Category: Hints and tips

How to peel tomatoes

Source & History

This is another of those blogs with no actual recipe. Rhoda insists that whenever she uses tomatoes, particularly if they are for pickles or relishes, they must be peeled. So here is how to peel tomatoes, the easy way.

  1. put some water in a pot and heat it until it is just boiling
  2. cut a small cross into one end of the tomato.
  3. drop your tomatoes (1 or 2 at time)  into the pot and leave them there for about 10 seconds.
  4. remove the tomatoes from the water and either drop them into some ice water to stop the cooking process, then peel them or just peel them without the ice water. Start where you cut the cross & the peel should just come right off.

See below for a visual demonstration:


  • this method will not work for green tomatoes, just peel them with a peeler or small knife like you would potatoes or carrots. 

Sterilising Jars (The Easy Way)

Source & History

I found this in one of Doug’s recipes for pickles and thought it might be useful if anyone wanted to make jams or pickles or chutneys and needed sterile jars. Don’t forget to include the lids in this process.

So this is what you do:

  1. Wash the jars (and their lids) in hot soapy water. Rinse well & dry.
  2. Put the jars (and their lids) on a wooden cutting board, right side up, and put the board into an oven heated to 110°C and leave it in there for 15-20 minutes. Make sure that the jars do not touch each other or breakage will be a very real possibility.
  3. Turn off the oven and leave the jars in there until you need them.
  4. Remove the jars, keeping them on the wooden board and not touching each other, when it is time to fill them.


I had some problems with breakage using the original method described above (I have since modified it to make it better) – this is what the Women’s Weekly jam cookbook says:

  1. Put jars and lids through the hottest cycle of a dishwasher without detergent, OR
  2. Lie jars down in a boiler with lids, cover them with cold water and bring to the boil over a high heat and boil the jars for 20 minutes, OR
  3. Stand jars upright, without touching each other, on a wooden board on the lowest shelf in the oven, place the lids in too. Turn the oven to the lowest possible temperature, close the oven door and leave the jars to heat through for 30 minutes.

Next, remove jars and lids from the oven or dishwasher with a towel, or from the boiling water with tongs and rubber-gloved hands; water will evaporate from hot wet jars quite quickly. Stand jars upright and not touching each other on a wooden board, or bench covered with a tea towel. (I’m not sure if the bench or the jars should be covered with the tea towel. I think the bench because there was no comma).


I asked Grandma what she did and she said that she puts the jars and lids in the microwave with a jar without a lid and half-filled with water. She microwaves them on high for 3min. This might explain why she prefers jars with plastic lids!


After a number of failed attempts at making mustard pickles (a return visit to Grandma for an in-home demonstration is required), I have become better at the sterilising of jars part. I follow the instructions for sterilising the jars in the oven and sterilise the lids separately boiling them in a pot of water on the stove-top for 10 minutes.

How to Make Gravy

Source & History

It occurred to me the other night when I was making gravy to go with the roast that I had never written down how to make gravy. Every time I ‘say’ that, the Paul Kelly song comes to mind. I make gravy the same way that my mother did, more or less. There are always adjustments in any recipe based on personal preferences and availability of ingredients.

My mother always used to use the water from boiling the vegetables in her gravy. I don’t boil vegetables, except for potatoes occasionally. I steam in the microwave. She also, like Jamie Oliver in his 15 or 30 minute mindset, used to use boiling water from the kettle if there wasn’t enough water from the vegies.

The basic methodology is the same as that used in a Basic White Sauce except that you use water or stock instead of milk. I make the gravy on the stove-top though, unlike the white suce which I usually make in the microwave.


  •  I pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a measuring cup (4 cup) and top up with stock or water and/or wine to make 4 cups (because I like to have about 4 cups of gravy).
  • I used to make the gravy in the roasting pan (like my mother did) while the meat rested, but lately I have been using a small sauce pan instead.
  • I skim off as much of the fat as I can and sometimes I use it instead of (or in addition to) the margarine to make the gravy
  • I use chicken stock for chicken or pork and beef stock for beef. You could also use vegetable stock if you wanted to.
  • You can also stir in other spices or chutneys to make the gravy more interesting. I like to add a couple of tablespoons of Rhoda’s mango chutney or apple sauce to gravy for pork. The gravy for sausages and rissoles usually has some tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in it (and, yes, that’s my hand making gravy for the rissoles we had the other night).



  • the amount of stock powder I include depends a lot on the tasting result in step 2. I use the Massel powdered stocks because I like their flavour.