It was inevitable that with all the tomatoes my husband plants every year, I would come around to tomato jam. I could stick to making only sauce or roasted tomatoes for the freezer, because we always run out before the next growing season comes around, but I wanted to add something new to our tomato arsenal. Plus, we are fond of homemade condiments that dress up plain old traditional foods like burgers, so this glorified ketchup seemed like a good idea. In honor of the occasion, I added a condiments category to the site menu.
My jam is not preserved—because I don’t know how to do that and don’t have canning equipment. Plus, I must admit that I am a little afraid of home-canned foods. So this fresh jam can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or frozen for longer storage.
Maple Tomato Jam
- 4 lbs tomatoes, cored and chopped (not seeded)—mine were half San Marzano roma and half Early Girl globe tomatoes
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground dried hot pepper—mine were California chiles
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy stockpot.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium to keep the jam at a low boil for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and a little more often during the last 20 minutes.*
- Fill your jars and cool slightly before sealing with lids. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze. If freezing in plastic bags, cool before filling and sealing.
*I have a gas stove, but you will have to choose the temperatures that you know work on yours. Basically, you want to see bubbling throughout the cooking time—without using a lid. If your temperature is too low, it will take a lot longer for the moisture to evaporate. Mine was thick and ready at 2 hours and 10 minutes. But don’t try to hurry the jam, either, and risk scorching it. Let the flavors develop over the 2 hours at a low and visible boil. Follow the rule of dragging your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, waiting for the point when liquid doesn’t run into the path. You think it will never reach that stage, and then the magic just happens.
I was trying to think of what to stuff in this mini bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and then my husband brought in a bunch of poblanos from the garden. Usually I stuff the poblanos with meat and cheese, so it was just a matter of turning the whole thing inside-out. Traditionally, you wouldn’t use bacon with stuffed poblanos, but I didn’t expect the stuffed poblano police to stop by, so I didn’t worry about it. Smoking takes time, and ground meat needs a fatty buffer, like bacon, to keep it moist during the longer cooking. It took about 2 hours to smoke to the point that a little cheese started to melt out of one end, and a thermometer registered 165º-170º in the center (of course, the center was pepper and cheese).
I only used 1 lb of ground meat for the two of us, and there were still leftovers. You’ll have to consider how much to make for your group. Usually, for example, I would use 1 lb of ground meat to make four burgers, and we would have one left over. Personally, I prefer less than a quarter pound for my burger, but I’m probably unusual. You could make several of these rolls for a larger group of people. I cut our one roll into six thick slices.
I made a woven mat of bacon to wrap the filled meatloaf in, using my favorite local thick-sliced bacon. It’s very thick and so you can’t stretch it like the typical thin commercial bacon. I made the mat 6 strips wide, but had to add partial pieces into the weaving to make it fully woven. I’m not sure you can see those half pieces in the photo. After wrapping the roll, I sealed the edges with another strip and put that side of the roll down on the grill grate. I didn’t worry about having beautiful ends, but I did pinch the rolled meat together to hold in the cheese for as long as possible. I wrapped it all tightly in plastic and refrigerated it for about an hour to try to convince it to stay in that nice loaf shape. The lesson here is this: Don’t fret about the appearance too much. Just take your time and keep handling it until it all seems to hold together. Believe me, the gorgeous smoked bacon on the outside and the gooey cheese on the inside will overpower any construction flaws.
meat filling mix
Peel and seed peppers
Filling and bacon mat
About half way through
Center of finished roll
Inside-Out Stuffed Poblanos. Smoked. With Bacon.
- 1/2 lb ground beef, 93% lean
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut in small dice
- 1 tablespoon garlic, mashed or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
- 2 long 1/2″ wide sticks of Monterrey Jack cheese, each about the length of your meat roll (it doesn’t matter if you have to use smaller pieces)
- 1 pkg thick-sliced bacon, at least 12 strips
- On a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper, make a mat of woven bacon, about 6 strips wide and using as many pieces as you need to weave in the opposite direction. If you make it too big, you can always remove pieces, as needed. Set aside.
- Mix the first eleven ingredients together in a large bowl—meat, breadcrumbs, tomatoes, and spices. Form the meat into a log about the length of your bacon mat, then pat it out on a piece of plastic wrap to make a square. It was easy enough to pat it out with my hands, but I’ve seen videos of people using rolling pins and even large plastic bags. Just make it even and squared off at the corners so you don’t end up with a football shape.
- Lay out sections of poblano peppers to fit the meat, but don’t worry about getting them out to the ends, because you want to pinch them together after rolling.
- Lay sticks of cheese on top of the peppers lengthwise and far enough apart that you can roll them up in the meat. But this isn’t rocket science—fill the roll as full as you like with as much as you can cram in there.
- Roll up the meat, using the plastic wrap to help you. Roll rather tightly and firmly, using pressure from your hands to mold and keep it all together. Pinch the ends together to cover the filling and pat the ends kind of flat so you have a neat cylinder.
- Set the meat roll on the mat of bacon and use the plastic wrap to bring the bacon up the sides—if you’re lucky the bacon will meet or come close to meeting and you can weave in a last piece to hold it together. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about an hour. Bring it out about 30 minutes before the grill is ready, but leave in the plastic wrap.
- Set up the grill for slow, indirect heat with a 2 X 2 charcoal snake and a few handfuls of wood chips scattered over it. When your starter coals are ready and you’ve started the snake, set the roll on the cooking grate above a drip pan and close the grill. Cook and smoke for about 1 1/2-2 hours. The bacon should be browned and glossy with crispy areas, and the center will probably reach at least 165º, but keep in mind that you are measuring melted cheese in the center.
- Remove to a cutting board; let rest for a few minutes; then cut in thick slices.
I ended up burning only 1/3 of my charcoal snake, so today, I’m smoking some ribs with the remainder.
My favorite way to use the slow cooker is on the high setting, where I can count on meats not being dried out and flavorless. That’s what I find happens when you cook meat for 8-10 hours while you are at work. Soups and dried bean recipes do well for the long cooking, but even then any added meats are usually overcooked, unless you have a large piece like a pork shoulder. So, I’ve found a number of recipes that cook up in 3-5 hours, like my Butter Chicken/Pheasant recipe, that takes care of the delicate little pheasant breasts. Of course, I’m retired, so I can make use of the shorter cooking times any day of the week.
This slow cooker pulled chicken is a variation of the slow cooker pulled pork recipe originally from Chowhound. Here are the few changes I’ve made to accommodate chicken:
- I cut back the cinnamon in the rub to 1/2 teaspoon
- I rubbed the chicken pieces with the rub and let them marinate in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 4 hours
- I only used one onion and 1/2 cup of chicken broth, because I only used 5 boneless chicken thighs
Marinated chicken on onion-garlic bed
Sandwiches with slaw
Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Place the chicken and rub in a large plastic bag, seal, and turn to coat all pieces well. Refrigerate for about 4 hours or even overnight.
- In the crock of a slow cooker, place the onions, garlic, and chicken broth. Place the chicken pieces on top and close the lid.
- Cook on high for about 4 hours. Pull the chicken apart in the crock and mix well with the onions and broth.
- Pile meat on buns and serve your favorite way, which for us is with a creamy slaw.
This recipe makes eight large empanadas—I’m freezing four for later—but you could easily make smaller, snack-sized empanadas. I used half venison and half ground beef in the filling, but you could substitute any other ground meat combination, or even a filling with no meat. Because you need a cool filling, you should make it early in the day or the day before, so it has time to cool before filling the dough—this also cuts down on the commotion of rolling and filling dough at dinnertime.
For the dough, I’m using the one from Martha Stewart’s “Basic Empanadas” recipe. I recommend this simple dough, which is buttery and tender and easy to handle, considering all the rolling and shaping you need to do. I recommend watching the video on the page, especially if you haven’t made this sort of a hand pie before. The one thing I did differently was to use the food processor instead of mixing by hand—even with that, the dough remained tender. I felt, though, that I had to add way more than the one cup of cold water in the recipe for the dough to come together, maybe as much as an extra half cup. The video tip to let the dough rest before rolling seemed like a good idea, keeping the dough from trying to shrink as you roll it. Here are the simple ingredients for that dough (follow instruction on the site):
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup cold water
- egg wash for sealing and for brushing on tops
Herbs and spices
Cooled filling on dough
Filled and ready to bake
At least one always leaks
Time to eat!
Venison Empanada Filling
- 1 lb ground venison
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
- about 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced, plus enough of the juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to moisten the meat
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or ground dried juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
- 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dried cilantro
- Brown the venison and beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Use oil if you think you need it, but the beef should provide plenty of fat. Remove any excess fat, so the final mixture is not greasy.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.
- Stir in spices, red peppers, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove to a large low dish, like a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. If you think the mixture is too wet, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Most of my liquid cooked off.
- Cool the filling, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to fill the empanadas.
Baking: The filled empanadas bake for 30 minutes at 400° on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Frozen ones will take about 40 minutes and do not need to be thawed first.