Overabundance of tomatoes? Cram them in a versatile jam

Overabundance of tomatoes? Cram them in a versatile jam

This past weekend during a boating and beach adventure with great friends, the family’s patriarch (and our skilled captain) suddenly produced a bulging bag of big, beautiful, sweet summer tomatoes.

Mouths watering, we whipped up a quick Caprese salad-inspired snack with fresh mozzarella and garden basil.

As soon as I heard him utter the magical phrase: “I have so many tomatoes, I don’t know what to do with them all,” on switched the light bulb. Since I don’t have a garden of my own this season, I casually offered to take any extras off their hands, and already had a plan for what to do with the harvest.

Nevermind typical tomato sauce or salsa. No, no, my friends, today I bring you sweet and spicy tomato jam. This is not your mama’s jam recipe.

First of all, its got quite a hot kick to it. If you aren’t a fan of too much spice, then you’ll definitely want to tone down the crushed red pepper flakes. For a more mild jam, go for 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of flakes. Those who can’t resist the heat will want to stick with the suggested 1 tablespoon.

Secondly, I decided to skip the pectin (used for thickening and stabilizing many jams and jellies). Pectin occurs naturally in some fruits like apples, berries and citrus peels, but is most commonly seen in powdered form for jam making. When combined with sugar and quickly brought to high heat, it creates that desirable jelly-like thickened consistency and helps with stabilization.

While it does shorten cooking time substantially, it requires almost double the sugar. In this recipe, I used an apple for its pectin properties as well as to round out the tomato flavor. Just make sure to check on your jam and stir it every few minutes to prevent scorching, and this au naturale method works wonderfully.

This jam works great as a sauce for grilled chicken or white fish and is especially nice with scallops. Serve with a soft cheese, like brie, for a scrumptious party appetizer. Need a quick pick me up? Swirl a spoonful into some plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

Sweet and spicy tomato jam

Yields 4-5 cups

* 4 pounds ripe tomatoes

* 4 cloves garlic, mashed and pasted with salt

* 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

* 2 cups sugar

* 1/4 cup confectioner s sugar

* 1/4-1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 2 cups water or leftover strained tomato juice

1. Peel and core the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Dip in a bowl of cool water to remove any remaining seeds. Strain the liquid and set aside to use in place of water for the jam.

2. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over moderate heat. Allow to simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until reduced by half and texture is thick and syrupy. Be sure to stir the mixture every few minutes, especially when reduced, to avoid burning.

3. Carefully pour the jam into sterilized jars for canning if desired, or transfer to another container and allow to cool fully before serving.

Jessica Roy is a private chef, specialty caterer and author of foodie blog Shiso Fresh. Follow her at blogs.lowellsun.com/ yourpersonalchef.