When I smell wood smoke from the neighborhood chimneys and the rain clouds open to finally release the much needed rain, I know it’s time to get to work with the summer’s bounty. This means many a Portuguese cozinha will become a haven for Portuguese doces such as jams, jellies, marmelada!
The sticky, sweet, gem colored jars are usually just called doces, a word that means sweets, but is a catchall term for fruit turned sugar laden preserves. They can also be found under compota, geleia, conservas (though this is used mostly for canned fish such as sardines), and preservas. The original preserve is rooted in the thick, autumn colored paste that is marmelada. While sounding very similar to the citrus heavy orange marmalade, this jam is actually made from quinces, or marmelos, which is where it acquired its name.
Marmelada was prepared as a way to preserve ripe marmelos for the rest of the year by cooking them down along with an abundance of honey or sugar into a dark reddish-orange substance, and then stored. Later this technique was applied to other fruits to make a variety of jams and jellies based on what was harvested so that the flavor of that particular season year round could be saved for later in the year.
Traipsing about the Portuguese country side, you may be inclined to buy some sweet homemade preserves. A variety of produce can be found throughout the country, but some places are well known for one or two in particular. In Fundão, in the Castelo Branco area, they are known for everything vibrant cherry. The Algarve has their seed speckled doce de figo (fig jam), while sandy textured pêra rocha (rocha pears) are celebrated in all forms, including jam, at the Feira Nacional da Pêra Rocha in Bombarral.
You may be interested in how you can make some Portuguese jam from the comfort of your own home. In most of the recipes I’ve seen or heard of, all you really need in a Portuguese jam is quite a bit of sugar, a little water and your favorite seasonal fruit. Thanks to Portugal having a wonderfully moderate Mediterranean climate, produce is collected year round. Just choose a seasonal fruit you have in abundance such as oranges (winter), pumpkin (autumn), strawberries (spring), or tomatoes (summer) and you’ll have the main ingredient to begin your jam or jelly making adventure.
In my case it’s the sweet, yet somehow, savory richness of summer tomatoes with a hint of cinnamon spice that I love to spread on warm bread or toast. Just a perfect bite to enjoy on a chilly autumn day while watching the brightly colored leaves fall amongst the rain drops!
- 5 pounds (2.27kg) tomatoes
- 3 cups (600g) sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1½ cup (355ml) water
- Bring a pot of water to a boil along with the tomatoes. Once the skin has split on the fruit, remove the pan from the stove and run cold water over the tomatoes to cool them down. After the tomatoes have cooled down, pull the skin off the tomatoes with your fingers and discard along with the area that the stem was attached. Crush the tomatoes between your fingers into a large pot. Add the sugar, water and cinnamon stick to the pot and stir to combine.
- Place the pot on the stove over medium high heat. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce it to low, allowing it to simmer until it reduces down into a thick jam consistency; about 1 ½ - 2 hours. If the tomato jam still has a lot of liquid remaining, return the pan to the stove and continue cooking over medium low heat. To check for doneness, spoon out a bit of the jam and place it on a flat plate in a mound. If liquid separates from the mound it needs to be cooked a bit more.
- Serve with crusty Portuguese bread or on your morning toast!
- To preserve this jam, you can freeze it after it’s cooled to room temperature or you can preserve it in jars.
- If preserving in jars you will need:
- canning jars, lids, and rings
- a large and deep pot
- a small pot
- a rack or a kitchen towel
- tongs or another utensil to help with the jars so you don’t get burned
- a funnel
- Line the bottom of the pot with the rack or kitchen towel. Fill it with water, enough to cover the jars, and bring it to a boil on the stove over high heat. Once it’s boiling, add the jars carefully to the pot and let them boil 10 minutes. Leave the jars in the warm water until you’re ready to fill them.
- Bring water to a boil in the small pot and add in the canning rings. Allow to boil about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lids. Leave these in the pot until ready to use.
- Once ready to can the jam, remove the jars from the pot and bring the water back to a boil. Place the funnel in the jar and ladle the hot jam into it until the jar is full up to about ½ inch from the top. Wipe the jar clean and place the lid on the jar. Repeat with the rest of the jars.
- Carefully place the filled jars into the boiling water. If the water doesn’t cover the jars, add more to the pot. Allow these to boil for 10 minutes.
- Transfer the jars to rest on a clean towel on the counter for about 12 hours. As they cool you should hear them make popping sounds as they seal!