Friday, October 17, 2008

green tomato mincemeat

This post is for Sue, who has green tomatoes, and Anna, who is bored. Also, for anyone in Victoria, because it was a weird year for tomatoes and apparently there is a surplus of green ones. You could chance it and leave them on the vine because part of the weirdness is that the blight hasn't hit yet, but it won't be long. Really. I know we all thought that in September, but this can't go on forever.

So. Here's the recipe:

2 quarts chopped, cored green tomatoes. (A quart is 4 cups, to save you the trouble of looking that up)
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp grated orange zest (about 2 oranges)
1 tbsp grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
2/3 cup peeled seeded chopped orange and lemon (The observant among you will notice that this is not as much as 2 lemons and 2 oranges would provide - in fact yes you ARE left with a zested lemon and a zested orange at the end of all this. I suggest juicing the orange and making a child happy, and having a hot rum yourself with the lemon.)
2 1/2 quarts peeled chopped apples (cores removed, duh) This is about 8 large apples.
1 lb raisins or currants (currants are nicer)
3 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped suet (yeah, you need this. Don't worry, it won't taste like beef. It's in the frozen meat section at the supermarket, near the ducks you possibly didn't know were there either. If you buy chicken nuggets regularly, near there. DO NOT USE THE KIND THEY SELL FOR BIRDS. And no I don't have any, I used the rest of it in my batch.)

Chop then salt the tomatoes in a large collander. Set aside for an hour (or, if you're me, read the recipe to figure out what you're missing and head to the store while the tomatoes are salting). This removes some of the moisture and most of the bitterness from the tomatoes, plus adds some flavour.

Rinse the tomatoes really well (a good way to do this is to cover them with warm water for a few minutes then drain). Combine tomatoes with all the other ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Don't cook too long past the boil unless you like your mincemeat more homogeneous - that is, mushy rather than chunky.

Place in canning jars and process for 25 minutes at 10 lbs. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you could probably do a water bath process for an hour or so... but don't blame me if you get botulism.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The problem with government

As someone who has worked in government for many years (note: Rachel, Sarah's sister, is writing this. Don't go thinking that Sarah has a secret bureaucratic life.), and as most of the work I have done lately has involved procuring regulatory approvals for construction projects, I have spent far too much time trying to explain to project staff and contractors why they should comply with what often seem like silly or arbitrary measures imposed on them by regulatory or assessment bodies. Alternatively, I have spent a lot of time arguing with said regulatory or assessment bodies that the imposed measures are uncalled for or otherwise an offence to reality and common sense. What does this have to do with Food and Stuff you ask? See this link to a BBC article about a ban on Marmite in a Welsh school due to Marmite's high salt content. This is a perfect example of the difficult balance between good intentions and responsible government, and a realistic and sensible application of said good intentions and responsible government. Yes, it is great to ban processed foods; however, anyone who has ever eaten Marmite will know that a person who can consume enough it in one sitting to be negatively affected by the salt content probably has something wrong with them anyways and we should let natural selection take its course. The same goes for ketchup, which has also been banned. I am not someone who believes that government has no role in regulating such things; anyone who thinks that people always behave rationally and in thier own best interest has not looked up from their first year economics text book in a while. There are limits and trouble with implementation however, and this is a good example.