Tamara Jane


After reading enough of Wynk’s foodie posts, and nabbing a complete (COMPLETE!) pressure cooker from a thrift store, I’ve been itching to preserve some… well, something.

My pressure cooker comes (COMPLETE!) with the Mirro-Matic Pressure Pan manual/recipe book, dating to 1954. In 1954, it was still common practice to use a pressure cooker for canning, and my cooker still has (COMPLETE!) its original canning rack. However, research into modern canning procedure informed me that some time in the ’80s, the USDA determined that a pressure cooker wasn’t the right tool for the job. And so, I used it to make mushy vegetables and not for canning as I’d intended.

Lo and behold, the Natural Order of Things provided my teensy garden with a bounty of nearly two pounds of cherry tomatoes, and an unexpected cold front which demands that I pick the tomatoes NOW. While searching for something to do with them, I keep coming back to a selection of Tomato Jam recipes. Most have similar ingredients, but the procedure is different for each. Some call for a hot water bath, some call for chilling. Since the jam will be hot-packed no matter what, it seems to me that the pressure cooker is needed, in this case, merely to provide a vacuum seal on the jar. Besides, I have just under 2 pounds of tiny tomatoes. I’m not exactly planning for a winter’s worth of preserves. So even if the seal isn’t—I dunno, I understand the science of why a pressure cooker doesn’t work as well as a pressure canner, but not exactly how “not as well” manifests itself—if the seal isn’t sealed, the tomato jam still isn’t likely to kill me. And so: The Jam Plan.

At the grocery store where I’m picking up a few more jars, I also grab the Ball canning utensil set. For $10, I now have rubberized tongs, a wide funnel, a head-space gauge, and a magnet-on-a-stick which is very helpful for grabbing the gasket lids out of the HOT water. I choose the recipe at AndreasRecipes (hers is a blog of beautiful food-tography; go there), with minor modifications. I finally threw out my old cinnamon sticks, so I use a dash of ground cinnamon. I have no lemons, so I substitute a splash of juice for the zest. I decide to polish off my brown sugar, using that instead of white. I have no port, so I leave it out. I measure nothing. It smells fabulous.

I stir, it thickens, I boil jars and lids, I pour, I pressure-cook, the lids depress, I have tomato jam. At first blush, it’s darker than I expected. Likely result of using brown sugar. Also, I didn’t bother to skin/seed my wee little tomatoes. The skins seem to have dissolved into the mix, but the seeds are very much present. Off the spoon, it’s a bit too sweet, similar to raspberry jam, yet turning into a distinct tomato flavor. I have reduced-for-clearance chèvre and a day-old baguette, and will officially break into the first jar for lunch.


NOTE: A friend mentioned that his cousin, Tamara Jane, is frequently referred to as Tomato Jam. Hence the title for this post. And now, because of a mental segue beyond my control, I have Donovan’s Pamela Jo stuck in my head.

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