modern pantry

Spiced Tomato Jam

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Summer Stockpiling with Savory Spreads

BY AMY PENNINGTON

September marks the last opportunity to grab crates full of fabulous fruits and vegetables that won’t be around much longer. Because of the sheer abundance during harvest time, September is prime canning season and a great time of year to make a weekly trip to your farmers market. From September and into early October (if we are lucky) you should plan on having a busy kitchen. Alongside ever-popular tomatoes, we are graced with peppers and eggplant coming in from the east side of the Cascades, where the climate is hotter and drier –perfect growing conditions for these heat-loving plants.

Spiced Tomato Jam
makes about 1 cup | start to finish: 1 hour
from Edible Seattle September/October 2011

This is absolutely one of the most amazing savory jams you will ever eat. Clip this recipe and store it somewhere for safe-keeping. The secret lies in slow cooking the tomatoes, releasing their liquid over a long period of time, creating an uber-concentrated, sweet, thick paste. From there, aromatics are added to warm it up (cinnamon), offer some heat (ginger) and brighten the flavor (orange zest). Choose only paste tomatoes for this recipe – they have less liquid than a slicing tomato, will cook down faster and have a richer flavor. Serve this jam as a condiment on a cheese tray or spread over an afternoon summer sandwich for some extra flavor infusion. You can also use this spread as a side to any grilled meat: try some in place of ketchup on a hamburger.

2 1/2 pounds paste tomatoes, seeded and cut into quarters
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Orange zest, 3 swipes on a rasp (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
salt & pepper to taste

Add the seeded, quartered tomatoes to a large dry sauté pan with high sides. Turn heat to medium and cook tomatoes, stirring only occasionally. As tomatoes release their juice, scrape the bottom of the pan and do not let them burn. After about 30 minutes, tomatoes will start to thicken and will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. You may need to reduce heat to ensure they do not burn. As juice continues to evaporate, you will need to stir and scrape up the pan more regularly.

When all of the liquid has evaporated (about one hour) and tomatoes are thick and jam-like, turn off heat and add all other ingredients, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as desired. Store jam in a clean jar, covered, in the fridge where it will last for several weeks.

washed jars • store in fridge

modern pantry

Ajvar
makes about 4 half pints | start to finish: 2.5 to 3 hours
from Edible Seattle September/October 2011

Ajvar is a smoky red pepper relish made with charred peppers and eggplant. It’s a way to preserve the glut of peppers at the end of summer and can be used as a relish for meat, a sauce on pasta, a spread on sandwiches or over eggs. I learned how to make ajvar (and also developed a pretty intense obsession with it) when I visited my cousins in Croatia several years ago. You can’t walk down a street in late September without smelling the charred-bitterness from roasted peppers—everyone is preserving the harvest. While the meals changed at every house (fresh fish from my cousins on the island, grilled lamb at my cousins village in Slovenia), one thing remained consistent: ajvar. This condiment is used liberally on a daily basis.

You can mix and match the peppers used in your ajvar. Hot peppers work well, but be careful to temper the heat with some sweet peppers to round out the taste. You also want to be religious about removing all of the seeds from both peppers and eggplant. Any left behind will lend an off-putting bitter taste to this relish. Whatever pepper you choose, be sure not to tinker with the overall proportions in this recipe. Peppers and eggplant are both low-acid foods and therefore conducive to botulism. The acid from the vinegar offsets this and creates a high-acid, safe environment. This acid balance is imperative for safe canning in a water bath.

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
2 1/2 pounds peppers, red or mixed
Olive oil to cover the pan
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Place the eggplant and whole peppers on a sheet pan and coat with olive oil. Roast until the skins are blistered and charred, about 45 minutes. Set aside to cool. Set a large sauté pan over medium heat and cover the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt, and cook until soft and beginning to caramelize and brown. Remove from the heat.

Peel the skin from the peppers and remove the seeds. Coarsely chop. Peel the skin from the eggplant and remove the big seed pockets. Coarsely chop. Add the peppers, eggplant, and onion to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to purée. Add the salt, sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Process until smooth, or leave it coarse, pulsing only 10 to 12 times. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking.

Prepare jars for canning. Add ajvar to the jars and gently tap the bottom of the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes, using half-pint jars. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the ajvar is cool, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

sterilized jars • water bath
Excerpted from Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen By Amy Pennington, Skipstone 2010

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