Fall is my absolute favourite time of year! The trees create a gorgeous kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and golds as their leaves change colour. The days are cool, crisp and filled with glorious sunshine. And best of all, the abundance of fall produce inspires me to get creative in the kitchen!
Living in southern Ontario, I like to best experience this season by taking long scenic drives through the countryside, along winding roads where we can admire the stunning fall colours. Stopping at farmers' markets along the way to pick up local specialties such as smoked meats, preserves, fruits and vegetables, and savouring them by the side of a serene lake is my idea of a perfect weekend!
Traveling through small Ontario towns lets you discover hidden gems of restaurants, where chefs use locally grown produce in wonderfully creative ways. The best recipes are those that let the flavour and freshness of the ingredients shine through. It is amazing how a few fresh ingredients, simply cooked can taste so fantastic.
Fall fruits and vegetables, sun ripened and picked at the peak of their freshness have an unforgettable flavour all their own. Although there is a huge variety of fresh produce available this time of year, sun kissed, vine ripened tomatoes top my list of favourites! Bursting with flavour and sweetness, i just can't get enough of them. I end up buying so many that i can't possibly cook with all of them and have to act quickly to preserve them. One of the ways i do that is by making jams and chutneys which let me enjoy their delicious flavour throughout the year.
This tomato jam doubles as a chutney and is perfect with Indian food. It is also great with toast, crackers, burgers, grilled meats, poultry and seafood! Quite often, I'll just spread it on a thick slice of olive bread and make that my breakfast. Ah, what a way to start my day!
If you wish to have a milder flavoured jam, pick out the whole garam masala spices at the end of cooking. I usually leave them in and the jam gets more and more aromatic and full flavoured as time goes on!
Tomato Jam With Whole Garam Masala
10 large ripe plum tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
10 each, whole: cloves, cardamom
1/2 inch stick cinnamon
1/4 piece of nutmeg, optional
1 star anise
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup each: sugar, apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp chilli pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil again. Remove from heat, drain tomatoes and transfer to a bowl. Cool to room temperature, then peel and chop them roughly.
Warm oil in deep non stick skillet set over medium heat. Add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), star anise, black pepper and bay leaf. Saute for a minute, until spices are fragrant and darken in colour. Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and chilli pepper flakes.
Mix well, cover skillet partially and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until jam is thickened, about 30 min., stirring occasionally. Tomatoes should be well cooked into a jam like consistency at the end of cooking time. If that hasn't happened, uncover skillet, turn up heat to medium and cook off excess liquid, stirring all the while.
Taste for seasonings, adding more if necessary. Transfer to a sterilized jar and keep refrigerated.
Note: the whole spices in this jam are not meant to be eaten.