Monday, August 20, 2012

Savory Jams

I've mentioned before that I try not to can things that are readily available at the grocery store.  Sweet and savory tomato jam definitely falls into that category.  I saw this on the Wednesday Chef blog more than a year ago and was drawn in by the idea of a tomato jam to use on sandwiches and especially as a new twist on my favorite Sunday morning toast and sunny-side up egg.  It is accented with cumin, which I love, but contains too much sugar for my taste.  I'm working on coming up with ways to use up the rest of the jar, but I've realized that I'm just not that into sweetness outside of dessert.  I like the idea of a tomato jam, but perhaps something halfway between a sauce and tomato paste with lots of herbs and a spicy kick.

My other canning experiment this month was the result of a very overgrown serano plant at Veronica's place.  While I was cat-sitting, I picked nearly a pound of red and green peppers and still left quite a few on the plant!  I had seen this recipe for pepper jelly at Confections of a Foodie Bride and decided that would be the perfect use for this bounty.  I have fond memories of party appetizers from my undergrad days consisting of just the block of cream cheese covered with jalapeno jelly and served with crackers.  I made a half-recipe each with red and green seranos.  A few notes of caution on this recipe.  First, boiling hot peppers in vinegar should only be done with the exhaust fan on - unless you are trying to drive guests out of your house.  Second, seranos are HOT, so I added back only a tiny amount of pulp that came through the sieve and the result was still pretty spicy.  If you don't like the heat, you can make a milder version by removing the seeds before boiling the peppers or increasing the proportion of bell peppers to spicy peppers.  This jam includes a lot of sugar, but here it is really necessary to cut the heat of the peppers.  The richness of the cream cheese is a great complement to the jam and I think this is the best way to serve it.  If you're facing an excess of peppers, consider making some pepper jelly and canning it in small jars.  The red and green would make for pretty stocking stuffers or hostess gifts.

I took the jam and cream cheese to a pool party with some girl friends which we all enjoyed until the first thunderstorm we've had all summer rolled through!  Not to worry, there is plenty more summer to be had here in south Texas so we'll have plenty more chances for lounging by the pool.

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