India’s contribution to jam

17th June, 2014 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Tomato chutney

The nights have been getting cooler and the days are starting to follow suit. Which means it’s getting time to strip whatever is left out of the garden and either saute it in some olive oil for dinner or figure out how to stash it in the freezer for later.

One classic way to preserve a lot of fruit is by making jam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out so well for the more savory products from the garden. The one exception to this rule is tomatoes – which are technically a fruit, but for our purposes we’re going to treat them like a vegetable.

Tomato jam is a little odd, admittedly, and the execution can be awkward. Fortunately, the good people of India have made their own contribution to the world of preserves and have given us chutney.

Chutney is amazing stuff. It can be either sweet or savory, mild or spicy and is great with many western foods. It also tastes better when it’s been given a little time to marinate and it usually freezes very well. So make a bunch of chutney now and stash it for later. Nothing is quite as tasty as a chutney full of summer flavors in the dead of winter -  reminds you that spring will come around again.

Because chutney is Indian, it’s never bland. How spicy it is depends on which curry is used. Curry powder is actually a blend of upwards of 15 different spices in various configurations. Curry powder can be anywhere from sweet to brain-meltingly spicy.  Because the tomatoes are acidic and the other ingredients tend to the sweet side, our curry will be more mild. The generically named “Curry Powder” found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores will work just fine. If you have access to a selection of curry powders, choose the garam masala. If you prefer to mix your own, a combination of cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to equal two to three teaspoons will work fine, as well.

This recipe requires very little by way of special techniques or equipment. The one step that is non-negotiable is the the blanching of the tomatoes to remove the peel. If you’ve never done this before, it’s the easiest way to get the skins off ripe tomatoes.

The first step is to prepare a large bowl of ice water and have it standing by. The second step is to put a pot of water on to boil. While you’re waiting for that to happen, cut out the stems from the tomatoes, then make a large shallow X on the bottom of the tomato by just barely piercing the skin. I like to run my X at least halfway up the tomato, it makes slipping the skins off much easier.

Once the water is boiling, gently drop the tomatoes into it, being careful not to crowd the pan. Work in batches, if needed.  Let the tomatoes boil for three to five minutes or until the skins start to loosen. A more ripe tomato will get to that point in under a minute, a less ripe one will take longer.

When the skins start to loosen and wrinkly slightly, pull the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. This shocks the tomato and stops the cooking process.

When the tomatoes have cooled down a bit, pull them from the ice water and slip the peels off with either your hands or a paring knife. You will end up with a bunch of naked tomatoes, ready for chopping.

How smooth you want your chutney is up to you, but this is typically a chunky condiment. Feel free to use a food processor if you have one, if not – don’t sweat it. Sharpen your knife and get to work.

All ingredients can be added to the pan at once. Simmer until the raisins are soft and everything has thickened, then either serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Tomato chutney is great over corn bread or grilled steak and pairs well with chianti or any of the lighter beers.

Tomato Chutney
Makes 1 pint

2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1/2 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root
1-1/2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 onions, diced
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 pinch paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons curry paste

1) Fill a saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Place tomatoes in boiling water, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until skins begin to crack and peel. Remove from water, transfer to ice water bath, and peel.

2) Puree tomatoes with ginger and garlic in a food processor or blender.

3) Place tomato mixture, sugar, vinegar, onions, and golden raisins in a large saucepan. Season with mixed spice, chili powder, paprika, and curry paste. Simmer over medium heat until thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Posted on: June 17, 2014

Filed under: Sides, Vegetarian

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