Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tomato With Pickeling Spices (Tamatar ka Achar)

Ripe and organic tomatoes from my garden
Please don't kill me today because I have yet another preserve recipe here for you. But I can't help it. First it was cherries, then apricots and greengages and now tomatoes - summer has been a little hard on me! Not that I am complaining to be on the receiving end of such abundant organic produce at my arm's reach but how much can a girl take? I have made tamatar aloo, tomato tadka dal and tomato green chutney enough times to be able to scare my family away from the dinner table by just the sound of it. So preserving pounds after pounds of tomatoes was the only option I had! Now that's what summer is all about right- abundant fresh produce and a lot of preserving? I am sad that its time to hug the season bye but I wanted it to end on this note because that's what I have happy memories of and assume its a tradition.

Tomato with pickeling spices
Summers would come and my grandma would be after my Papa's life to go to the haat (local farmer’s market) to get raw mangoes and whole spices so that she can start prepping them up for the whole year. She was in her eighties and could still sit for hours drying whole chilies in the sun to later grind them with her own hands with a mortar and pestle to make garam masala. Jars for aam ka achar (pickled raw mangoes) would come out of the shelves, cleaned, dried and filled with the mango wedges coated with loads of oil and just the right amount of spices. Of course everyone had to still follow the customary rules of not touching or opening the jars for some time or with bare hands – something as trivial as that might spoil the whole batch. Just like any teenage girl, I would try to watch my figure and maa would throw in dollops of ghee (clarified butter) in my daal with a big wedge of pickled mango or lemon canned from last summer. I would frown and she would say, “eat it, this will make you strong!” Well, I had to and no wonder I do the same to my daughter now. Somehow a bowl full of steaming hot dal chawal (steamed rice with yellow lentil soup) with achar (pickle) is all you need to be transported back to that time!  

Collage 2
Tomato Achar is not necessarily a common variety of pickle used in India but mummy has been making it for as long as I can remember and was one of my favorites after her world famous pickled red chili peppers. I have spoken about panch foran here and that is what we are using to pickle the tomatoes here. Also its very simple to make but the amount of salt and oil is very crucial for this recipe. The amount of water in tomato is a good "ingredient" for disaster and if there isn't enough oil in the pickle then it can go bad pretty fast. So its important that the oil is enough to cover the whole of pickle in the jar. It might seem a lot but trust me, its not.

Collage 1
4 pounds sliced tomato (I used Early Girl tomatoes but you can use any variety)
1/2 cup or 2 bulbs garlic
1/3 cup thai/cayenne green chili
3 tablespoon Panch Foran spices
1/4 teaspoon asafetida
1/3 curry leaves (coarsely chopped)
1 cup olive/mustard oil
1/2 cup salt

Using a mortar and pestle, crush garlic and green chili together. If you do not have a mortar pestle handy, you can always use a food processor to coarsely grind it. I like it coarsely ground because I like it when I get little chunks of garlic or chili in my pickle. If you are not a fan then blend it into a paste.
Heat oil in a large thick bottom pan. Add asafetida and panch foran spices. As soon as they sputter, add curry leaves. They will splatter wildly for a few seconds so make sure you are at a safe distance from the pan.
Once the splattering is calmed down add garlic and chili paste. Fry for about a minute until they turn lightly golden in color.
Add tomatoes and salt. Mix everything together and bring it to a boil. As the tomatoes start to boil, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer until all the liquid is cooked off, for about 1- 1.5 hours.
Towards the end when all the liquid is evaporated, tomato with reduce to a thicker chutney like consistency and oil will separate. Cook for another 7-10 minutes making sure there's no water left.
Once cooked through, let the pickle cool down before transferring into a can. Store it in a cool dry place in air tight containers. In a refrigerator this pickle can last for at least a couple months.
Serve as a spread with your choice of bread, as a dip with veggies or the traditional way with a bowl full of steaming hot dal chawal!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Greengage Jelly and Greengage Jam

Answers would be in the head but I couldn't write them faster on the paper to be able to get out of that hot and stuffy examination hall. Sweat would trickle down my back, breathing would get heavy and the desperation to finish writing the last paper of my final term exams would be immense. Not just because its all going to be over and school will be closed for the next two months but also because I could see those packed bags at home, that day long train journey to Nani's (grandma) house and those countless mango trees loaded with ripe, juicy mangoes in her huge garden.

Greengage jam and jelly
Summers would come and off we would go to Nani's to see all of my uncles, aunts and countless cousins. All of us wouldn't meet for the whole year but the moment we would see each other it felt like we has to pick from where we had left last summer. My mom's native house was almost a small mansion with big doors after doors, tall staircases leading into huge halls and rooms as big as our whole house. A few of those rooms were just stores, godam, we could call them and during summer those godams would be filled with mangoes. So many of them that the aroma would fill the whole house and also you from within.

Greengage jam with fennel seeds and cracked pepper.
For the next two months we would eat mangoes in all shapes, sizes and forms. Pickled with spices, pureed to make aam panna reduced to make jams and jellies and dried to make fruit leathers. I would be so overwhelmed with all of it that after a few days I would stop eating my favorite fruit through out my stay there. My brother never made that mistake and would relish their sweet and juicy goodness as much as he could. Now I wish I would have done the same because fate brought me so far away from those mangoes that now how hard I try I can't get that taste here in the foreign land. But fate did bring me closer to and introduced me to many new flavors which I hope is helping my daughter make her own memories.

When we moved to a new house last year, along with it we got a sweet gift of some fruit trees two of which are greengage tree. I had never before heard of the fruit and it was only when the fruits loaded the trees I started doing research I found that they are from the plum/plout family. I along with my few dear friends who couldn't escape receiving a weekly delivery of a box of greengages, was greatly surprised at how unbelievably juicy and delicious this fruit is. The outer skin is tangy and the inside is sweeter than sugar. Both the trees have been graced with fruits more than we, our neighbors or our friends could handle. So I have been doing the same what my aunts at my Nani's place would do to their mangoes. Cooking them to whatever shape, size and form I can. I have canned a lot of them in the past few weeks so today sharing two recipe with you. One of Greengage jam with fennel and black pepper and the other of Greengage Jelly. I started with approximately 8 quarts of chopped greengages. First I used the juice to make the jelly and then the remaining pulp for the jam. You can always discard the pulp if you do not want the jam or reduce the juice for longer time if you do not want to make the jelly.

 Recipe for Greengage Jelly:

8 quarts ripe greengages/green, yellow plums
4 1/2 cups cane sugar (This fruit is really sweet so asked for less sugar but if you are using some other less sweeter fruits then you might want to increase the amount of sugar)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 pouch (1 3/4 oz) fruit pectin (no sugar added)

Wash the greengages thoroughly. Core and cut one into 8-10 slices. If you like you can blanch and then take the skin off of the fruit. I was just too lazy to do it and it just helped the jam to be tangier which we love.
Transfer the sliced fruit into a large, non reactive vessel which has a thick bottom, a wide mouth and is not very deep. This should keep the fruit from crowding and would help an easy distribution of heat throughout and that in return reduces the cooking time. I used a vessel similar to this.
Turn on the heat and let the fruit simmer until they are soft and cooked well, for about 30-45 minutes. The fruit I used was really ripe and juicy so I did not have to add any water but if yours is firm you can just about 1/2-1 cup of water.
Strain the fruit through multiple layers of cheesecloth, a sheer white cotton piece of cloth or a strainer.
Transfer the juice into a pot again. Save the pulp for the jam.
Save 1/2 cup of sugar and add the rest to the the fruit juice. Mix well and turn on the heat. Then add rest of the sugar mixed in pectin.
Stir everything well together and bring the mixture to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Skim the foam formed on top.
Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-30 minutes. I follow these steps to check whether my jelly or jam is done.
Once it passes the "doneness" test, turn the heat off, add lemon juice and mix it well. Let it sit for 5 minutes before transferring into washed, dried and warm mason jars with air tight lids. I always let my jars run through a dishwasher cycle before I use then for canning. 

Recipe for Greengage Jam

Leftover pulp from the above recipe (Approximately 3 1/2-4 quart) Please keep in mind that this is cooked and reduced fruit. So if you are starting from scratch then I suggest you start with approximately 5 quarts of fresh fruit.)
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon crushed black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup lemon juice

Heat oil in a thick bottom, non reactive pan preferably with a wide mouth (as linked above).
Add fennel seeds and cracked pepper. As they sputter add the fruit pulp with sugar.
Mix well and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let it simmer for about 45 minutes- 1 hour.
To test if your chutney is done, take some in the back of your spoon and let it stay out in the air for about 10-15 seconds then run a finger through it.
Turn the heat off, add lemon juice and mix it well. Let it sit for 5 minutes before transferring into washed, dried and warm mason jars with air tight lids.
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