– Tomato and Hibiscus Jam –
Last year, about this time of the year, I was invited by The Supper Club Magazine to shoot and write a piece for the Fall issue titled Harvest, Gather, Feast. I was beyond excited and the magazine is stunning.
So, I decided to share the article with you, and here it is in full:
There is undoubtedly something beautiful in watching a transition between seasons. The green palettes turn into a variety of yellows and nude branches convey the glaze of inhospitable times. It is like a gradient feel, Autumn season is, that outgrows us way beyond our age.
The kitchen window reflected this, as the farmer knocked on the door – like he does every year – with his bashful smile and a wisp of freshly harvested grapes for the vintage. The apples rolled down the marble kitchen counter, scaring the sleepy cat and cinnamon filled the air with warm scents intoning the beginning of a new day.
You see, some heritages are meant to be this way: without a print to remind them. It is a flow of gestures and evocative aromas that linger by repetition every year.
I opened the cupboard and looked at the aged jars with preserved flowers and spices. The empty ones from the year before filled the room with glittering shades of yellow. I painted generations in that kitchen, patiently waiting for the jam to be at that perfect point. I could almost hear childhood stories retold time and again, with the novelty of an apprentice that listens to it for the very first time.
The heirloom of a family is for me something that can hardly be described. It is the fruit of an assemblage of knowledge and love. It is sitting at a table at every other Sunday for lunch with a profusion of familiar voices around – as people laugh and share the typical roast with the jam made the day before.
It is redolent in that way. It is a story that unravels without me noticing.
I am pretty sure that in those apparently uncomplicated meals, the magic ingredient is nostalgia. It is the memories that make it so alluring; therapeutic even. And I intend to keep on doing it, when the first leaves start to turn yellow on the grapevine and the farmer visits again, announcing Autumn is here to stay.
– Ingredients –
- 1 Kg red tomatoes
- 1 Cup of dried hibiscus flowers
- 500g Sugar
- 1/2 Lemon peel
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Vanilla
– Preparation –
Before you start, ensure your jars and lids are sterilized, you can either put them in your sink separately and cover them with boiling water and a little vinegar or boil them totally immersed in a pan.
Make sure they are well dried before using them.
Start by boiling water. Pour it over a bowl of your fresh and cleaned tomatoes. It will help you peel them. Once peeled, remove the seeds and every other stiffness and put them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with half the tomato juice.
Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Add the hibiscus flowers, the lemon juice and finally the lemon peel. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved which will take you about 5 minutes or so. Reduce it to low, and slowly bring the mixture to a full boiling point. From time to time, make sure everything is going smoothly and does not stick or burn, this will take about half an hour. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy the smell overflowing the kitchen. You will know the jam is on point when you can observe that the thread flowing from the spoon is thick and a drop is hanging at the end. If you have a thermometer it should show 108º (degrees Celsius) at this point.
Divide your jam between your sterilized jam jars and leave it to cool with the lid off. 15 minutes later, put on the lid and flip them upside down – this will give them that gorgeous even layer on top – do this for another 15 minutes and put them back up.
Let it sit until completely cool. The jam can be stored for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place, and once opened should remain refrigerated.
You can get creative and make nice labels for the jars to give it that nice edge, it makes a lovely gift too.