Jammin’

Having bottled fruit until I was sick of the sight of it, I decided to progress on to some different preserves. We don’t eat huge amounts of jam Chez Snail, but I like to have some around to use to fill Victoria sponge cakes, or occasionally on a piece of toast or in a jam roly-poly. So I set to and made two types: peach and apricot, neither of which I have made before. There were also some left-over peaches, so I made a couple of jars of barbeque sauce to use them up.

I’ve followed (sort of) recipes by Marisa McClellan, which seem to include much less sugar (still lots, though) than traditional British jam, but which require hot water bath treatment (as per the picture above). A few years ago, one of you lovely readers (I can’t remember who) recommended these books and I have been really enjoying some of the recipes. ‘Food in Jars’ has some interesting things¬†in it that aren’t preserves in the conventional sense, like granola and beer bread mix, which I plan to explore a bit more. Mr Snail was dubious about the idea of peach barbeque sauce, but I thought we’d give it a go anyway… I will report back.

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really liking these books

So, that’s it for the current round of preserving – there will be more later in the season. I’m hoping for pineapples in the next month or two!

Pass the passata

A trip to one of our local organic producers the other day yielded two bags of squishy tomatoes.¬† I occasionally manage to get some of these and am really happy when I do. Because they are too fragile to be taken to farmers’ market, they are only available direct from the farm and because they are not premium produce, they are always cheap. To me, however, they are perfect for making passata… especially since I don’t tend to have great success growing tomatoes myself.

Ready for roasting

Ready for roasting

I could bottle (can) them, but my preferred method of preservation is to make a concentrated passata and then to freeze it**. The approach is inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, namely that I roast the tomatoes first and then pulverise them. The roasting does two things – first it gives them a nice flavour; second, it reduces the water content, so I’m storing tomotoey goodness rather than liquid, which I can always restore later, but don’t need to keep in my freezer!

My tomato mill

My tomato mill

In fact what I do is much more simple than what Hugh suggests. I cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a roasting dish. Then I drizzle them with oil (olive or sunflower, but whatever you like is fine) and I roast them in the oven until they are cooked through – soft and possibly slightly browned. If I’m doing them on their own, I’d set the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and cook them for about 60 minutes, but I often roast them when I’m cooking other things, and the temperature is flexible and the time can be adjusted accordingly. I used to sprinkle them with seasoning and perhaps garlic or herbs, but these days I tend to leave them unadorned for a more versatile end product.

Cooked tomatoes in...

Cooked tomatoes in…

Once cooked, I leave them to cool in the tin (often overnight) and when they are cold I run them through my tomato mill – a magic machine that separates the the pulp from the seeds and skin. It’s hand cranked, so doesn’t take any electricity, but is a bit of a pain to wash afterwards. If you don’t have one of these wonderful items, you can simply sieve the cooked tomatoes, but this takes much more effort.

... passata (in the bowl) and skin + seeds (in the tray) out

… passata (in the bowl) and skin + seeds (in the tray) out

Finally I separate the passata (i.e. tomato pulp) into small containers for freezing. The little pots I use were sold as containers for baby food, but they are ideal for making small blocks of tomato. When required, you can defrost as many of the blocks as you require – one for a pizza or four for a bolognaise sauce – and enjoy the taste of summer through the winter.

Ready for freezing

Ready for freezing

-oOo-

  • Update November 2015: These days I also bottle it in 250ml Kilner jars, to avoid the need to buy another freezer!!
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