December 19, 2003
[Cherry Tomato Cinnamon Jam]
My mother has been making jars and jars of delicious jam every summer as far back as I can remember, using fruit bought at the Sunday morning market (strawberry, apricot), hand-picked by my family (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), or given out by friends with overflowing orchards (rhubarb, plums, cherry plums). She labels them and stores them in the cellar, where they patiently age for a year before being generously spread on buttered toast for breakfast. The wait is certainly harder on us, but we know it's all for the best.
For some reason, jam-making had always seemed to me an involved enterprise, but last summer I decided to give it a try. I started clipping recipes from magazines, and bought myself the small recipe book written by Christine Ferber, generally referred to as "la fée des confitures" (the jam fairy), an Alsacian who makes them the old-fashioned way, with local seasonal fruit, cooked in small batches in copper pots.
I also started saving all the jars I came across, stacking them at the back of already bursting kitchen cabinets, and generally just driving Maxence crazy. I even bought a few beautiful ones at the French chain store Résonances. Can you picture the love child of Restoration Hardware and Williams Sonoma, conceived during a trip to Paris? That's Résonances in a nutshell. Believe me, it is tough to resist the calling of that one.
Over the summer, I made three different recipes in small batches, put the jars away, and vowed to wait until the chilly winter days to open them. Those days have come, although technically winter isn't till Monday. For reasons that will soon be fully disclosed, the first jar I opened was the Cherry Tomato Cinnamon Jam. The recipe I used - with a few minor modifications - comes from the magazine Elle, which by the way has a much much better editorial content in its French weekly edition than its American or British counterparts. Not to mention great recipes.
Cherry Tomato Cinnamon Jam
- 400 g ripe cherry tomatoes
- 200 g crystallized sugar
- a stick of cinnamon
Pour boiling water all over a glass jar and its lid. Leave it upside down to dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Rinse and dry the tomatoes. Cut them in halves and put them in a large pot with the sugar and cinnamon. Stir, and let macerate for an hour.
Put the pot on high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes and put the syrup back in for 5 minutes, until thickened.
Put the tomatoes back in, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Take the pot off the heat, pour the mixture in the glass jar, plant the cinnamon stick in, and close the lid tightly. Store in a cool dark place for a few months.
This jam looks beautiful, bright red with golden specks, and the taste is very surprising, a sweet and tangy compote with a full tomato flavor and a hint of cinnamon. In my opinion, the latter could be more pronounced, and I will use more next time, probably adding ground cinnamon too.
And this should work very well in what I have in mind for the near future...
Important disclaimer! This jarring method (boiling the jars then closing them tightly and letting them cool upside down) is one that's been commonly practiced in France for generations and generations. However, using a sterilizing machine and rubber-lidded jars is the only way to be absolutely safe. For more information on home-canning, click here.
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