Tomato Jam

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ImageTomato Jam

This sweet-tart jam is a great way to utilize a basket-full of late-summer tomatoes. It does take some time to prepare, but it’s worth it in the end. Keep it on hand to dollop on top of slices of manchego or Comté cheese and whole-grain crackers, drizzle over warm baked Brie, or even add to a vinaigrette. For a special hors d’oeuvre, spoon a bit over a tartlet shell filled with herbed cream cheese, goat cheese, or Boursin. Packaged in a pretty jar with a decorative tag, this addictive condiment would also certainly come as a welcome hostess or holiday gift.

The following canning method relies simply on sterilized jars for vacuum packing, but if you are experienced in sealing your preserves in a boiling water bath, try it. Your jam will last even longer and won’t require refrigeration.

Makes about 6 cups

6 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more as desired (optional)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the tomatoes, sugars, salt, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, if using, and 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar in a large (at least 8-quart) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, until the jam is thickened and reduced to about half, about 2 1/4 hours.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and the vanilla extract. Fill sterilized jars, seal with lids, and set aside to cool and create a vacuum seal at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Pavlovas with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Pavlovas with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

There’s nothing better on a warm day than crunchy and soft pavlovas married with homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and velvety whipped cream.

These individual pavlovas are very elegant, but indeed deceptively simple assemblages of basic items: soft, chewy meringues, homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. They do require several steps, but you need not accomplish them all at once. You can prepare the jam days ahead of time and cut the strawberries and bake the meringues hours before you use them. The latter will keep for several days, but the characteristic soft, chewy centers will become firm the longer they sit. As for the whipped cream, prepare it last as it will lose volume and smoothness the longer it waits in the refrigerator. If you are traveling with this dessert, carry the parts separately and assemble them on site.

Serves 8

Meringues

4 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vinegar

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Jam

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream

Sugar (optional)

Assembly

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping on medium-high speed. When the whites are very frothy, add the vinegar and salt. Begin incorporating the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, whipping for about 30 seconds to 1 minute after each addition. When all of the sugar has been added, continue whipping the meringue to stiff but supple peaks and until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes more. Spoon the meringue into 8 mounds onto the prepared baking sheet. Shape them into about 3 inch rounds, pressing the centers a bit to make shallow nests. Bake until firm (the meringues might color slightly and crack a bit), 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool completely on the pan. (At this point, the meringues can be carefully removed from the baking sheet and stored between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Be advised that the moist, chewy centers will become firm the longer they sit.)

To make the jam, combine the strawberries, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and, using your hands or a potato masher, crush the ingredients together until syrupy and mushy. It’s okay if you still see some pieces of berries. Cook the mixture over low heat, gently simmering and stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl to cool, or pour into jars and seal with airtight lids. The unsealed jam will keep in the refrigerator for several days and the sealed jam will store well in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

To make the whipped cream, whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to soft peaks. Whip in sugar, if desired.

To assemble the pavlovas, toss together the sliced strawberries with about 1/3 cup of the jam. Arrange the meringues on serving plates or a large platter. Fill each one with a dollop of whipped cream and spoon the strawberries and jam mixture evenly on top. Serve immediately.

Summer Peach Jam

A couple of weeks ago, on a warm, sundrenched summer day, I took my girls to a local peach festival, where we spent several hours reveling in fuzzy, fragrant fruit. Abundant bushels of ripe white- and yellow-fleshed peaches abounded. After filling our baskets at the farm market, we perused the bakery, where we discovered ping-pong-table-size peach layer cake, from which enthusiastic ladies wielding long serrated knives were slicing oversized, whipped cream-cloaked squares. Nearly every conceivable confection celebrated the fruit that day, from crisps and pies to breads and cakes and, of course, ice cream.

Once home I was ready to get to work cooking with the several pounds of the ripe peaches we purchased. Although there were many delicious desserts I could have made, I decided to engage in one of my favorite cooking pastimes: making jam. I have made peach jam a handful of times—sometimes with pectin and sometimes just with sugar. In the interest of time and accuracy, I decided to go with the conventional method and pulled a packed of liquid pectin from my pantry. The instructions in the box of Ball Fruit Jell Liquid Pectin make the process just about foolproof.

I happen to like altering recipes, adding ingredients here and changing amounts there. With jam, however, it really is necessary to follow directions and abide by the ratio of sugar, pectin, and fruit called for. This ensures that the jam will set up properly and maintain an appropriately thick consistency. That being said, I couldn’t help myself and did change the ingredients slightly. I added a pinch of salt, which I think is necessary to enhance the brightness and depth of the fruit flavor, and I stirred in a bit of finely chopped crystallized ginger. Peaches and ginger love each other. Adding too much ginger can overpower the peaches’ delicate sweetness and acidity. Incorporating just enough, though, contributes a lovely balance of warmth, spice, and roundness to the finished jam. The heat and intensity of the spice also mellows slightly as the jam sets for several days. In case you don’t care for ginger, simply leave it out, or add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract once the jam is done if you want. The peach jam is, of course, also perfect without any additions or alterations.

A final note about canning: Many recipes call for boiling the filled, capped jars of jam in a rack-lined pot of water to help create a successful vacuum and increase the jam’s shelf life. I usually don’t do this. My method of filling the jars, putting on the lids, inverting the jars for about ten seconds, and then allowing them to cool on the counter always creates a successful seal. I then store the jars in the refrigerator for at least three weeks and often up to a couple of months. This is an easy method of preserving, and once you start making your own fruit jams, I bet you’ll never again buy another jar of the store-bought stuff.

Summer Peach Jam

Pit, peel, and chop 3 pounds of peaches. You should have about 4 cups. Put the peaches in a large saucepan along with 7 1/2 cups of sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to full boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 packet of Ball Fruit Jell Liquid Pectin. Return to a rolling boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, skim any foam that has formed on the surface, and stir in 1/3 to a scant 1/2 cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger, if desired. Carefully ladle the hot jam into jars, leaving about 1/4 inch from the rims, and seal tightly. Invert each jar for about 10 seconds to create a vacuum and then set aside at room temperature to cool. This jam will keep well in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks.

Makes about eight 8-ounce jars (8 cups)