The Cycle of Jam

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Today while shopping with my daughter for school supplies in Amsterdam I caught myself regularly looking at my reflection on store windows, or inadvertently staring into every mirror I came across. This masochistic behaviour is not something I have indulged in for the last 32 years(yes I am 50), but somehow it popped up again, and I wondered why.
Having two teenage daughters with beautiful figures, who look great on anything they wear is of course no great confidence booster for my 50 year old ego, although I am extremely pleased to see how lovely they have turned out. When I looked for my reflection on those shop windows I was also looking for that teenager of 32 years ago, but what was the teenager looking for way back then anyway, when she repeatedly looked at her reflection on the store windows?

That search for perfection! Funny enough art is much kinder; perfection often lies in the beauty of the imperfect. Although creating art is more often than not a painstaking process, the product mostly has the ease of something that has always existed, something that couldn’t and shouldn’t be any other way. The artist often uses his skill to portray perfection and beauty in the imperfection and vulnerability of life. When we look at the curves in those plump Botticelli women or at the dark, wrinkled images of the characters in Rembrandt’s paintings, we don’t turn away thinking that those women really should have been thinner or less wrinkled, on the contrary we look into their souls and embrace the beauty, pain, and life that they portray.

We people are also works of art, and if I remind myself to look at my window reflection with the same wonder for life that I look at Rembrandt’s characters, the ones looking back at me from the walls of the Rijksmuseum I will see myself in all my perfectly imperfect glory and enjoy!

The food I love is also not about perfection. I love to cook foods that don’t look perfect, foods that happen from the messy interaction with life. I love foods that cook in one large pan, in which ingredients are measured by handfuls or pinches and not by grams. I don’t feel tempted by those large plates with a couple of creamy drops of something in the centre. I love the beauty of the big pot with stuff in it.

Today I made a big pot of tomato jam, and it was fun to go from the plump juicy tomatoes to the concentrated, reduced, sweet, spicy gooey jam; a whole cycle in 11/2 hour.

Tomato Jam
about 2.5 kilo of tomatoes
11/2 cups honey
1 cup of sucanat(granulated cane juice)
the juice of one lemon
the peel of 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp clove powder
4 cardamon pods
a pinch of salt

-cut the tomatoes in medium size pieces(I cut them in pieces of 4)
-put all the ingredients in a large pan and let them cook until the whole thing becomes jam, about an hour and a half
-stir occasionally, and don’t let it get super thick since it will thicken when it cools off
-when the jam is done put it in glass jars, let it cool off and refrigerated for up to a couple of weeks.
-you can also can it in sterilized jars(which is what I did this time, since I want to practice to get really good at canning and preserving), in this case you can store your jam outside the fridge for several months.

if you want to can your jam:
-have a large pan of boiling water where you can boil your already cleaned jars and lids(use new lids, since they are safer against bacteria) while the jam is cooking
-when the jam is almost ready boil the empty jars and lids
-take them out after they have boiled for about 10 minutes, use kitchen tangs to get them out, and place the jars and lids on a clean kitchen towel
-fill the jars with jam, but leave a bit of a space on top, and wipe the jars well with a clean towel
-close the jars well and put them in the pan with boiling water again to boil for about 10 minutes, make sure that the pots are completely under water
-take the jam pots out carefully and place them on a kitchen towel and let them cool off
-you know that your pots are properly sealed when you push the center of the lid and the lid doesn’t bounce back. The lids should be flat, rather sinking than bulging.
-if the pots are not well sealed put them in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage

BTW Tomato Jam is delicious!

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