Monday, July 18, 2011

Something New and Very Old

A former student is spending her summer at an architecture program in Spain. She's writing about her experiences and posting pictures of what she sees and learns. Among her adventures was a weekend trip to Portugal, and as I read her memories, I could imagine myself a few years ago in exactly the same spots she described. It has also made me remember the food: the pasteis de natas, the bacalhau, the polvo, those melons that blew my mind, and the way that the Moorish influence wiggled its way into at least part of every meal. Such a nice balance of salt, sweet, and spice—when I found that, I felt like I was tasting Portuguese history.

Tomato Jam

Last week, I canned seven quarts of tomatoes to use in sauces and the like in the winter. I know that jars of my homemade tomato paste will be happening soon, but since I have lots of tomatoes, I wanted to try something that I've never made before. I've had boring tomato jams (tomatoes plus sugar plus pectin) and I've had delicious, complex tomato jams that are as good with cheese as they are on toast as they are with meat. This is one of the latter. In fact, this rocks the latter category. I found the original recipe here on Food52, but I wanted to add lemon, a little heat, twist the acid a bit to up the Iberian inflection. If you can stop eating this directly from the jar with a spoon, try smearing it on a turkey burger. You can thank me later.

The recipe I adapted claimed this made 1 1/2 pints, but with the addition of the lemon (and the added pectin from it, leading to a need for less cooking time), I ended up with a generous 2 pints.

You will need:
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seed
3 1/2 pounds of ripe garden tomatoes, roughly chopped (don't peel or seed the tomatoes since both add pleasant texture and beauty to the finished jam)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 whole large, ripe Meyer lemon, chopped (discard seeds as you find them)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (my chile flakes are really hot; if yours are just warm, you may consider adding more)
1/4 cup Sherry vinegar

To make the jam:
In a small frying pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant. Remove from heat and crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle. Don't grind to a fine powder, but instead leave the seeds chunky.

Dump the seeds along with all the other ingredients into a large, heavy pot and bring all the ingredients to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and keep at a healthy simmer, stirring occasionally. The recipe I adapted calls for three hours of simmering, but my jam was ready after two. Once the mixture has reached a glossy, jam-liked consistency, you're ready to jar the goodness.

Pour the jam into sterilized jars, wipe the rims clean, lid with new, warmed lids, and screw on the ring until "finger tight." Process in a boiling water bath, fully immersed, for 15 minutes.


Carrie said...

Pasteis de nata were the first thing I ever wanted to be my “signature dish.” One year during college had the good fortune to spend nearly a month in Hong Kong with my best friend, purely a pleasure trip and still possibly my favorite vacation ever. Of course there is a strong Portuguese influence in that area thanks to nearby Macau, and pastel de nata was what I had for breakfast every morning. I fell in love with them, and in my post-travel flush declared that they would be the dish I was known for. Well, they haven’t become my legacy, but that is probably because every time I make them I want to eat them all by myself and remember Hong Kong, fondly.

I too have been looking for other ideas for my tomatoes and I think I will have to try this. Sounds divine.

And so does the salsa made by the charming track mother…

the good soup said...

I wish I'd grown enough tomatoes to play with preserving them. But alas, the nematodes got me this year. I've got plenty of marigolds in now though... and I'm letting my tomatoes crawl instead of climb and they seem a little happier.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, well, the one thing growing gangbusters out in my patch is the tomatoes. This year, my zukes and cukes bloom and bloom and then have nothing to show for it.