Saturday, 17 September 2011


As a general rule, I’m happy to benefit from other’s kitchen skills when I think they’re better than mine. That goes for jam (more often than not Bon Maman, though I’d happily frequent this fantastic producer in rural Somerset were she closer), chutney (cue the lady in Somerset again, though half of Borough Market seems to be given over to chutney these days), pickles (well, actually cornichons, and I like most French brands except Maille) and ketchup (where Heinz is king). Beyond that, the cost of fresh produce and the severe lack of food storage options in our 55 square metres have provided little incentive to devote effort to improving my canning skills.

Somewhat by accident, though, I have managed to do enough canning in recent months to have filled up nearly a dozen jars, and a fair amount of our free shelf space. First there were the Lake District blackcurrants languishing in the freezer. These have now been macerating in vodka since sometime in early June. I should have my choice of cold, rainy weekends in late October or early November in which to finish turning them into crème de cassis. Next came a bag of windfall pears from a colleague’s garden. I added some Bramley apples, onions, sultanas and spices, and turned them into chutney. Unfortunately, I won’t know if it’s any good until pears are well out of season.

The chutney was a pleasing, if odiferous, way to pass a drizzly Sunday afternoon, with Formula 1 coverage punctuating the plip-plopping of reducing liquid. But the most enjoyable project so far, and the only one I’ve been able to taste, was spiced tomato jam.Although we’ve grown plenty of tomatoes, there was never a large enough volume at one time to make this recipe. But when I saw some slightly overripe plum tomatoes at the farmer’s market for a knockdown price, it seemed a good use for both my remaining jars and (yet another) variable weather day.

I didn’t tinker with the recipe, merely scaled it down to match the quantity of tomatoes I bought, and replaced the portion of white sugar with more brown. As promised, it cooked down in just under three hours to beautiful jam-like consistency. The spices didn’t dominate as they do in a chutney; rather, there was a hum in the background, a bit of complexity. Likewise, the vinegar added gentle acidity without announcing its presence.

It’s in the cupboard right now, though I don’t expect it will take much to get it opened: goats cheese and a baguette, grilled chicken or perhaps just some good cheddar. On the basis of my brief pre-jarring taste, I’m expecting very good things.

Sweet and Savoury Tomato Jam
barely adapted from Jennifer Perillo and Food 52
Makes 1 ½ pints (about 3 jam jars)
Total time: 3 ½ hours; Active time: 30 minutes

I chose to skip the suggested hot water bath, instead merely pouring the jam into hot, sterilised jars. If you plan to jar this for longer-term storage, please follow directions from a reliable source.

3 1/2 pounds tomatoes (make sure they are ripe and flavourful)
1 small onion
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon

Core and coarsely chop the tomatoes. Finely chop the onion. Add these to a large pot. Add the sugar, salt, spices, vinegar and lemon juice to the pot and combine.

Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened to a jam-like consistency, about 3 hours. (The exact time will depend on the amount of water in your tomatoes.)

When the mixture is nearly ready, prepare your jars. Pour in the jam, filling up each jar to within ¼ inch of the top. Seal tightly and turn upside-down until cooled to help seal.

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