I made this jam to send to my Foodie Penpal last month, Stacey. She told me she loved sweet chili, and I’d seen a few jars of chili jam doing the rounds lately, so I thought I’d try my hand. As I shopped for the ingredients, I came across some tamarillos, which is a fruit I’ve been eyeing up but not buying for a while now. The info in the shop said that they were tart and a little bitter, and good for chutnies. They sounded like just the thing to put in a lovely, sticky, sweet and hot jam, so I bought a couple.
Here is what tamarillos look like:
You can tell from the last photo that these ones were very ripe; probably on the edge of usability, in honesty. The skin was a little wrinkled and the fruit was very soft when I picked it up, like a very ripe tomato. In fact, tamarillos are related to tomatoes – third cousins or something. They’re part of the nightshade family (a family you wouldn’t want to go to Sunday dinner with), which includes potatoes, tomatillos, aubergines and tobacco as well as deadly nightshade and the delightfully eldritch Mandragora. Thus ends our botany lesson.
This is what they look like inside:
Rather attractive, don’t you think?
So, now that we have learned all about tamarillos (except how to pronounce it, that I’m still not sure about), let us learn about chili and tamarillo jam. I wanted it to have a good strong spicy flavour, but also to be sweet. also I wanted a smooth finish with flecks of chili seed throughout, which I’m glad to report happened naturally. I did some research of other recipes available online, most of which used either tomatoes or peppers as the base ingredient. I decided to supplement the tamarillos with some pointed red peppers, which are usually very crunchy and sweet, instead of normal bell peppers, which can be a bit on the uninteresting side and can disappear into foamy red water when you puree them.
- 2 ripe tamarillos
- 2 pointed red peppers
- 2 cloves of pickled garlic
- 2 scotch bonnet chilis
- 1 cup of jam sugar
- 2 star anise
I started by peeling the tamarillos – this was easy, the ripe flesh came away from the skin no problem, and fell apart in my hands. I chopped up the biggest chunks, and left the seeds in the mix. I also hopped and de-seeded the peppers, and roughly chopped the chilis, also leaving the seeds of these in place.
I put all the prepared fruits and the quickly sliced garlic into a pot over a medium high heat, then tipped over the sugar. Jam sugar, otherwise known as preserving sugar, contains pectin to bind your jam together. You can buy pectin separately, too, and that is something I will do some research on. I don’t have a special preserving pan, but I manage to get reasonable results without it. Use a bigger pan that you think you need, because this will help to draw off the water from the fruit and thicken your jam. Plus it’s always good to have some splash room.
I stirred everything together and let it come up to a boil. The fruit broke down very quickly, and after five minutes I had a kind of fruity soup bubbling in the pot. I added the star anise to the soup, and let it simmer briskly for ten minutes.
After the ten minutes, it was starting to look more like jam: syrupy, with bubbles forming and holding on the surface. I poured it out of the pot into a tall glass jug, and removed the star anise with a spoon, ready to be added back in again later. Then I used a stick blender to reduce everything to a smooth paste, complete with decorative chili seeds. I returned this to the pot, with the star anise, and bubbled for a further ten minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it from burning.
Now the surface of the jam started to look dry and form a skin. This was unexpected, and I decided this meant it was ready, and removed it from the heat. I removed the star anise and let it cool at room temperature.
This jam is soft set, and if you wanted a thicker jam you could add more pectin or boil for longer after pureeing. At first I was disappointed and considered re-processing it to give a more firm result, but on inspection I decided that it would be fine as it was – easy to spread, easy to add into recipes by the spoonful, but not so soft that it would run off a cracker if you happened to want to try some of the jam with cheese. Which you should, by the way.