine in the cupboard, keep it there. Your grandma obviously has her recipe down pat with the right balance of vinegar and sugar.

    Miss R, our chooks ar starting to slow down with the eggs. They usually lay all through winter though. I give them warm porridge to help the process along.

    Colleen, I'm not sure about the sugar. You could try it. It will be sour with no sugar to counterbalance the vinegar though.

    Kristen, the relish will keep at least two weeks in the fridge. We keep ours for two months in our fridge.

  15. I can't wait (but I have to!) for ripe tomatoes from our garden.....Or farmers markets in our area. My brother in law and his family are one of the only ones who actually had a huge garden when the kids were growing up and arranged their diet (which was closely based on traditional Hungarian cooking) to use their produce. It's challenging to make your menues so that you don't waste what you have raised!

  16. Peggy's comment made me realize that it has been a long time since I've made the traditional Hungarian savanyusag - which just means sourness.....It is semi-hot peppers stuffed with sourkraut and canned with mostly vinegar and mustard seed........I love it! So great in the winter.

  17. I make a similar tomato relish too.
    When our sons were growing up they loved it on beans of all kind. Like..pinto beans.
    It is also a great way to get children to eat their vegetables.

    P.S. I have just recently found your site and I am enjoying it so much.


  18. Homemade tomato sauce is so good. I like the idea of adding curry powder. Thanks for that idea.
    I am trying to be so patient..about planting my garden but the weather really has to warm up first!

  19. I wanted to learn how to can my tomatoes last year, but the season got away from me. This spring someone offered me a large quantity of canning jars and I gladly accepted! I am looking forward to canning my tomatoes this year and this looks like a wonderful recipe. Do you know of any online resources to learn more about canning foods? Which things are good to can and which aren't? Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  20. I got plenty of tomatoes to go into the garden only if it would warm up.
    Your relish real looks great do you every do salsa or not?

    Coffee is on.

  21. Ezy Sauce is a liquid you use to add the spices to the sauce - saves having to store and measure out all the separate spices. It comes in what looks like a stubby beer bottle, so I guess it must have some vinegar or something in it as well. It always turns up in South Australian supermarkets in summer. My mum always used this in her home-made tomato sauce, which we used to have with her home-made cornish pasties. Yum. We had a "pastie-fest" here a few weeks ago - it makes a lot of mess, mincing your own meat and vegetables, making home-made pastry, the works, but so worthwhile. Home made pasties are delicious.

  22. perfect timing! overflowing with tomatoes! already made a few big batches of puree, i think theres is probably another 30kg to come before frosts start!
    thanks from south west australia!

  23. Hi Rhonda, I just love tomato relish, yum! Yours looks very tasty.

    For miss*R this is the dressing my grandmother used to make. I found it in my old Commensense Cookery Book.

    1/4 teaspoon mustard
    1 level teaspoon salt
    1 level dessertspoon sugar
    1 teaspoon lucca oil(if liked)
    1/2 gill vinegar
    2 tablespoons milk
    1 dessertspoon condensed milk.

    1. Mix mustard, salt, sugar, and condensed milk together.
    2. Add oil a few drops at a time.
    3. Add milk and vinegar last, very gradually.

    1 gill = 5 ozs or 140 mls.
    I don't know what lucca oil is but I would use olive oil.

    Cheers, Karen near Bundaberg

    1. Since this is a very old posting/comment, I doubt that the commenter will read this, but I just wanted to say that Lucca is a beautiful place in Tuscany, Italy that produces delicious olive oil. So maybe the recipe is simply suggesting using oil from this area?? So the commenter is really spot on when she says that she would just use olive oil since she doesn't know what lucca oil is...

      Linda near Rome, Italy

  24. Hi RJ

    Thanks for answering my questions :)I really appreciate the time and effort you put into your blog. As you know I am a long time reader and an avid fan of all that you do. You truly are someone who inspires me. I look forward to trying your recipe. Now I just have to find some tomatoes worth bottling!

  25. This looks delicious Rhonda. Thank you so much for sharing. It comes at just the right time for me as I am trying top steer clear of store bought bottled sauces (I've just discovered that my favorite sauce, Barilla, contains genetically modified ingredients). While I don't usually buy pre made foods, this sauce was my frugal luxury. Alas, those days are over and I've committed to making my own, not only to save money but to ensure a purer food source. Also, I love that you can put these into the 'fridge for a few months and not fret about the processing. Brilliantly simple, as always, and much appreciated.

  26. stephanie from texasApril 28, 2009 11:41 pm

    Can you tell me how long you usually feed new chicks starter? when do you introduce greens and scraps?
    Thank You
    Stephanie from Texas

  27. This looks yummy, thanks for the recipe.

    This is completely off topic but I thought you or your readers might know the answer. I have two freshwater aquariums and wondered if I could use the water from the water exchange in my garden? If you don't know about aquariums you draw off about a third of the water and then replace with fresh water. The drawn water has lots of fish goo in it and it occured to me maybe that would be good for watering instead of going down the drain! Anyone know?
    Becky WV

  28. Will definitely try this! I have never heard of tomato relish before, what a great idea! Thanks for posting!

  29. Hi Rhonda,
    What strikes me over and over as I visit your blog is that the skills you write so lovingly of are ones many of us over 60 learned at our Mother's apron-side. It just never occurred to me that knowing how to do these things was a valuable skill. In the years when we were young women with families "valuable skills" were typing 50 wpm or taking a patient's blood pressure. Your "homemaking" skills were looked on with disdain, and making instead of buying was considered a sign that you were a "cheapskate".

    Thanks for affirming again that which our mothers and grandmothers knew. Taking care of family and home are worthwhile and valuable pursuits.

  30. This looks so good. I am saving the recipe for when we harvest our tomatoes.

    Thank you for your inspiration. I love your blog and have gleaned so much information from it. We are on our way!

  31. I am definitely trying to do this come summer! That looks wonderful!

  32. I just found your blog last week, and I love it. My mother taught me so many homemaking skills growing up that I truly appreciate and now you're helping me add to my list. It's amazing to me how many people my age (36)aren't interested in learning how to do these types of things themselves. My husband and I truly enjoy making homemade jams and growing our own berries. I hope to start a small garden this year too. Thanks for such wonderful information!

  33. Thanks Karen.

    Stephanie, I feed chick starter until my chickens are well and truly integrated. Starter contains a mild antibiotic, so it protects the younger birds from disease. Generally, younger chooks are most prone to disease. So that might be 2 weeks or two months, depending on if I notied any problems.

    I introduce greens as soon as possible. Chooks tend to eat what they know, so introducing unusual food early is the best way to get them eating a wide variety of food. Put in a few lettuce or cabbage leaves and if they don't eat them remove them the next day. Put fresh ones in for a week or so, and slowly they peck at it, they're quite curious creatures.

    Becky, most definitely use your fish water on the garden. It contains valuable nutrients. If you click on my aquaponics posts, (on the side bar), you'll see how we raised fish and organic vegetables in the same system.

  34. Dearest Rhonda,
    Not sure if the ezy-sauce is the same as the other sauces you mentioned. Here is the receipe that was on the bottle
    (I always used half of his receipe as it makes heaps)
    Place 8.5kg ripe tomatoes, peeled & sliced; 3kg onions, sliced; & 2 tlbs salt into a dish. Stand for 12 hours, then empty into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Add
    3kg sugar, 1 bottle ezy-sauce, then 4 tlbs curry powder mixed with sufficient water to form a thin paste. Boil gently uncovered for approx 2 1/2 hours or until a thick spooning consistency. Mix 1 cup plain flour with sufficient water to make a smooth paste. Add to pan whilst stirring continuously. Cook for a further 15min. Fill into hot sterilised jars & seal.
    ( I assume the ezy-sauce takes place of the vinegar)
    (Nan used this receipe for years and had great success)

    Take care Rhonda & thanks for inspiring me so much!

  35. This looks great. I am growing about 40 tomato plants this year and hope to have enough to get us through a long tomato free winter!

  36. Hi Rhonda,
    Do you think it works the same using raw cane sugar? My husband does not do well with white sugar, but we do love tomatoes.


  37. It should work with raw sugar, Natalie. However, you'll probably need to skim the scum off the top of the sauce as it's cooking. Otherwise, no problems, love.

  38. hello Rhonda, how do you know if your bottled tomatoes or relish has gone into the "dangerous" territory! Does it smell terribly or taste bad? I just want to be certain that I am not going to contribute to my family getting sick.
    Thank you so much for a great blog.

  39. I am new to this blog and am so glad to have found it!!! I have felt comforted and empowered after reading your blog. You have a wonderfully comforting style of writing. I have never been to a blog regularly and have NEVER posted anything before this. Thank you for taking the time to mentor and encourage others.


  40. Oh, I am so excited. I have two tomato plants in my backyard and they are showing great promise. This "recipe" looks delicious. I must remember to take pictures so I can report my own progress in canning and preserving.

  41. Rhonda,

    Thank you for the recipe!! I made it for a Holiday spread over cream cheese with crackers. It went over so well that I gave it for Christmas to the office staff and neighbors. I saved myself a couple of jars, so I had to make more after Christmas. I've found it to be soooo good on alot of dishes--- to flavor soup, sandwich spread, mixed in with sauce for pasta. I had never used curry before, guess it was my mid-west upbringing. It has become a "can't be without" in my pantry. Thanks, Cindy

  42. Rhonda first of all, I wish Hanno a swift recovery from his chainsaw injury. They are dangerous tools to handle and I always feared for my father's safety when he uses it.
    Second, I have made the relish halving the doses and using MY pineapple vinegar made using your advice... It's awesome! Thank you for the recipe, I love it!!!
    All the best, vanessa

  43. We never make tomato relish here in India but I would love to try and use it in our dishes like make a fusion but I would like to know what it goes well with?

    1. I use it in our curries but mostly with ham, steak or scrambled eggs. It's very versatile, it goes with almost everything.

  44. Good Morning,

    I am wondering if it is possible to put the saucepan in the fridge until my husband can bring down my glass jars. It could be about 5 days?

    Your advice will be appreciated.

    Thanking you,

    Lisa Williams

    1. Lisa, I've never done that before but I think it would be okay but you'd have to do a couple of things. When you have your jars, put the relish on the stove again and bring it up to the boil again. Simmer for about five minutes, then add to HOT sterilised jars.



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