Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam (… or chutney? You be the judge!)

Tomato jam

What do you do when you have a glut of ripe tomatoes hanging off vines in the garden, the pantry is packed, your freezers are full of whole tomatoes for enjoying later, and you’re about to leave town?

Well, may I suggest a tart/tangy, sweet, highly flavourful, and slightly spicy tomato jam? Why not, right? We’re all adults around here – I think.

I am calling this a jam but this may not be the correct culinary term for it since it contains both fruit and vegetables. I know this culinary classification (yes, I am adopting an academic tone when I write this) depends on the vinegar content, but I don’t know the true classic definition. I am far from a purist or ‘classicist’ when it comes to food so a foodie expert would know better than me! In fact, it may be more of a chutney. I don’t know. Some things we may never know.

What I do know is this: it’s easy to make and eat. In this, multi-coloured beefsteak tomatoes join two kinds of onions, apple cider vinegar, fresh lime juice, sweet dates (made into a date paste using Sonia’s method), thick mineral-rich blackstrap molasses, fresh garlic, and dried paprika, ginger and Chinese Five Spice in a pot. They are then cooked down until the mix thickens and until everything basically tastes like a happy marriage of seasonal flavours and your taste buds are doing a merry dance that unfortunately resembles the cha-cha.

I also know that tomatoes are worth eating because they contain a phytochemical called lycopene, which you may have heard of. Cooking tomatoes actually raises the levels of lycopene that are available to our bodies so you’re better off cooking than eating tomatoes raw, at least where lycopene is concerned. Indeed, sun-dried tomatoes have some of the highest levels of lycopene. Tomatoes also contain vitamin A and C (some of which is lost during cooking).

Despite their current popularity (they have become the third most-popular vegetable eaten by Americans), tomatoes were considered poisonous by most Europeans and tomatoes weren’t widely eaten as food until the 19th century. Surprised? No wonder they had the scurvy!

[Source: The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, The University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter]

 

Tomato jam

 

Make it and then you can let me know whether this tastebud-tantalizing tomato spread is more appropriately a chutney, a jam or… something else entirely. Here’s how:

Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

Ingredients

  • About 10 lbs. of beefsteak tomatoes mix of red, orange and yellow tomatoes PLUS 1-2 green tomatoes for tartness and texture
  • 1 large red onion chopped coarsely
  • 1 large yellow or white onion chopped coarsely
  • 4 garlic cloves don’t be afraid of this much garlic; there are a lot of tomatoes going into this hot tub party, minced
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • ½ cup date paste
  • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon each smoked paprika and ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice

Instructions

  1. Get your hands on some tomatoes. Some of mine wouldn't win a beauty contest but they taste just as good as the ones that look like they could win first place at the county state fair. Pretty or not, they pack a wallop of flavour so this is a great use for less-than-perfect tomatoes.
  2. Chop them all up.
  3. Prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  4. Add all ingredients to a large pot (probably the largest you own). Stir in ½ cup water and bring the mix to a boil.
  5. Once the mixture boils, reduce it to a simmer and stir regularly.
  6. Cook it all down, stirring all the while to make sure it doesn’t stick or burn, until the texture is thick and no longer runny. For 10 lbs. of tomatoes (plus the extra ingredients), this took about 2.5 to 3 hours to reduce to a thick "jam-like" chutney.
  7. Add the chutney to sterilized jars to enjoy or gift for immediate eating, or freeze them for later. I enjoyed a half pint when I made it, gifted another, and then froze the rest for a dark winter’s day when dreaming of fresh tomatoes off the vine becomes a daily occurrence.

I brought this chutney/jam to a party and it was quickly gobbled up with some creamy plain goat cheese on crackers and fresh bread.

Something exciting happens to your taste buds when tomatoes are combined with cheese, perhaps any kind of cheese… except maybe that weird yellow stuff that comes in mega-blocks at the grocery store. But I digress.

You could even cut extra thick slices of a firm cheese and slather them with this chutney, sans bread or any other carb-y vehicle. If you don’t like or eat cheese, please disregard the above paragraph. The tomato chutney jam is affecting everything, my taste buds and even my brain power.

Tomato jam

I enjoy this with eggs, as a spread on sandwiches, on pizza, alone or with cheese as a quick snack or appetizer as mentioned above (which may be the best way to enjoy it). It also freezes well and I didn’t notice any loss or change in flavour.

What I also know is that you should make this (or something like it) if you’re lucky enough to still have a surplus of ripe tomatoes on your kitchen counter just waiting to be used.

Today’s question is an easy one: do you love tomato jam even half as much as me?

Life is a plate… eat up!

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3 thoughts on “Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam (… or chutney? You be the judge!)

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