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Sweet & Tangy Tree Tomato Jam {Recipe}

Updated: Apr 10

I have recently made the discovery of a tamarillo tree growing in my garden, hiding behind my garden shed. What is a tamarillo you ask? Otherwise known as the tree tomato, the tamarillo is a small oval tomato, sweeter and more fruit-like than the traditional savoury salad tomato. The trees bear fruit in late Autumn and Winter, and are native to South & Central America, although they also do quite well in New Zealand & here in South Africa. They start to fruit after about 18 months, and continue fruiting for anywhere between 6 and 16 years. The fruit is really very versatile, it can be eaten raw, stewed, grilled, bottled, liquidised for drinks & sorbets, added to salads, pickled, or as I decided to use my fruit, to make delicious jam.

My tree has given me an abundance of fruit this year, some of which I missed because it ripens and falls from the tree quite quickly after first appearing. It's a good idea to check back frequently for ripe fruit after you see the first bright red tamarillo appear. The great thing about tree tomatoes is that the vervet monkeys where I live in KZN actually don't like to eat them at all, so you can grow them quite happily anywhere in the garden.


I managed to harvest about 2kgs of fruit in one day, which was about half of what the tree was bearing, and decided I would like to try my hand at jam making. So here is my first attempt at jam making in a step by step guide, including all things I would do differently the next time around.


**Tips & Tricks** ~ Right off the bat, it's important to make sure that all of your tomatoes are fully ripe before you even start preparation. They will need to be a dark red and slightly soft, as you will see when they start to get over ripe the skin will start to prune, those are too old to use as they just fall apart when you peel them. However unripe fruit, the light red fruit with green stripes dotted in and amongst the ripe fruit pictured below, doesn't go soft and stays chunky in the final product. You need separate it out into "Goldilocks" fruit and leave the unripe fruit to mature.

I'm not going to even begin to sugar coat it for you, making jam is hard work, and maybe even more so with the tamarillo because it has a tough skin to work with, and that is what has to be dealt with first. The first step is to cut a cross into the pointy tip of the tamarillo, which will allow you to peel the skin off later with relative ease.


**Tips & Tricks** ~ Take this opportunity to also cut off the end part that the stalk is growing out of, instead of just removing the stalk by hand like I did. The end where the stalk attaches remains hard even after cooking, and will make horrible lumps in the jam. I only realised this halfway through the jam making process, and ended up wasting time cutting all the ends off the already half cooked and squishy tomatoes, which was no easy task either.

The next step is to boil a pot of water, add all the tamarillos to the hot water to soften the skin, and leave to soak. Don't continue to cook, just allow them to sit in the water until you see the tips of the cross start to peel back and open. I left mine for about 10 minutes, but you can leave them for up to 20 to make sure they are nice and soft.


Afterwards strain the hot water and deposit the fruit into a container of ice cold water. This will help the peels separate from the fruit. You will see the ends open even further, and some of the skin on the cross cut will start to come off in the cold water on it's own.


I had to do this process in batches as I had 2 kg's of fruit, so I set up my pots in a way that I could reuse the hot water and add more ice to the cold water after the fruit was done cooling, so as not to waste too much water.

Now the fun part begins, and by fun I mean kind of gross if you're like me and hate to get your hands messy for any length of time. To peel the tamarillos I set up a "peeling station" where I had all the fruit in one bowl, a flat pyrex dish to put the peeled fruit in, a bowl for the skins, and for me an essential, a bowl of water to wash your hands as you go, as well as a clean kitchen towel to dry them.


I thought I was just being a big baby about the getting messy part but actually when I got into it I was fine with the mess of taking the skins off, but what I found was that if you don't wash your fingers as you go, your fingers are so slippery after about three tree tomatoes, that they just become a nightmare to hold onto while peeling.


**Tips & Tricks** ~ After the heating and cooling process, the tomato skin should actually just slide off when you pinch one end, and apply pressure as if you were squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Otherwise peel one corner down, and get your thumb under the skin to work it around the fruit inside the skin until the peel comes away.


Take the opportunity when peeling to scoop out as many seeds as you possibly can. They are very hard on the teeth if you end up chewing on one in your jam.

Once the fruit has been peeled, it's time to add the sugar. You will need to re-weigh your fruit to make sure you add the sugar at a 1:1 ratio. I ended up with less than 2kg of fruit due to the unripe fruit and the ends I hadn't cut off being removed from the mix, but I still added 2kg of sugar and the jam ended up being a bit on the sweet side.


Take a third of your sugar and coat the fruit in it, stirring it through until all the fruit is thoroughly coated. Now you can take a break, cover the bowl with the sugared tomatoes in it, and leave them to stew in sugar overnight.

After leaving the fruit to stew for between 8 to 12 hours, it will be ready to cook into jam. It will have also created a nice quantity of fruit juice when mixing with the sugar overnight.


**Tips & Tricks** ~ Keep the fruit juice aside in a measuring jug, and add water to that liquid amounting in total to one cup. I added the fruit, complete with juice, to the pot, and then added the cup of water and it was too much liquid. This meant the jam took twice as long to cook down.


At the same time as you are preparing to cook the fruit, you will also need to sterilize the jam jars in preparation. Bring a pot of water to the boil, remove from heat and fully submerge the jam jars and their lids. Leave them there during the course of your cooking and only remove just before you dish the jam into them to ensure the lowest risk of contamination and increase the longevity of your jam when stored.

Add the sugared tomatoes, the cup of juice and water mix, the juice of one lemon to your pot, and bring to a boil. Add the coconut oil and when the oil is melted through reduce to a simmer. Add the remaining two thirds of the sugar, slowly stirring it into the mixture. Bring the whole mixture to a boil again until a nice thick foam has developed on top, reduce heat once more and leave to simmer.


**Tips & Tricks** ~ I cook on gas and I found the simmer was too hot, and I had to reduce the flames to the very lowest point before they almost extinguish. This kept the mixture slowly bubbling nicely without boiling over. It seems that just a little bit too much heat is enough for the whole mixture to boil over and create a sugary mess all over your stove-top.

While simmering, the consistency of the jam should start to slowly change. Stir regularly to prevent the tamarillos from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Keep checking the consistency of the jam, and when it has reached a thickness you are happy with, remove the jam from heat, and dish into your jam jars. The best way to check if the consistency is right is to remove some liquid, place on a side plate and put it in the fridge. After about a minute you will be able to tell if it is thick enough, and you can then remove the whole mixture from heat and serve into your jam jars. Seal immediately, store in a cool dark place and enjoy!


Prep Time: 2 - 3 hrs

Cook Time: +- 30 min

Yeild: +- 2,5 - 3 kg's Jam


Recipe:

  • 2 kg's Tamarillo Fruit

  • 2 kg's Brown Sugar

  • Juice of One Lemon

  • 1 Cup Water (Juice of sugared tamarillos + Water equaling 1 cup)

  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (Acts as a preservative)

  • Sterilized Jars


Instructions:

  1. Cut cross on end of tamarillo and cut off top to de-stem

  2. Soak fruit in boiling hot water for 10-20 minutes

  3. Strain and place directly in ice cold water for 10 minutes

  4. Peel fruit and remove as many seeds as possible

  5. Coat in 1/3 of the sugar

  6. Cover and leave to sit for 8 - 12 hours

  7. Boil water and place jam jars for sterilization

  8. Strain juice from sugared fruit and place in measuring jug

  9. Add water to measuring jug until there is one cup of liquid total

  10. Add fruit, liquid, and lemon juice to pot

  11. Bring to a boil, add in the coconut oil and stir in thoroughly

  12. Reduce heat and slowly stir in the remaining 2/3 of the sugar

  13. Allow mixture to boil again until foam appears on top

  14. Reduce heat and simmer for further 20 min or until adequate jam consistency is reached

  15. Remove jam jars from hot water, air dry and dish jam directly into jars, sealing immediately.

  16. Store in dark, cool place until opening


To Serve:

  • Spread on toast, crackers, muffins, croissants, pancakes and more.


Nutritional Facts {Per 100g}:


Calories: 31

Calories from Fat: 0

% Daily Value

*Fat - 0 g

Carbohydrates - 4 g - 1%

Fiber - 3 g - 12%

Protein - 2 g - 4%

Cholesterol - 0 mg

Sodium - 1 mg*


The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated.


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