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Tamarillos to relish

Sauces, relishes and chutneys are a flavoursome way to use a favourite Kiwi fruit.

Tamarillos were slow to ripen this winter and good quality fruit will still be available until early October. What's more, low export prices have led to some of the finest specimens being sold locally instead of going to the US. So, if you are a true New Zealander who enjoys cutting a tamarillo in half and scooping out the juicy flesh straight into your mouth, there is still plenty of time for this refreshing tonic. And a good tonic it is, according to recent research from Crop&Food, which shows that tamarillos rate very well as a source of antioxidants compared with other common fruit and vegetables.

Last winter, I was given a large bag of small, end-of-season tamarillos. There were too many to eat fresh, so I blanched, peeled and sliced some and put them into a plastic container in the freezer, thinking that I'd make a batch of chutney the following week. The months slid by and the frozen fruit was still waiting when this season's fruit arrived at the greengrocer. This gave me the push I needed to get to work on the frozen fruit, supplemented by fresh, to try out a few traditional recipes for savoury preserves, all of which demonstrated that home cooks had no trouble adapting recipes that used plums and tomatoes to this new ruby red fruit. And what a relief it must have been to stand over simmering pots of chutney in the winter instead of the heat of a summer's day. All of these recipes tasted good as soon as they were made, although I expect the flavours to mellow and deepen as the preserves mature in the coming weeks.

I have often read references to tamarillo sauce being better than plum or tomato sauce, and indeed it turned out to be a good companion for the beef sausages that I was cooking for dinner the day I made it.

SAVOURY TAMARILLO SAUCE

1kg tamarillos (approx 12 fruit)l; 300g Granny Smith or Braeburn apple (2 small fruit); 150g onion (1 medium); 375g brown sugar; 600ml cider vinegar; 1 cup water; 3 tsp salt; spices such as thumb-sized piece grated fresh ginger, 12 peppercorns, 9 cloves, 9 allspice

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the tamarillos. Bring back to the boil, count to 20, then drain, cool and peel the fruit. Slice and place in a large, heavy saucepan. Quarter, core and peel the apples. Chop and add to saucepan. Chop the onion and add to the pot, together with the brown sugar, cider vinegar, water and salt. Put the spices into a piece of muslin, tie with string and add to the pot. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 11?2 hours, adding more water if the sauce becomes too thick. Remove the spices and push the sauce through a coarse sieve to catch the seeds. Return the sauce to the saucepan and bring to the boil. The sauce should be a similar thickness to commercial tomato sauce, so add more water or simmer to reduce if necessary.

Sterilise 3 medium bottles and lids and use a funnel to fill with the sauce. Fasten with lids while still hot. Makes 3 medium bottles.

Tamarillo chutney recipes include a similar range of ingredients to those for savoury sauces, but don't need to be sieved. This recipe, which includes chopped sticky raisins, makes thick, sweet chutney, which is a good accompaniment for cheddar or gouda.

SWEET TAMARILLO AND RAISIN CHUTNEY

900g tamarillos (approx 10 fruit); 200g Granny Smith or Braeburn apple (1 large fruit); 100g onion (1 small); 200g seeded raisins; 1 cup water; 350g brown sugar; 250ml vinegar, eg, mixture of cider and balsamic; 2 tsp salt; good shakes of ground pepper, cinnamon, cayenne

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the tamarillos. Bring back to the boil, count to 20, then drain, cool and peel the fruit. Slice and place in a large, heavy saucepan. Quarter, core and peel the apple, then chop and add to the saucepan. Finely dice the onion and add. Chop the raisins and add, together with all the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 11?2 hours until thick. Sterilise 7 small to medium jars and lids. Spoon in the hot chutney and close the lids. Makes 6-7 small jars.

Although the definitions have always been rather vague, relishes are usually sharper in flavour than chutneys and the fruit remains chunky, rather than being cooked to a pulp. Using white instead of brown sugar means that the deep red colour of the fruit isn't lost during cooking.

TAMARILLO AND MUSTARD RELISH

600g tamarillos (6-7 fruit); 100g onion (1 small); 2 cloves garlic; 200g white sugar; 1?2 cup cider vinegar; 1?2 cup water; 1 tsp salt; 2 tsp mustard seeds; 1?2 tsp dry mustard; 1 bay leaf; 1 cinnamon stick

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the tamarillos. Return to the boil, count to 20, then drain, cool and peel. Slice the fruit and put into a large, heavy saucepan. Finely dice the onion and garlic and add with all the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring frequently, for about an hour until the fruit is very tender. Add more water if it is too thick or cook longer if it is too thin. Sterilise 3 medium jars and lids, spoon in the relish and close the lids. Makes 3 medium jars.