Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sex in a Jar

While I was on Cape Cod this summer, I visited a lovely little shop called the Nantucket Smoke-house in Chatham, Massachusetts. It is owned by Peter O'Donovan and Marco Protano. They have managed to stir up quite a lot of praise for their excellent smoked fish, as well as their eclectic gourmet market which stocks local and imported foods. (Visit their website While we were there Marco spooned out the most delicious sauces and jams for us to sample and I fell in love with one called Tomato Chili Melange. It tasted like sex in a jar....sticky, sweet and spicy all at the same time. I simply had to learn how to make my own.

Well with 10 pounds of tomatoes to go, and going fast, I had to get to work. Researching recipes on the Internet can occupy my time for hours each day and finding the right tomato chili jam recipe was quite the challenge. It seems that nobody in the states has a taste for it, but the Brits love the stuff. So after some sleuthing and recipe translating (why we never adopted the metric system is beyond me), I think I have come up with a most delicious recipe. And because it contains plenty of acidity from the vinegar, it is safe to play around a bit with tomato jam recipes without risking getting anyone sick from botulism. Adapted from several sources, it is not an exact replica of what I tasted this summer, but it comes pretty darn close. Eat it with a cheese platter, on sandwiches, with duck, as a glaze on chicken, pork or just out of the jar. It is quite spicy, but the long cooking and sugar temper the heat somewhat.

Tomato Chili Jam

4 large red peppers, seeded and chopped
8 medium tomatoes, chopped
16 fresh red jalapenos, chopped (with seeds)
16 cloves of garlic
1 3/4 C red wine vinegar
5 C brown sugar
4 thumbs of ginger (peeled)
the juice of 2 fresh limes

Chop and puree the red peppers, jalapenos, garlic and half of the tomatoes and pour into large stockpot. It is important not to discard the seeds from either the tomatoes or jalapenos because they contain pectin that helps the jam to set. Dice remaining tomatoes and put into pot with puree. Add vinegar, sugar and ginger and bring to a boil. Skim foam and simmer for around 45 minutes, stirring often. Jam is set when it becomes quite syrupy and very thick. I like to take my jam off the heat when I can see the bottom of the pot when I am stirring. Squeeze the juice of two limes into jam and stir. Remove any large lumps of ginger with a clean spoon. Pour into warm, sterilized jars, seal and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

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