Last weekend I decided it was time for our tomato plant to go. It had stopped flowering so I called it done for the year and harvested as much fruit as I could from it before pulling the plant out. We got 2.2kg of fruit of that sucker – and that doesn’t include what we gave to the neighbours!
With that much fresh produce on hand I knew I wanted to do something I’ve never done before, and make something that will last so we get more value out of the plant than just a few serves of brushetta and greek salads.
Well this little cooking adventure was a wake up call and a half. Lesson learned – jamming (henceforth known as jammin’) is more than just cooking. It’s some technical shit! I’ll give you the full recipe below, but here’s the gist of what I did:
- Washed and weighed my fruit. Checked the recipe I wanted to follow over on my new favourite blog Foodisthebestshitever
- Put everything in the only pot big enough to fit them, and turned them on to a low simmer and stirred them continually for about 1.5 hours. (recipe says 1 hour, but the green tomatoes will still really firm, so I decided to keep going on instinct.) After everything looked softened enough I added the sugar and fish sauce and simmered for 15 more mins.
- Then I blitzed away with a stick blender, adjusted the seasoning and thought my work was done. (Despite having 3L of liquid. Runny liquid, but I thought maybe it thickens in the fridge.)
In the mean time I’d realised I have no appropriate jars!! So scrounged up anything that sealed properly, washed them in hot soapy water, and then dried them with my hair dryer so as not to leave tea towel fluff in them.
- I ladelled my – I’m going to call it pasta sauce at this point – pasta sauce into the jars (while hot) and left them out overnight to cool.
Now, I’ve never done this before but something just didn’t feel right. When the frick, would anyone ever use 3L of this, unless it was in big quantities like pasta? And I’m pretty sure that’s not the gist. So… I asked the question:
Sure, I googled heaps of stuff. But he wasn’t really my friend (Yes, I assume Google is a he) – I felt even more lost than when I started. While this post called Preserving the Harvest was the most comprehensive info I could find, I still felt lost. I’m a woman! I need details, dammit!
After just moving on and tackling the next problem of where to buy my jars, I was stoked to find that there was a Ball Guide to Preserving. MINE!
Jars, check. Lids, check. Info, check. Jam, err sauce?… So back into the pot with my sauce on a low simmer. I washed my jars and lids in hot soapy water, and left them to drain.
After an hour my sauce still hadn’t reduced enough, but the mess was amazing. Hint – don’t try and put a lid on to reduce the mess, it will cause more liquid due to condensation. Hint #2 – don’t leave all the mess to pile up with the view you’ll clean it all at once at the end like I did. It sticks :( Hint #3 - Paper towel was the best way I could find to reduce the mess.
Thanks to my new whizz bang book, I now knew a temperature of 212F / 100C had to be reached and maintained to kill moulds, yeasts, and some bacteria as well as to inactivate enzymes which naturally cause food to change taste, colour and texture – making it unappetising. However, maintaining a temp of 240F / 115C will help reduce the risk of bacteria that causes botulism. So, my jars then went in the oven at 115C for 20-30mins and my lids went on the stove in boiling water, while my sauce finally got itself thickened.
This may be obious to some, but don’t put the hot jam / chutney into cold jars! I left my jars in the oven as I filled them one by one. I figured this would help reduce risk of contamination. Once they were all jarred, I quickly washed my pot (Only pot big enough to submerge the jars in) and put the electric jug on to boil. Place something in the bottom of the pot to raise the jars directly off the bottom. I used a small wire rack for some other appliance. Place your jars on top and fill with boiling water – The Ball book says to submerge by 2 inches of water. I submerged mine as best I could…
From there, boil away. The Ball book says for 10 mins if you’re at sea level 0r 1000ft and to increase time by 5 mins for every 3,000ft above that. This process is crucial because it creates a vacuum in the jar which interrupts the normal spoilage and decaying cycle of food and prevents other microorganisms from entering and contaminating the food. Ha. Listen to me. I sound like I know stuff!
Voila. My 3L of pasta sauce is now 1.5L of tomato, capsicum and chilli jam. I’m not sure what my next move is, but I suppose just hope and pray I don’t give anyone botulism!!
With all that in mind – remembering your times may need adjusting - here’s the recipe from Foodisthebestshitever (and if you don’t follow that blog – you probably should!)
CHERRY TOMATO, CAPSICUM & CHILLI JAM
This is my fave for breakfast burgers, fritters or a nice piece of fish (the shitty fish will be fine with heinz tomato sauce I’m sure)
- 2.5kg cherry tomatoes, or whatever tomatoes you can steal from your neighbours vege patch
- 6-8 capsicum, diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 8 long red chilli, sliced (I had a pile of chillis we were given by Jen’s boss, Mark, who is an avid follower of this blog and will probably be quite chuffed he got a mention. They were quite mild so I used about 15 of those)
- 1 handful each of mint and coriander
- 1 whole bulb garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 star anise, ground or smashed in a mortar
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 200ml fish sauce (or season with salt to taste for vego styleee)
- 2 cups palm sugar, or castor will do the job
- All ingredients, except sugar and fish sauce, go into a heavy based pot and simmer on a low heat for 1 hour
- Add sugar & fish sauce, simmer for a further 15 minutes
- Blitz with stick wizz or in a blender, check seasoning
- Jar up, seal and store for the coming onslaught of family and friends
Have you tried ‘jamming’ anything lately? Did you win or lose? I’m calling this a win. I’m certain those jars are clean, and I’m 90% certain they’re sealed properly. I guess there’s only one way to find out! :)