Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Hard Day's Work

It's been over a month since I last wrote here.  It hasn't been because I have been away from the kitchen -- I've actually been in the kitchen almost every day cooking -- but I just haven't had the time to write.  They aren't kidding when they say medical school keeps you busy.  I come home from lecture and my brain aches. It's like going to the gym and working out intensely for four hours straight, except instead of my muscles, it's my cerebral cortex.

After a hard day of work, many people I know like to come home and do something mindless, like watch TV, or for the younger generation, get on Facebook.  But after I have a day of lectures, when I come home tired, I go to the kitchen.  I open the fridge, I check what I have, and I pull out some pots.  And then I cook.  Sometimes it's just caramelizing onions and sautée-ing some sliced squash.  Sometimes it's making pesto.  Sometimes it's blanching cherry tomatoes in a pot, combining them with marinated peaches and plums, and making jam.

That's exactly what I did today.  I had actually intended to make some peach/plum jam last night, since I had some beautifully ripe fruit on hand that I wanted to preserve for when peaches and plums go out of season, but I just didn't quite get around to it.  I peeled and cut the peaches, I cut the plums, I added sugar, salt, a little bit of orange juice, and cinnamon (I didn't add any pectin since plums naturally have enough pectin to made a jam "gel" up).  Then I put the mixture in the fridge and forgot about it, since I didn't feel like I had the time to stand over a pot and stir.  I also didn't think I had any jam jars.  And I had a lot of studying to do.

But between last night and tonight I slowly ate away at some of the uncooked "jam" -- which really is just a fruit salad if you think about it -- picking away at the bigger pieces of peaches which were sweet and cinnamon-y, with a slight hint of orange and plum.  Delicious.  Today when I got home from class, there was still a portion of macerated fruit left, but not quite enough to put in the effort of making jam.  I wasn't sure what to do with my half-made concoction.  That was when I stumbled upon the cherry tomatoes I had bought at the farmer's market.

For the past three weeks I've been consistently buying these beautiful orange cherry tomatoes at the farmer's market outside my apartment and they have been amazing.  They taste like sunshine and summer.  I love them.  But this week's tomatoes were slightly disappointing.  Some were a little soft, some were quite acidic, and they just weren't the kind of tomatoes I wanted to eat raw as a snack (which I why I had bought them).  But they would be perfect in a jam.

So I took out my pairing knife and set to work lightly scoring the cherry tomatoes I had before blanching them quickly in boiling water.  Then I peeled them, the little tomatoes slipping easily out of their skins to join their new friends, the peaches and plums.  When I was done, I added some sugar and salt and a little bit more cinnamon, and then I turned on the heat.  I left the cherry tomatoes whole, just letting whichever ones burst from the heat give the jam texture.  In less than 20 minutes, over medium heat with a little bit of stirring, some tasting, and a lot of love, I had my jam.

The dark skin of the plums made the mixture a beautiful deep red color, like wine, and the plums and cinnamon rounded out the flavor of the tomatoes beautifully.  It was just what I needed after a long day, and I couldn't help but have of the jam immediately, spread in a thin layer on a good piece of bread (a baguette actually, also from the farmer's market).

In order to keep this and enjoy it for a while though, I sterilized the one extra glass jar and lid I had with some boiling water, pouring the hot water directly into and letting it heat the glass thoroughly before I poured out the water and added my jam.  Jar sealed and refrigerated, and presto!  Summer is preserved.  Such is the beauty of cooking.  After a hard day's work, there is nothing better than the magic that is time in the kitchen.

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