Friday, May 8, 2009

In the Kitchen: Making Jam

Chile jams are produced in a variety of flavors. If you are a Ferry Plaza Market customer you must know this well as you pass by the tasting table each time you enter the Tierra Vegetable tent in San Francisco. At the Farm Stand on Airport Boulevard jam sampling is also made available, usually a flavor or two at a time. There are so many to try!

*Farm Blend a medium spice with a mix of green and red chiles
*Verde a blend of Poblano, green Jalapeno and green New Mexico chiles
*Rojo hot red Jalapenos that have been tempered by sweet red Pimientos
*Chipotle the smokey version of the above described Farm Blend
*Panonia this jam is a milder spice and made from Hungarian chiles, hence the name, Panonia is what the Romans all the Danube River Valley, the origin of the featured chiles in this jam
*Chinense (NOT Chinese-Chinense is the species name for the hottest kinds of chiles like the Habanero) Three separate batches of Chinense jams were made last fall to include Aji chiles, Jamaican Habaneros, or Paper Lanterns. This is the hottest choice in the jam selection.
*Mystery you have to guess, of course
*Strawberry Rhubarb and Strawberry Chipotle are available at times, ask if this sounds like what you want and you don't see it.

Here are a few steps in the jam-making process so you might understand all of the work that goes into this special sweet and spicy all purpose and unique condiment....

First, the chiles are grown, planted, cultivated, harvested....and if this does not seem like enough work in itself it goes on from here....

Eventually, they are brought to the Tierra Vegetable commercial kitchen for processing that includes washing, preliminary chopping (sometimes a very spicy job!), then chopping into smaller pieces in the super sized food processer that I learned to become comfortable with last fall and even honed my technique to become as efficient as possible in my chile processing...

After the processing has been completed, ingredients and supplies are gathered for making a batch of jam! This includes items such as pectin and sugars (necessary jam ingredients), jars and lids (an expensive investment, but it must be packaged and preserved), labels are made, and shelf space provided.

Above is a large brew of Rojo jam cooking away. This scale of jam-making must be watched very closely, we'd hate to over cook and burn such quantities of our hard work.

Not only does Lee grow you incredible fresh chiles (and just about everything else), but she personally presides over these projects in the kitchen to bring even more to the off-season and diversity that is offered by the farm. What a large pot, huh?! Imagine cleaning up after this project.

And finally, the bottling process being performed by Wayne and Evie in the above image. This is actually even better with at least three people involved to keep all aspects of this job moving. As the jars at bottle, sterilized and heated lids are placed and hot jars full of jam are scooted aside quickly to keep up with the bottler. This is a good job to do with a focused team.

So there you have it. Many phases of work and many people are involved in bring the jam to fruition. It is really something you will find no place else with the diversity of chiles and flavors involved. I have seen customers come from across the nation to acquire these products at the Ferry Plaza market. Next time you pass the sampling table, grab a taste, but try not to drip!

These are the three chiles found in the Chinense Jam. Aji in on the right, Jamaican Habanero on the upper left and Paper Lantern is the red/pink one in the middle and lower left. If you hear the folks next to you at the sampling table calling the Chinense Jam Chinese, feel free to correct them for us. We have had plenty of opportunities to clarify on our own.

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