Friday 18 January 2008

Easy Power-Failure Sweet Chilli Jam

I bought a gargantuan box of sweet, deep-red tomatoes from my greengrocer yesterday, for a mere thirty ront (R30). What a bargain, I thought as I staggered to my car. Every household needs 5000 tomatoes that promise to reach a pinnacle of ripeness within the next 20 minutes. It only hit me when I got home, and had to hire a forklift to get the box of tomatoes out of my car boot, that perhaps not everyone would appreciate gazpacho for supper for the next six weeks. So all the scarlet lovelies ended up in a Sweet Chilli Jam.

Here's a pic of the finished product
 (I think pictures might enliven this blog a bit,
don't you?)
I didn't have a recipe, and couldn't look for one on the Net, because there was yet another power failure in our area (luckily I have city gas, so I can at least use the hob) so I improvised a quick cheat's recipe, using some old chutney recipes as a guide.

 Stirring and scraping a cauldron of spitting red goo was a good way to while away the hours until the lights finally came on just after darkness fell. I've scaled this recipe down so it makes about 3 jars of sauce.

Excellent on a Cheddar sandwich, in stir-fries, or poured over a disc of ripe Camembert.

Power-Failure Sweet Chilli Jam

12 large, ripe, red tomatoes
2 big red peppers (capsicums)
4 (or more, depending on how hot you'd like your sauce) fresh red chillies
1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger, coarsely grated
2½ cups (625 ml) white sugar (or more, depending on the wateriness and acidity of the tomatoes)
4 Tbsp (60 ml) Balsamic or white wine vinegar
salt to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes, peppers and chillies (skin, seeds and all) and place in a liquidiser, or a blender fitted with a metal blade, together with the grated ginger. Whizz on the highest setting for a minute until processed to a foamy, thinnish liquid: don't worry if there are pips, or bits and pieces of pith and peel bobbing around. Pour into a large, deep pan and tip in the sugar and the vinegar. Add salt, to taste. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Now turn the heat right up and boil vigorously for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from catching. Use a large flat metal spoon to skim any foam or scum from the surface of the sauce.

In the meantime, rinse three small glass jars (or bottles, or Tupperware blikkies) in very hot water. If you're fastidious (which I am not) you can sterilise them first by microwaving the wet jars on high for three minutes, or by placing them, and their lids, in a clean saucepan of rapidly boiling water for five minutes. Drain upside down on a paper towel.

Taste the mixture - if it's too sweet, add a little more vinegar. When the mixture darkens a little, becomes syrupy and spits angrily when you stir it, it's nearly ready.

If you have a sugar thermometer, bring the mixture up to a few degrees below jam point. Or, much easier, take an ice cube from the freezer and drop a large blob of the mixture on to it. If the mixture, once it's cooled for 20 seconds, slides enthusiastically off the ice cube, you're not there yet - carry on boiling it for a little longer. If the sauce sets to a wobbly, trembling gel within 20 seconds of hitting the ice cube, it's ready.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes.

Put a sheet of newspaper under the hot jars and use a ladle to fill each jar almost to the brim. Screw on the lids tightly. If the jars are sticky on the outside, give them a quick rinse under the hot tap before you put them away.

Makes about 700 ml.

POSTSCRIPT: Store the jam in the fridge once you've opened it. I left two open jars in the cupboard and they lasted a month before they started to ferment, and I had to chuck them in the bin. This is probably because I neglected to sterilise the jars properly.
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