Mrs Davies' Tomato Chutney

Bessie Pearl, Grandma & Aunty Pam outside house in Scarborough

I love that the girls are all sitting there, outside the house, posing for this photo! It makes me laugh to remember how proud Grandma was of her well-manicured front. This house is on a fairly busy road in Perth, Western Australia - and now (to keep out noise and for a little privacy, I have no doubt) it is hidden by trees and shrubs. After Grandma sold the house, the next owners did that, and Grandma always hated it.  I still drive past that house often whenever I am back home, and say to myself "there's Grandma's house". It is on the way to the beach, and on top of a hill. When you come to the top of the hill, there's her house, and then over the hill and you can see the gleaming waters of the Indian Ocean - the first glimpse you get coming from the river. I cannot express the nostalgia I get on that little piece of road, it is sort of like my life comes flooding back to me. Eating fish & chips, catching the bus to town, going for walks, my Pop's tomatoes in the backyard. And later, when I lived very close to that house, the wonderful beach and times with friends, my first love, and an attachment to that road where her house was, that lead to the beach.

I made Mrs Davies' Tomato Chutney the other day, and it gave me the very same sensation as driving past Grandma's house to the beach. As soon as I set it on the stove to boil, the smell (as smell often does) took me back to Grandma. I know she made this. This whole exercise has really brought Grandma to my mind often, and has somehow given me a sense of grounding that I feel I have lost in moving to another country. I am pretty nostalgic and sentimental at the best of times, and have enjoyed 'spending time' with Grandma. Because she is there! I can hear her talking to me, - what she would say to me when I was getting cranky over having to 'mince' fruit without any appliance except for a knife! (MUST invest in a food processor! It took me ages!).

It is wonderful to think that she used to make this chutney which was in her mother's recipe book. Which was written as "Mrs Davies' Tomato Chutney" - who, I am guessing, was my Grandma's Grandma (Bessie Pearl's married name was Davies, so in my imagination Mrs Davies is her mother-in-law? Surely she wouldn't call herself Mrs Davies in her own recipe book? Although I don't know!). It is a really simple recipe, as they all are and, be CAREFUL, it makes A LOT!! I halved the recipe just because I didn't want to carry that many tomatoes home, and I am glad I did. Wow, they weren't messing about in the old days. I have chutney coming out my ears, and it is delicious!! (Chutney, anyone?).

Mrs Davies' Tomato Chutney

8 lb tomatoes
1/4 lb salt
1 cup sultanas
1 quart vinegar
1/4 oz allspice
3 large onions
8 large apples
1 oz white pepper
1 oz cloves
2 lbs sugar

~ put tomatoes, apples and  onions through mincer, then put the ingredients in together (in a big pot!)
~ boil for three hours
~ makes a LOT of chutney! You will be giving it away (although it is yummy, maybe you eat a lot of chutney?)


Ginger Beer & Back with a bang!

Grandma, Phyllis, looking pretty in pink!

Bessie Pearl's Ledger is back!. We'll see how it goes. I have to be honest, our new 'kitchen' is a little retarded for even thinking about cooking in.  Some people might see this diminished kitchen size as going backwards in life, after all, aren't we meant to grow up, buy kitchen aides, good knives and woks? And have enough space to enjoy spending time in the kitchen?

I am not being sarcastic. I truly think for people who enjoy cooking this is an earnest & totally understandable goal.

But, for us, who both like to cook, it comes down to whether or not we want to live in New York City, or cook in it. We found a little 'Clubhouse' -as we like to call it - where we feel ok to not cook as much. So, now the city is our living room. Our kitchen. (Ok, well you can cook a little, but it is totally about making something that is enough for one meal!)...

However, amidst the setback of said small kitchen, I was determined to make something from the ledger and get back to you guys. I have missed you terribly!

Now, before we start, -  a confession. Sometimes, I am not a very patient person. To some of you, I know, that sounds quite hilarious because in all reality I am a very patient person (Yes, even at the New York Post Office... mostly!).  But the very patient person has that 'other side' too. I first noticed it in myself when I was 19 and took an airbrushing class. I just could not get the ink to flow out of the brush consistently, and it was driving me nutty. I tried a few times, and then in complete exasperation I just pushed the nozzle as hard as I could and essentially blobbed ink over my work. A big blob. That ran down the page. There was no 'airbrushig' to be seen. Nope that wasn't for me.

I tell you this story, because upon making Ginger Beer, I was in a similar mind frame. The kitchen was too small. I hardly had room to bruise the ginger, had no pot big enough to boil the required water, forgot more limes. No strainer in this apartment. Couldn't find a good recipe that really explained what I was meant to do.

So, I just thought, fuckit ('scuse the French) - I don't need more lime, to strain the ginger, to fill a whole bottle with ginger beer mix. SO I ended up with this mix that came 3/4 to the top of a bottle, was FULL of bits of ginger and looked kinda gross. I put it in the back of the cupboard for its 48 hours and promptly forgot about it. I remembered 5 days later. Hoped that my ginger beer was gonna be really spicy, you know, the kind where the ginger spice gets up your nose? Oooh, I love spicy ginger beer, - it is never spicy enough! Somehow, in my mind, because I left it longer, it just meant that it was gonna be really pickled. Spicy and alcoholic!

I pulled it out from the back of the cupboard (oh yeah, important to the story, I had just gotten outta the shower and was only towel-clad, when I get something in my mind I don't wait!) brought it over to the bench, looked apprehensively at all the sediment and started to flip the lid.


I mean, anyone ever tried the old mentos / diet coke trick? In a tiny apartment? With your face in the bottle?


And, ginger definitely went up my nose.

And on the roof, into the living room, all over every plate and cup we own, all over my face, washed hair, clean body. I probably had the neighbours wondering who got shot, it was SO loud and SO powerful and I am SO lucky that nothing worse, like glass shattering everywhere as well, happened.

Am I gonna try it again?

Hell yeah.

(With a little patience this time. Perhaps I will borrow a friends kitchen!?)

Welcome to the 2011 edition of Bessie Pearl's Ledger. !!!

Ginger Beer

2 gallons cold water
2 lbs white sugar
2 oz whole white ginger bruised
2 tsp acid
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs yeast
white of two eggs
12 bottles

old fashioned mayonnaise

my grandma & grandpa, Phyllis & Kyran in Colombo

This recipe isn't from the ledger - it's a remembered one. I am feeling the urgent need to find out about more about Grandma (including the things I remembered that she cooked), while there are still people who remember. Already there isn't much I can find out about Bessie Pearl, and all I have is this little ledger of recipes to share with you. But Grandma, we still remember you well.  She died in 1995 at the pretty nice age of 84 - I always wanted her to live to 100, so she could have tea with the Queen (does that still even happen? Or, does she send a letter or something?), but Grandma was adamant she was already 'living on borrowed time' because your fair share in life was 'three-score and ten' (that's 70 if you didn't know). I guess that is pretty morbid! But, we got used to her saying it! 

I still miss her.

Grandma's are pretty awesome. Mine was a little odd - well, she was a worry-wart. In the EXTREME sense. So, a lot of our time spent with her was not exertious (is that a word?). We watched old movies (which I still love to do), coloured-in, went for walks. She fed us a lot! (What a hoarder!). She taught us 'Patience' (or Solitaire), and told us if we cheated in Patience, we were only cheating against ourselves. Then we would watch her cheat, and she would say when confronted, "It's OK, because I already know that I have lost". Hmmm, grown-ups! She taught us to crochet and knit (forgotten skills, alas), and she could open any stuck jar! She was fair. Sometimes mean and crotchety. A great believer in the clean underwear-incase-you-get-hit-by-a-car theory and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. When we caught the bus to see our other Grandma (still here, love you Grandma!) she would instruct us to sit half-way back in the bus, on the driver's side. There was no mucking around on that one, - that was where you were safest on the bus! (I don't know the reasoning, something to do with the way a bus would roll..). She was always there for you. 

She used to make this mayonnaise. It was sweet and creamy and yellow, and she put it in these cute little jars. Mmm, I remember it well! I was desperate to find out how she made it, and asked Mum if she knew. "Oh yeah, Grandma's mayonnaise - she made that with sweetened condensed milk". What? How disgusting! Ew. But also, I guess I understood now why I probably liked it so much when I was little. I was kinda apprehensive to make it just because of the SCM, but also because I had no idea of the quantities of ingredients to use. I started out with just a little vinegar, and went from there. Really, it was disgusting. I think this recipe really is a taste thing, in-so-much as how much you use of everything. But, please, don't start with only one tablespoon of vinegar. It isn't gonna work. It is gross. It may have even ruined the whole thing for me, even though it tastes more like it should now. Please, please, start with one CUP of vinegar!!

Mum also told me that the jars Grandma used were old honey jars. I haven't seen any like them around, so I waited until our honey jar was empty so I could follow suit, even if it is just in spirit. Re-using old jars is easy, just clean them out well, then put your oven up high and put the jars on the rack, upside down, (so the hot air can get up through the bottom) for 20 minutes.  Put the jars in when you turn on the oven. Mum taught me all that. I think you can also boil them. I will try and find out more and let you know - there are some canning projects coming up!

This mayonnaise comes out really sweet, more like salad cream. It is yummy on sandwiches, on toast with eggs, hamburgers. Anything you would use mayonnaise or mustard on. 

Old-Fashioned Mayonnaise

1 tin Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup of white vinegar
1 tbspn mustard (I also added mustard seed)
salt & pepper to taste (I would start with a tbspn of each. It needs the salty to cut through the sweet).

~ whisk until creamy
~ refrigerate
of course, I have to make cute labels too!