Monday, September 3, 2007

Tomato Jam

I've been eager to make an old-fashioned condiment: tomato jam. It is a mix of tangy (from tomatoes and lemons), sweet (sugar), and umami -- earthy -- from the pickling spice. I've seen recipes for lamb and tandoori chicken that use it as a condiment.

Our unlimited supply of currant and sun sugars were perfect candidates for the experiment -- and soooo pretty. Picking this batch (left; one day's haul!) might've been the first time the sun sugars have made it into the house. Usually we just eat them off the vine.

The recipe in my home preserving book said to blanch them first, to remove the skins...can you say "not worth the effort"? That drudgery sucked the fun right out of the process, so I ditched the step after the first 20 tomatoes.

Meanwhile, I boiled sugar and water and lemons, and a tea ball filled with pickling spice. I didn't have cheesecloth, and this was my solution -- a good one, until I needed the tea ball afterwards. The sugar created a seal on the ball and made it impossible to open, even after a soak in clean hot water. I tossed it out. (I am out of my loose tea phase anyway.)

Next came the tomatoes and some serious boiling time. So pretty, so fragrant! David, who had been skeptical about tomato jam, came in to the kitchen several times to investigate and comment on the aroma. The recipe didn't call for it, but I added 1/2 a package of pectin to help set the jam.

Finally, I ladled the hot jam into itty-bitty jars -- always a mess, even when Clumsy Camille tries hard -- and boiled them in the canner for 20 minutes. I worried that setting would fail in the jars that tipped over a little, but all seemed well 24 hours later. I love the satisfying, shy, little "pop" of the jars when they seal on the counter.

And here's the final product! We had ours on salmon -- delicious -- and a week later I ate it on crackers with manchego cheese; still later (but not the same night!), I spread it on samosas. I gave a jar to Jalpa, our neighbor who runs the market across the street, who said that her mother (who makes terrific Indian food) loved it. It reminds me a bit of tamarind sauce, so I was pleased with the report.


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