Week 11 Finalists: Best Preserves

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Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam by Jennifer Perillo

Merrill and I are huge fans of tomato preserves, but I'd never made one quite like this. Jennifer Perillo's recipe calls for vinegar, cumin, coriander, onion and salt, which I expected to translate into a chutney-like preserve. But there's enough sugar in this jam to keep it balanced -- deliciously -- between a sweet and savory. It made me realize that tomatoes really need an acid like vinegar to underline their sweetness; the vinegar also adds an important feeling of richness to the jam. Jennifer Perillo says you can serve the jam with grilled meats as well as spread it on toast. The only issue with this recipe is that it makes just 3 half pints; I'd like to share it and yet I'd find it difficult to part with any of them.


This worn wood countertop reminded Sarah and me of the Moro cookbooks.


Forgot the light brown sugar in the ingredient shot above -- here it is!

Measuring the cumin and coriander.

In the pot, I combined the brown sugar, white sugar, spices and lemon juice. Without a strainer handy, I used the alternative, my hand.


Next, I chopped tomatoes.

A lot of tomatoes. (Missing Merrill and her excellent knife skills!)

I brought the mixture to a boil, then reduced the heat and let the tomatoes juice and simmer.

And simmer.

And simmer. Until they got nice and caramelized and pulpy. You don't need to stir much until the last 20 minutes. There's no official test for doneness, it's just when the jam is the consistency you like. (By the way, it helps to cook jam in a heavy pot like this one because it holds heat more evenly and you're less likely to burn the jam.)

While the jam finished cooking, I sterilized the jars by dipping them in boiling water.

Then I sterilized the spoon before using it to drop the jam into the jars.

After sealing the jars, I put them in the pot of boiling water and gently boiled them for 10 minutes -- this is called water-bath processing. Usually, you'd put a small round baking rack (or other more official jam-making apparatus) in the base of the pot, to buffer the jars from the direct heat. Because I'm in a not-fully-equipped kitchen, I folded up a kitchen towel and laid in the base of the pot before setting in the jars.

After the jam was processed, I let the jars cool. To test the seal, you lift the inner lid by its rim. If it holds, the jars are sealed. I learned this trick from Eugenia Bone, the author of "Well Preserved."


Bread and Butter Pickles by KelseyTheNaptimeChef

There were two details that drew us to KelseyTheNaptimeChef's excellent bread and butter pickles recipe: she doesn't call for the customary clove, which can overpower the pickles. And she didn't call for too much sugar -- many bread and butter pickles are too sweet and syrupy. In these, the mustard and celery seed come across clearly, and the cucumbers remain bright and crisp.



I quartered the recipe to make it more manageable.

If you cut into a fresh cucumber, its juices will bead on the surface.

Wishing I had a mandoline.

More slicing.

A few garlic cloves -- not too much.

After all the slicing and chopping, I mixed the vegetables with salt. It's easiest to toss by hand.

Then I covered the vegetables with ice and let them sit for a couple of hours. This weighs down the cucumbers, helping to press out the juices, and keeps them crisp.

After draining the cucumbers, I spread them on a kitchen towel and rolled up the towel to soak up excess liquid.

The spices: mustard seeds, turmeric, celery seeds.

In a big, heavy pot, I combined apple cider vinegar with sugar and the spices, and brought it to a boil.


I sterilized three jars in boiling water. As I later learned, I should have done four!

Here, I not-so-gracefully dumped the cucumbers from the towel into the spice mixture.

I stirred the vegetables with the spice mixture and brought it to a boil.

Then it was time for canning.

After filling the jars, I ladled in enough liquid to come within 1/4-inch of the rim.

It's important to wipe the rim with a towel dipped in boiling water. This helps make a better seal.

After putting on the lids, I lowered the jars into boiling water (I don't advise doing this with tongs, as I did) and gently boiled them for 10 minutes.

Homemade pickles.