26 January 2015

The best fast tomato relish recipe

Although I was busy on the weekend with this, that and the other, I wanted to make tomato relish to go with the corned beef I'd just cooked for our week's cold cuts. I thought about it for a while and decided that if I took a couple of shortcuts, I could make a decent relish in about 30 minutes, or close to it, of actual work. I checked my stockpile cupboard to see if I had the makings, and yes, I did. Octonauts to the kitchen pod immediately!

It's difficult to streamline preserving recipes because they need the time for the jars to sterilise and on the stovetop simmering while developing flavours. I'm not a fan of microwaved jams and relishes, this is as close as I get to a fast preserving recipe. My stockpile ingredient that made it all possible were four large (440 gram) cans of diced Australian tomatoes. When I knew I had them on hand, I knew I could cook and bottle the relish in the time I had allowed myself. There would be no washing and peeling of tomatoes, no cutting, just take the lid off and pour. I prefer to make relish with fresh tomatoes but I'd rather have this home made relish than no relish, so I just got on with it. Often, close enough is good enough.

Above: the vegetable, spice and vinegar mix, cooking.
Below: and then four large cans of diced tomatoes were added.

I got my Maslin pan on the stove, cut up five smallish onions, a couple of cloves of garlic, one hot chilli, finely diced with half the seeds, the green head of a new bunch of celery, finely chopped, one  finely chopped red capsicum, salt, pepper and two teaspoons of good quality curry powder. If you have no curry powder, use a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of turmeric. Add a dash of cooking oil and sauté the vegetables and spice for about five minutes, stirring frequently. You want everything toasted, not dark brown. Instead of using the vegetables I used, use what you have in the garden or fridge. Zucchini, eggplant, more peppers, whatever is on hand will do in a relish, but I do think relish must have onions. Overall though, this is a good recipe for using excess vegetables.

Add the four tins of tomatoes, stir thoroughly, add ¾cup of balsamic vinegar (or any good quality vinegar) and ¾ cup of sugar (brown or white). Stir everything together, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about an hour.  Stir the relish during the hour to make sure it's not burning.

The beauty of the maslin pan is that it allows ingredients to cook without burning, due to the thick base, and the wide top allows steam to easily escape. This assists in giving you a thick relish because much of the water in the tomatoes will evaporate off.  If you don't have a maslin pan, use a large saucepan with the widest top you have.

Twenty minutes before the relish will be ready, place washed, wide-mouthed jars in the oven to sterilise. The lids need to be boiled for ten minutes. The jars should be sitting open side up. Set the oven to 150C/300F and allow to heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove the jars from the oven, being careful not to touch the inside.

So the payoff for 30minutes work and about $10 worth of ingredients: nine jars of homemade tomato relish that will serve us well in the months to come. 

With the relish hot in the pan and the jars hot from the oven, use a canning funnel or jug to fill the jars. When the jars are full to the brim, use a tea towel to put on the lids and tighten. Turn all the jars upside down and leave them on the kitchen bench to cool overnight. If you sterilised the jars and lids properly and filled them with just boiled relish, the sugar and vinegar will help preserve them in the cupboard for about six months. I think the taste deteriorates after that. If you're not sure of your method, store the jars in the fridge. They'll keep very nicely for a few months.

I just checked the online Woolworths to see how much commercial relish goes for these days. It's anywhere between $3.71 and $7.51 for the Jamie Oliver jar. Pffffffft!  So if I were to buy these nine jars it would have cost me somewhere between $33.39 and $67.51. Mine took 30 minutes to make and cost about $10 for all nine jars. And I can tell you this with no doubt, my friends, mine tastes much better than anything mass produced, and I don't care what name they put on it. :- )

Tomato relish is a tasty addition to sandwiches, especially those with meat or cheese. It's excellent as a sauce for BBQed meats, chicken and fish. It's delicious with scrambled eggs or an omelette. If you have no tomato sauce, use the relish as the base layer on your homemade pizzas. It's certainly worthwhile giving 30 minutes to this very versatile relish. Of course it can be eaten the next day but if you leave it to mature for a couple of weeks, the relish will benefit from your patience.

What are your relish, chutney and sauce shortcuts?



  1. So does that mean you don't have to boil the jars in water to seal them if you put them upside down? Also you mentioned fill the jars to the brim...do you leave a little head room. I'm still not a confident preserver. I made strawberry jam on Friday and used the method of putting the jars upside down. regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    1. That's right, Kathy. As long as you used sterilised jars and lids, then hot filled them and sealed all jars immediately to prevent the introduction of new bacteria or fungi, they should be right for the cupboard. Headroom, yes. almost, but not quite to the top of the jar. Inverting the jars helps create a good seal and the hot jam on the lid ensures the lids are sterile.

    2. I make my own tomato relish when I have the tomatoes either home grown or reasonably priced but didn't think of using tinned ones. Love your recipe, I must try it. Thanks Rhonda

  2. Hi Rhonda

    My shortcut is cherry tomatoes. These grow wild in our garden and I pick and rinse them and freeze 1kg quantities in a double layer of recycled bread bags. When I want to make tomato sauce (ketchup) at any time during the year I simply use however many kilos of tomatoes I need straight from the freezer. I never peel or diced them and it works perfectly.

    The recipe I use is from Sally Wise's book, "A Year in a Bottle" and is also on my blog.

    Have an enjoyable Australia Day, whatever you are doing.

    Best wishes.

    1. We have similar wild tomatoes here. I should try your sauce, thanks Fairy.

  3. Your relish sounds delicious Rhonda! This post is the perfect inspiration for me to get cracking and hit my kitchen to make something yummy with all those Plums I have here.

    1. Tammy, I made plum jam a couple of weeks ago.

      1kg of plums, 1kg of sugar and 1 cup of water. Boil together until it reaches setting point. Bottle in sterilised jars. Put the plums in whole - no cutting or peeling. Just remember to count the plum so you know how many seeds to fish out. :)

      My husband is a plum jam connoisseur and he loves it.

    2. sounds delish......maybe someone has a recipe for Plum sauce you could try.

  4. Thanks for the lovely post and the opportunity think about what, how and why I am doing what I am doing.

    When bottling pineapple pieces, the skin is scrubbed, rinsed and then peeled. The skin and the core are covered with water and brought to a boil. This liquid is strained through a coffee filter or fine cheese cloth and used as the liquid over the pineapple pieces, instead of making a syrup. The excess liquid is strained and bottled off as juice. The juice can be consumed as a light fruit juice or mixed with other juices as a flavor extender or light sweetener.

    Knowing what is in the bottle is a wonderful comfort, too – no additives, preservatives, etc. and depending on the source, it may be 100% organically raised, as well. The bottled pineapple needs to be consumed within a year in our hot humid climate or the flavor begins to deteriorate. Hot pack and hot water bath methods have provided the basis for the most consistent results and longest preservation across the spectrum of food material I have worked with and products made.

    Making your own preserved food products allows you to choose so many options: ingredients, cut and size of pieces, type of liquid used, spices/flavourings, size of bottle/container, and end products. The latitude for speciality preserved products is unlimited!!

    About 30 years ago, I started to do my bottling by cooking the tomato mixture over a fire hearth made from an old oil drum [the stove in the rental unit did not produce enough heat to safely do the “canning”]. Distribution into the bottles was done on an outdoor washstand table covered by washed and bleached feed bags. The slightly smoky aroma of the bottled tomatoes and relishes was something I liked. A cast iron campstove (as efficient as the fire hearth) now nicely does the requisite heating in minimal time in the much cleaner and more easily controlled confines of my kitchen.

    1. Lovely comment, thanks for sharing your experiences.

  5. Off topic but Rhonda I wanted to let you know some of your recipes featured in my weekend :) A good friend and I both have kids starting back at school this week, and we have both gotten into freezing snacks for their lunch boxes, so we had a big baking afternoon together on Saturday. We did double batches of your 100 biscuits and your chocolate/yoghurt cake (made up as little muffins) made with some home made Greek yoghurt. We'd never made the yoghurt cake before but it is delicious! We also did some pizza scrolls and a big batch of pikelets. Our freezers are looking very well stocked, and we had a lovely afternoon sharing ideas and having fun while our husbands kept an eye on the kids :)

    Thank you so much for sharing recipes, and for helping to inspire people like my friend and I to bake from scratch and find joy in doing it. Being a housewife and stay at home Mum can get a bad wrap, but having a community and friends that you can be yourself with is so appreciated.

    1. And what a wonderful off-topic topic it is! Larissa, I couldn't stop smiling while I read your comment. I could picture you two girls having fun, baking, talking, planning in the kitchen. It's such lovely feedback to know that I've help you both organise your snack for back to school. I'm sure the kids will love those snack, just as you both will when you can provide them by simple going to the freezer. Well done, love. I hope the year is a good one for you and your family.

  6. Hi Rhonda, I made your 5-minute bread yesterday. I haven't made bread before but it worked really well, thank you. Happy Australia day.

  7. Well done, they look lovely.
    I still use recipes from both my grandmothers for tomato sauce and tomato chutney and I agree..... Nothing store bought can come close as far as taste goes!

  8. I love the collection of tomato chutneys and relishes I have in the fridge.
    Tomato chutney on home-made steak burgers - yum!
    Or a Tomato and Peach Chutney with cold roast chicken - equally yum.
    But my favourite is Sally Wise's Tomato Chilli Pickles.
    It is sooooo delicious.
    Great with some Jatz and Cheese.
    I'm making myself hungry talking about it.

    The recipe is here if anyone is so inclined to whip up a batch - you won't regret it!
    (ps - not trying to promote my blog, it's been dormant for years - just wanted to share the link to the recipe).

  9. Have a Happy Australia Day, Rhonda. I haven't made tomato relish before. Yours looks great and easy to make. I am not sure what a Maslin pan is. Perhaps it is like the Rena Ware I use which is now over forty years old!

    1. A maslin pan is a pot for making preserves, chel. It has no lid, a handle - like a bucket handle, a pouring lip and an encapsulated base so you can hold a rolling boil for a long time without the contents burning.

  10. I live at 5,500 feet, in an area with very little rain. My high-desert garden is not great for growing cucumbers, but I can grow zucchini here easily. I've found that most pickle or relish recipes calling for cucumbers can be made just as well with zucchini. The zucchini sweet relish is awesome!

  11. Thank you for the recipe, tomato relish is on my 'to do' list for the week!

  12. Sorry my last comment didn't work out. If I half the quantity of this or the fresh tomato relish recipe do you just half the amount of vinegar and sugar?

  13. Happy (belated) Australia Day!

    Your relish looks absolutely delicious, far superior (I'm sure) to the more-expensive store-bought stuff.

  14. That looks lovely, I will give that recipe a try! Thanks for sharing :)

  15. Thanks for posting this Rhonda - it looks gorgeous.

    I'm a total newbie to preserving as the sterilising process has always scared me - I'm so sure I'll mess it up, and I'll end up poisoning someone!

    So just a couple of questions about the sterilising process to clarify - hopefully not too daft:
    1. do you preheat the oven and then add the jars for 15-20 mins?
    2. how do you safely remove the lids from the pot of boiling water without contaminating them?
    3. I see you've re-used the commercially produced jam jars with the checked lid (love that jam!). Is it ok to re-use those lids or do you need to buy new ones?

    Many thanks Rhonda. I just love your blog and thanks to you I'm revisiting those skills I learned as a teenager and foolishly abandoned for the last 30 years. And I'm loving it :)

    Cheers, Jane

    1. Hi Jane, I hope you try this. Just think why you would do each step so you understand it. It's easier then.
      1. yes, preheat, you want the jars at 150 or so for 15 - 20 minutes.
      2. I tilt the lid on the saucepan a bit, pour off the water and tip the lids onto a clean tea towel. If they fall the wrong way, flip them with a knife. If you don't think you can do that, sterilise a pair of tongs in the same saucepan, with the handle poking out, and pick up the handle with a tea towel, using the sterile ends only to touch the lids.
      4. Some people advise to buy new lids but I've been reusing lids for many years with no bad affects. Just make sure any lids (or jar) is completely clear of damage, rust, dents
      etc. Anything damaged in NOT suitable.

      Good luck.

  16. Rhonda, this recipe looks so good and making it with tinned tomatoes is a great choice for me here in the very cold midwest usa winter! The thing I love about this recipe is that I have 2 other of your tomato relish recipes; they are close but not exactly the same. It reminds me that you can change recipes around some based on what you have on hand (as long as in canning the acidity and sugar levels are not messed with). Thanks for sharing!


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