Almost without my noticing it, the chilli plant in the outdoor bed was suddenly flooded with brilliant red, small Birdseye chillies. I had no real idea of how hot they might be as they got watered whenever the others – sage, basil, rosemary, marjoram and parsley – got a soaking. Too much water reduces the chilli heat, while too little kills the other, thirstier, plants. The Scoville Scale was developed to measure the heat of ‘peppers’ ranging from zero for a capsicum to 2.2 million for some chillies! And one part capsaicin – the thing that makes chillies hot – per million equals about 15 Scoville units!
Keep it simple for crying out loud! It reminds me of the former currency in Italy – my first ever time being a millionaire yet living hand-to-mouth at the same time. Ridiculous!
With last year’s crop, I froze most of them and used them continuously over the course of the year but I still had loads left. Now, with this new bumper crop, as it were, I was a bit overwhelmed until I thought of chilli jam.
Anyway, when I actually got around to picking the chillies, I ended up with about 225g.
Rooting around in the cupboards and fridge, I came up with garlic, shallots, and ginger, fish sauce, vinegar, cherry tomatoes, and even a few capsicums and a smallish knob of ginger. There was also a half empty jar of roasted peppers and the only thing I had to buy was a jar of Tamarind paste.
I found an assortment of glass jars and gave them a good soapy wash before putting them into a 200-degree oven to dry and sterilize. You could use the dishwashers instead, if you had one. I also stuck a small saucer in the freezer, remembering something my mum used to do when she made marmalade.
I chucked the capsicum, the chillies, garlic, shallots and ginger along with more than half of the sliced cherry toms into a processor, dribbling in the fish sauce at the same time. I had to do it in batches, as my processor thingy is not very big.
Anyway, I ended up with this and I still had the sugar, vinegar and the tamarind paste, and, on a sudden whim, I decided to include raw cacao powder – chilli and chocolate? Why not?
I brought all the liquid stuff to the boil very slowly, stirring to make sure all the sugar dissolves fully and then added all the pureed chilli mix and the remaining cherry toms, along with their juice. I brought the lot up to a hard, roistering boil for ten minutes or so before reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. After about 45 minutes,
I tried my mum’s tip and carefully poured a spoonful of the chilli goo onto the saucer from the freezer, waited a minute and then pushed my finger into the goo, leaving a visible furrow behind indicating that the jam was ‘set’.
I turned off the heat and carefully removed the baked hot glass jars from the oven and put them on a mat. I ladled the chilli jam into a small jug and carefully filled the jars.
While still hot, I covered the tops with several layers of tinfoil and screwed the lids on tight and waited for the jars to cool down.
The next morning I lightly toasted some sourdough bread and then slathered on my new jam and the first bite … the sensation is instantaneous – my mouth floods with flavour, no part is untouched. A sourness – the tamarind, the vinegar? – along with the sweetness and the mellowness of the capsicum and cherry toms overlay the pleasing heat of an enjoyable burn, much like a aged Scotch, rolling around the mouth and between the teeth and over the roof, before extending its pleasurable warmth down the throat while the whole sensations lengthens and extends, the lips glowing in appreciation.
Wow! There you are.
We had chicken that night and I slathered on the jam again, making the meal irresistible. What’s not to like about it – you can use it with any meat, fish, fried or otherwise, mixed with rice, poured on pasta, spread on bread, stuffed into mushrooms, filled into pies, added to dhal, spicing up the soup, the list is … well not endless, but you know what I mean.
It has certainly changed my mind about breakfast – delicious on poached eggs, or an avocado half filled with jam or with crispy bacon or … see what I mean?
For measurements and capacities, see below but it wouldn’t matter, much, if more or less is used.
|180g Birdseye chillies, washed and trimmed
||200ml Vinegar – I used Red Wine but Apple Cider or any Vinegar would be fine.
|8 – 10 cloves of garlic
||3 – 4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
|2 red capsicum, cleaned and chopped
||3/4 cup of dark brown sugar / 130 g
|6 large shallots, chopped
||4 Tablespoon of Raw Cacao
|750g cherry tomatoes
||3 – 4 Tablespoons Tamarind paste
|Thumb size piece of ginger
||Salt, if desired. I actually forgot.
If I had to guess, I’d say – on the scale of 0 – 2,200,200 my Noonday Sun (moderate climate) would be about 19,530, so fairly low, I suppose.
* I have always liked the line
‘Hot chilli peppers in the blistering sun…’
in Bob Dylan’s outlaw song, Romance in Durango and I wanted to call my jam after it but ‘blistering’ didn’t quite suit so I came up with the more moderate ‘noonday sun’!