Yes, it’s true. I’ve been bitten by the canning bug. It seems like everyone is doing it these days. My mother says that back in the day, they canned pretty much everything (in peak season, they also picked 40 quarts of strawberries EVERY day — can you imagine?). So there was jam and tomatoes every which way, including what Mom is convinced what a precursor to salsa. That just makes me laugh. Why can’t I imagine salsa existing in the 1950s? I’m sure it did, but it just seems strange.
I know, canning is scary. At least, it seemed that way to me. But the truth is it’s actually quite easy. It’s just that you have to follow a bunch of steps and have certain gear, which is normally enough to get me to just blow the whole thing off. But for some unknown reason, I decided to persevere and just sort of worked my way through it.
So, here’s what you do: take your jars (I’d use 1/2 pint jars for this recipe), lids and screw tops and put them on a canning rack (I didn’t have one, so I blew this off; I’ll probably buy one for next time — I’m such a rulebreaker) in a pot that’s big and deep enough to give you a couple inches above the top of the jars. Pour hot (not boiling) water into the pot (and jars) and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Your jars are now sterilized. That was easy, right?
Now for the processing. Once you fill your jars (after draining and drying them), put the lids and screw tops on and put them back into the pot of boiling water (canning tongs are good for this; regular tong can work in a pinch, but be careful, that pan is HOT). Boil the jars for 15 minutes, take them out and let them cool at room temperature. You can test to make sure the seal is good by pressing down on the lid; if it doesn’t move, you’re good. If you push down and hear a click and the center goes down, it’s not sealed. You can put it back in and boil it again or just eat the contents within a couple weeks.
Anyway, I ended up making this particular tomato jam because a) I had a bunch of beautiful tomatoes, b) I wanted to try something different, and c) I got sucked into this site, which, whoops, you’re gone now…and won’t be back for awhile if you start reading. Never mind the amazing recipes, this woman, Jennie, is going through hell and then some (and still going). There are no words.
So, now that you’re back and thoroughly depressed, please cheer yourself up by making this jam. Tomatoes are still out there at the markets, but they’re going fast, so get on it. And also try not to be too scared about the amount of sugar in there. I put less than the original recipe called for and at first, I was sort of freaking out about how sweet it was, but then after it sat a bit, I realized it was kind of awesome. It is sweet, yes. But it is also savory. And in my case, a little spicy too, which I think counteracts the sweetness.
As for how much time you cook this, it’s a taste and feel thing, which in my case went for about 4-1/2 hours and was REALLY just almost perfect, until somehow, someone, I think it was the dog, turned the heat up from low to ultra-high and I realized that that very disturbing, acrid burning-pan smell was coming from my kitchen. Well. I was able to salvage the top layer of the batch, which ended up very caramelized and actually quite tasty (we won’t discuss the scorched black layer or my very sad Le Creuset pan, which is NOT the same). Yeah, so don’t do that. And keep an eye on the dog. They’re tricky. Very tricky.
Makes 1-1/2 pints (or 1 pint in my case *sniff*)
3 1/2 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 dried thai chilis OR 1/4 teaspoon cayenne OR 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional, but use it!)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup finely diced tart green apple
Put all ingredients in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened and jam-like consistency, about 3 hours. Transfer to sterilized glass jars and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks, or use a hot-water canning bath for 15 minutes for long-term storage.