Canning season is upon me and I’ve just spent the last two days madly preserving all the ripe garden & CSA tomatoes I possibly can before there’s any chance they’d go off.
Now I’m kinda pooped! Holy cow, I didn’t realize how much work I’ve done in the last 36hours.
I actually started working on preserving things late on Thursday night. I began with a recipe for Tomato-Apple Chutney from the most recent issue of Jamie (Oliver) Magazine, but instead of doing it stove-top, I chose to dump everything into my crockpot and then head to bed, thinking that I would have a nicely cooked & reduced product that I would be able to just pour into jars for processing when I woke up in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way because I forgot that slow cookers are designed to cook so that you don’t lose all your prescious cooking liquids. What I had really wanted was a method of low & slow cooking without me needing to babysit the pot for hours on end — in this case 3 hours of babysitting. Next morning, I discovered that I still had a whole potful of apples, tomatoes, onions & raisins swimming in their vinegar bath, just as I had left them the night before. Feeling a little disappointed, I poured the entire contents of my crockpot into the “Christmas pot” Dad gave everyone last year and set it on high to boil off quickly, but then turned the heat back down to a gentle simmer so all that hard work wouldn’t scorch or stick to the bottom of the pot.
Three hours later, I finally got to can and process my chutney, as originally planned!
I have to admit, this year has been pretty amazing for our garden & we had an incredibly successful tomato harvest: 15lbs worth! 7lbs were actually picked sun-ripened on the vine and the remaining 8lbs were picked still green. In all the years we’ve been trying to grow tomatoes at home, we’ve never ever had tomatoes come close to ripening on the vine, let alone grow & harvest 15lbs worth, until this summer! ^_^
Once the chutney adventure was complete, I moved onto making a batch of Picante Sauce, a wonderfully rich and flavourful sauce that I haven’t enjoyed since we finished the last little jar sometime last year — I’m still rather impressed that I accomplished preserving 40lbs worth of homemade canned tomatoes & picante sauce, two years ago. That was pretty ambitious for a first time!
When I woke up this morning, I realized that I still had way too many tomatoes that needed to be preserved somehow or I would lose them. For the last few months, I’ve been seeing a recipe for Tomato Jam pop up on bogs all over the place and remembered to bookmark it for that ever elusive “someday” — if the success of our tomato harvest this year wasn’t a sign that this was my opportunity to make it, then I don’t know what is. Happily, it turns out that I had purchased the Food in Jars Cookbook last year but hadn’t realized that the Tomato Jam recipe in the book was the same recipe that I had been seeing posted everywhere online.
Lemme tell you, chopping 5lbs of tomatoes turned my fingers a ridiculous shade of orangey-red and the Tomato Jam took just as long to cook on the stove as the chutney did :P Needless to say, it was a long three hours of simmering and I didn’t really wanna be just sitting around on my duff not doing anything. Just before I had started the Tomato Jam, I noticed that the plums and nectarines I had bought a couple weeks ago, were starting to get waaay overripe. I didn’t want to lose the fruit and somehow remembered there was a recipe for Small-Batch Mixed Stonefruit Jam in the book, a few pages earlier than the Tomato Jam, so I got to quick work of cutting up the rogue fruit & mixing them with sugar to be put in the fridge for later.
Once the Tomato Jam was on its 3 hour simmer, I had my way with the Small-Batch Jam. I was a little concerned that the jam might not set properly, it might not taste great, and truth be told, I dunno that it looks so great at the moment either. Although, having said that, I am curious… I have renamed the jam to Exotic Plum-Nectarine Jam because I changed two of the three simple ingredients in the recipe and it seems to be a rather appropriate name for this concoction.
I substituted lime for lemon, mainly because I had bought too many limes for the Tomato Jam recipe, not knowing how much juice you can get from an average lime. These limes were crazy juicy, I managed to squeeze 1/2 cup juice from only 2 limes! The biggest ingredient change was instead of using regular granulated sugar, I used organic coconut palm sugar that I had in the pantry. The taste of this sugar is actually rather pleasant to me and it has a distinctly familiar “asian-sweet flavour” to it, if that makes sense.
Using the coconut palm sugar made it suuuuper dark in colour and to be honest, I am kind of hoping that it makes for a less sweet jam. Talking to a girlfriend about my fears of failure with this recipe, the crazy dark colour, the new & potentially different flavour profile from the sugar, and the ridiculously lumpy fruit, she suggested that it might taste really good as an accompaniment to a cheese plate, so I am crossing my fingers and hoping with all my heart that she is right!