In the tropical city of Chennai, March and April are the months when tomato prices hit rock bottom. I can even get them at Rs. 8/Kg. This is the time to make tomato jams, chutneys, and sauces. Tomato jam is a great favourite of mine as my mother used to make it when I was a child. She used to painstakingly peel the tomato skin with a knife because she was not aware of the concept of blanching. I learnt about blanching tomatoes in my undergraduate studies, and I incorporated it into the making of jam in my kitchen, minimising wastage in the process. My mother did not have a mixie or a blender, and the tomatoes were just chopped and boiled. I make a smooth pulp of the tomatoes and that gives the jam a lovely homogenised consistency.
Tomatoes have negligible protein and fat and are very low in carbohydrates. One hundred grams of tomatoes yield only around 20 calories. But tomatoes are very rich in carotene (350 µg/100 g) and folic acid (30 µg/100 g). Carotene is a powerful antioxidant, and it is not destroyed by heat. Therefore spreading even a small amount of tomato jam on bread or muffins will contribute carotene to the diet. The sugar of course increases the energy almost sky high but then the jam is not drunk or poured. It is only spread 🙂
- 3 Kg Country Tomatoes (Naattu Thakkali)
- 7 C (or more) Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- Wash and blanch (see notes) the tomatoes. Cool.
- Remove skin. Chop the tomatoes. Pulse in a mixie or blender at speeds 1, 2, and 3 for 10 seconds each.
- Measure the pulp. For each cup of pulp, you will require a cup of sugar.
- Place the pulp in a large heavy based pan and then heat while stirring slowly.
- When the pulp begins to boil, lower heat and continue cooking till it is reduced to approximately 1/3 volume.
- Add the sugar and salt. Stir on low heat till the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil.
- Lower heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly.
- When the jam becomes thick and drops in blobs from a spoon, remove from heat.
- Store in airtight bottles in the refrigerator.
- I prefer to use country tomatoes because the sourness adds a little extra zing to the jam. Since there are no preservatives added, the jam cannot be left at room temperature for more than 2 days. In hot climates it is best to refrigerate immediately. In the refrigerator it keeps for several weeks though after 6 weeks the sugar begins to crystallise.
- To blanch tomatoes: Heat 2 litres of water in a very large saucepan. The water should fill only half the saucepan. When the water begins to boil, lower heat and add as many tomatoes as possible without the water rising too high in the saucepan. Increase the heat and bring to boil. Allow the tomatoes to boil for exactly 60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into another saucepan with water at room temperature. After the tomatoes have cooled, peel off the skin. The boiling water in the first saucepan can be used for another batch. Blanching makes the skin separate from the pulp and easy to remove.
- When the sugar is added, it will draw out the moisture from the tomatoes. This will cause the mixture to become more liquid and increase in volume.
- Once the jam reaches the stage of dropping in blobs from the spoon, it should be removed from heat immediately. Otherwise it will continue to thicken and you will not be able to remove the jam from the pan.