Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Jammin' on the Biogas Stove.

Weighing in the contenders.
Sometimes we have an abundance of crops, and then you might wonder: How do I use it all without wasting any.. answer is simple actually, you make jam, or you pickle, or you just eat extra of x, y or z.

Now this season we seem to have gotten the Tomato seeds mixed, and  ended up with an abundance of cherry tomatoes, which I have been harvesting for the past couple of months for salads, and sauces and to add to oven dishes. And then we had a week of glorious sunshine, and it seemed like they all just went red all at once.

So I harvested that too not to waste any of them, because they really are good, sweet and fleshy. That saying: Homegrown is best, actually is true. Nothing beats the flavour of a homegrown tomato, except maybe another one.. hahaha..

Anyway so I always weigh the amount of crop I have for jam before I start cooking it. Reason? Simple - to get the sugar ratio just right, and even here I have a rule, one which I have used ever since I started jammin', and that is half the weight of the fruit in sugar... so with these tomatoes I had harvested 1,8kg, therefore the sugar added will be about 900g. I have found that this gives a much better flavour in the jam, and with some fruit its actually nicer to be able to still taste the fruit rather that just sweetness.

Tomatoes gone potty!
Having added the tomatoes to a pot, with a squeeze of water, I place them on the stove and start cooking, stirring now and again to ensure that it does not burn. I chose the Biogas stove for this jammin' session because I wanted to be able to say that the Jam is organic (we don't use any chemical pesticides), and because the bag in which the gas is generated was very full. :-)

Once the tomatoes are boiling and bursting from their skins, I add the sugar, and cook for a further
5-15 minutes, sometimes longer depending on the amount of water, or runnyness of the jam.

Cooking away happily.
I add a teaspoon and a half of pectin powder which is mixed with a tablespoon of sugar (the pectin powder I get from overseas, but locally one can add lemon juice, or rind, or even an apple or so). The pectin helps the jam to gel. Once the pectin has been added I turn the heat down to a low flame, this allows the jam to cook slowly for a while.

I let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so, while I skim the foam off the top. The foam is usually impurities which were on the skins of the fruit etc. And while it simmers, I boil some water to sterilize my bottles with. I like using jars that have the pop lids... you know the lids with the raised thingy in the middle which pops when you open the jar. Well they work in reverse as well, and I have found that if I bottle my jam while its still hot, and put the lid on straight afterwards, then the heat of the jam creates a vacuum on cooling, which sucks this pop thingy in thereby creating a very good seal. Of course I also have some Consol jars, but like to recycle as well. :-)

Jars of Jam - Tomato Jam.

With the jam bottles and sealed it can be stored in the cupboard till we decide to eat it. Jammin' and pickling is very rewarding as it allows you to enjoy your crop and harvest for an extended period of time. If one is a smallholder like we are, it makes perfect sense to do that, otherwise we could just as well live in the city and buy all our jams etc.. We have not bought any jam since December, as we have more than enough now to last us a good while.

Doesn't that just look yummy?

We do however still buy beetroot pickle and gherkins as those are our favourite pickles, but this will also change as soon as we are able to produce enough beetroot to pickle ourselves, and grow gherkins to pickle as well...  :-) So there you have it, making your own jam is easy-peasy, and cheaper than buying!

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