This recipe really is a favourite old standby, the only condiment I always have in my fridge, and the recipe I most frequently pass on to friends (usually after rifling extensively through age-old email archives - another excellent reason for sharing it on the web.) It’s based loosely on a recipe that Simon posted to london.food quite a few years back, but has been through several cycles of, uh, “maturation” (mostly simplification) since then. I often cook a huge batch of this somewhere around Thanksgiving or Christmas - it makes a great gift, and is easy to scale up or down as required.
The Boring Bits
- Makes 2 medium jam jars’ worth
- Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
- Cooking time: approx. 1 1/2 hours
- 2 1/4lbs (1kg) ripe tomatoes
- Fresh chili peppers (see below for details)
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1lb 5oz (600g) Demerera or Turbinado (brown) Sugar
- 4 tbsp (60ml) Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce), Worcester Sauce or Soy Sauce
- 1 cup (235ml) Red Wine Vinegar
You can make quite different jams with different types of chili. For a pretty hot jam (the type I usually make), stick in 4 habaneros, or 4 Scotch Bonnet peppers. You can make a slightly milder jam by using 6-8 standard red chili peppers, or 6-8 jalapenos.
Throwing it all together
First, blanch the tomatoes (bring a pan of water to the boil, remove from heat and place the tomatoes in the water for a minute or two). Then peel them. Chop them into halves or quarters.
Peel the garlic cloves and place them, together with the tomatoes, the Nam Pla (or alternative) and chilis into a blender. Blend on a medium setting until the whole mixture resembles a strawberry milkshake. Yeah, really, it will. It’s a little off-putting, to be honest, but it won’t last for long…
Pour the vinegar and the “strawberry milkshake” mix into a large-ish heavy-bottomed saucepan, and then pour in the sugar - just dump it in; there’s no need to do it in increments.
Bring the whole thing to a boil over a high-ish heat, stirring constantly to completely dissolve the sugar.
Once it comes to the boil, turn the heat to low and leave the jam to simmer. There’s no need to cover the pan (and doing so will likely increase cooking time.) From now on, stir every 10 minutes or so to keep the mixture from sticking to the sides of the pan.
You need to leave the pan at a simmer until the mixture starts to gain a jam-like consistency. This can be a little difficult to gauge on your first outing, since the jam will be runnier at cooking temperature than at room temperature. The best method I’ve found was passed on to me by my friend Tamsin, and involves placing a small plate in the freezer before starting cooking. You can then drop a small dollop of jam on the plate once in a while, and it will quickly cool, revealing its actual consistency.
Reaching the “jam stage” usually takes somewhere around an hour and a half, but it can vary up to half an hour either side, depending on the water content of the tomatoes. Scaling the recipe up will also increase the time somewhat, but not linearly, so keep an eye on it! The eventual amount of jam, similarly, will vary somewhat.
Once the jam is the correct consistency, can it in jars. The vinegar and tomatoes in this recipe mean that water-bath canning should be an acceptable means of safely preserving the jam. If you don’t know how to do that, there’s a good guide provided by Virginia Tech.
Some Jam Facts/Notes
This recipe should produce about 2 medium jam jars’ worth (I usually buy jars from Sur La Table or Rainbow). It seems to keep pretty well - I’ve had stores in the fridge for 6 months at a time without any noticeable harm (although it usually lasts a month, tops, before it’s all eaten!) When first cooked the jam tends to be fairly sweet and less spicy - the heat will build up slowly for a week or so after cooking. It’s fantastic served with cheeses (especially strong, hard cheese like good cheddar, and blue cheeses like Stilton), but also goes great with cold meats like ham. I’m told it works as a glaze for roasted/grilled meats, but haven’t got round to trying that yet. My favourite use for it is the use which first introduced me to the recipe: Take two slices of toast, melt Stilton over each one, and then spread a thin layer of the jam on top.