Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hindsight and Tomato Jam

Here is a list of decisions I made, just today, that resulted in epic failures.

1.  Teaching L how to affect a Yorkshire accent while reading The Secret Garden with her.
Now, I have nothing against a nice, broad Yorkshire accent.  What I do take issue with, now that it has. Been brought to my attention, is L's interpretation of a Yorkshire accent.  Having recently finished several other stories that featured Mexican, Indian, and Scottish accents, addition of Yorkshire appears to have overloaded her savage little mind.  Now whenever L mimics Ben Weatherstaff or Martha, she does so in a hellish patois of accents that is roughly the vocal equivalent of a knitting needle to your ear drum.

2. Adding rice cereal to R's soup to make it easier for her to eat.
R was doing pretty well slurping up the last of the crab chowder broth.  Foolishly, I thought that thickening it with some rice cereal would have the two pronged effect of making it even easier for her to swallow and giving her some added nutrition.  Well, I am sure the latter would have been true had she ever deigned to comply with the experiment and swallow any. Instead, she decided to perform several experiments of her own, and violently spat the nicely thickened broth right into my eyes.  Several times.  That's right.  I tried to feed it to her several more times, even after being blinded by the first attempt.

3. Wearing my nose ring while R is developing her pincer grasp.
While trying to put her down for a nap today R and I had one of those precious and intimate moments that are exclusive to someone feeding a baby.  She looked up from nursing, smiled at me with her sweet, two toothed, milky little smile, and then viciously plucked out my nose stud with the fine motor precision of a ninja. It was like a scene from Kill Bill.  And then I looked up from R, in a haze of pain, eyes running, to find L watching me from the doorway and shaking her head.  "You should have said 'Oh dirt' Mom."

Yup.  Thanks for that tip, L.

4. Telling Lucy what I was doing when she asked, just now.
"What are you doing, Mom?" <<watching me from doorway to the playroom>>
"What are you writing, Mom?"  <<steps into the room to lean against the chair I am occupying>>
"A story.  Kind of."
"Can I write a story now?" <<grabs for iPad>>
"Not right now on the iPad L, but you can write on some paper if you'd like."
"What is the story about, Mom?" <<climbs onto the arm of the chair>>
"Um...its  Kind of."
"Me?  Can you read it to me?  Can I tell you a story about me?  Can I write it?" <<slides down into my lap, directly between me and the iPad, which is now situated in L's lap>>
"Not yet, L.  It isn't finished yet."
"When will it be finished?"
"Well, I don't know."
"When will you know when it will be finished."  <<R, drawn into the room by this conversation, now attempting to climb into the chair.  She is encouraging my help in this endeavor by making noises roughly resembling a Pteranodon speaking Klingon.>>
"I.  Don't.  Know.  It's like one of your paintings or crafts.  You don't know that it is done until its done."
"Oh."  <<L tried to be helpful by tickling R with her foot.  Instead knocks her over, sending her into a baby rage.>>
"Why don't you go back into your play room?"  <If you hadn't already guessed, there is probably a hint of panic in my voice right now.  The panic of one who senses their patience rapidly dwindling>>
"No, that's OK.  I want to snuggle."

And now here is a recipe that is really good.

Tomato Jam with Caramelized Onions
Inspiration for this recipe came from Food In Jars, a great blog with really specific instructions and some really beautiful recipes.  For planning purposes, this is an all day recipe.  I roast the tomatoes slowly, caramelize the onions slowly, and then slow cook the jam to avoid any scorching.  The last time I made it, I put the onions on the burner and the tomatoes in the oven around 11:30am and finished canning the jam at 9:40pm.  In between I did many nap times and bed times and cooked dinner and ran an errand while everything was on low, but it does take a while.

10 lbs tomatoes (Romas have less water and will cook faster, but anything will do)
4 large onions
2 heads of garlic
1 cup bottled lemon juice
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
several sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and oregano (or whatever herbs you like and can get your hands on)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

1.  Caramelize the onions: slice all four onions into whatever size you wish.  They will cook down.  Put in a large bottomed pan, at least 12", with 1/4 stick of salted butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute the onions on med high until they brown slightly, then turn down to low and cover.  Forget for several hours.

2. Roast the tomatoes: preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Core your tomatoes, cut them in half, and have your trusty assistant place them on an oiled sheet pan cut side up.  Or down.  Or whatever way she wants to.  Sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and have your assistant rub this mixture around every tomato with a brush.  Or her hands.  It's OK, they are going to be roasted.  (If you want to get fancy about the tomatoes, then you really need to peel them first by blanching them in boiling water and peeling off the skins.  I don't really care if there are papery shreds of tomato skin in my sauces and jams, but some people do!)  Peel the two heads of garlic as well, and throw the cloves on the sheet pan in between the tomatoes.  Roast at 350 for about two hours, or until the tomatoes cook down and the edges get browned.

3.  Add the tomatoes, garlic and onions to a large pot.  At this point you have a choice.  You can just dump the sheet pans directly into the pot, tomatoes, tomato juice and all.  Or you can lift out the tomatoes and garlic cloves and leave the pan juices.  Thus far, I have chosen the dumping methods, which I am sure results in several more hours of cooking time for the water to evaporate.  However, for some reason, I think there is a lot of flavor in that juice that is getting concentrated as it cooks down.  If you are in a hurry, just lift the tomatoes and garlic off the pan and dump the juices down the drain.  Or save them for veggie broth.  Or something.

Papery tomato skins and watery juices.  We have a long road ahead.

4.  Add the lemon juice, maple syrup, balsamic, and herbs.  Bring the resulting mixture to a boil

5.  Reduce heat to a low simmer, and let it cook.  And cook.  And cook.  Stir it a lot.  If you have to go out turn it to low.  Leave it uncovered so the water can evaporate.

We are about two hours in at this point.  And we still have a long road ahead.
6.  When the jam is almost finished it will have almost no juice separating out from the mixture.  It will be thick and glossy.  If you stir it and it makes a sizzling sound, the turn off the heat and take it off the burner.  It is done.

7.  To can, ladle the jam into sanitized jars (I usually plan two hours ahead of when I know I will be canning, and use the sanitize setting on my dishwasher.  Or you can boil the jars in water for 10 minutes to sanitize them.), and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.  For more detailed information on water bath canning, please visit this excellent website.  Not only do they have resources on where to pick your own fruits and veggies in your area, but they have instructions on how to jam, jelly, can and pickle almost anything.  (Side note: I can pickle that!  Portlandia, anyone?  Anyone?)

There is nothing as satisfying as the sight of one's pantry full of these jars.
Unless it is the sight of several pallets full in one's basement.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what the hell the point is of making a really weird tomato onion jam that takes like ten hours.  I understand, I really do.  I get it.  But I also love delicious things.  Am I saying that this jam is delicious.....well, no.  Not by itself.  But here are a list of the things I have used it on in just the past week (since I made the first batch) that were nearly transcendent.

1.  Meatloaf stuffed with goat cheese and tomato jam.
2.  Patty melt with goat cheese and tomato jam
3.  Panini with rosemary ham, goat cheese and tomato jam
4.  Wrap with turkey, feta and tomato jam
5.  Sourdough toast with butter and tomato jam

If you are seeing a pattern here, good for you.  Yes the jam is good.  But pair it with a strong, slightly bitter flavor (goat cheese, feta cheese, sourdough), and it becomes insane.  Sweet, savory and complex, the garlic and onions just melt into the background.

You won't be sorry.

Or, at least, you won't be as sorry as I am right now for not having finished this post before nap time was over.