Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Red Door and Wellington Have a Growing Passion

Who doesn't like to matchmake their friends? I'm not talking romance here, more like connecting like minds to collaborate on something really cool. Like a TV show. So, when my friend Nan Sterman of the KPBS show A Growing Passion was looking for a restaurant that had its own garden, well, who else would immediately pop into my head than Trish Watlington?

As San Diego Foodstuff and Edible San Diego readers know, Trish is a friend of mine who owns The Red Door and The Wellington in Mission Hills--and supplies much of the produce for the restaurants from the large garden she cultivates alongside her home in Mt. Helix. I love what she does--for the restaurants, the community, and healthy eating initiatives--and the innovative fare executive chef Karrie Hills creates.

A Growing Passion is a terrific reflection of Nan's interests--in the nitty gritty details of the garden, as well as its aesthetics, and beyond that to the environment, food and food justice, and water conservation issues. Nan and her team create a show that makes our outdoor environment not just the stuff of hobbyists but a critical part of our daily lives--something to take joy in as well as protect.

So, I thought it would be a perfect match. You'll be the judge when the episode airs as part of A Growing Passion's third season next year. But I'll give you a sneak preview and a recipe for the tomato jam Karrie and Nan made that long, hot afternoon when Nan and her crew arrived for a visit.

By 9 in the morning the crew was with Trish in the garden and Trish gave Nan a tour of what was growing--mostly tomatoes and a lot of squash. The focus clearly would be on the tomatoes since it was heading toward the end of the harvest and the ladies were going to make jam with them.

Then everyone headed back to the house and into the kitchen. While the crew set up Karrie got her tools and ingredients organized. Now just so you know, for every shot you see, there are any number of takes needed to capture it just right. Not only do they want shots from different angles, including close ups, but invariably a fly will swoop in or someone will flub a line or clothing is awry or the sound isn't quite right or a spoon that was one place as the previous shot ended winds up somewhere else in the next shot and has to be repositioned for continuity. Anyway, it takes a long, long time and a lot of patience to get what seems a simple shot.

As you'd expect, Karrie started off explaining what is involved in jam making and then showing Nan the various ingredients.

Then they got to work, chopping tomatoes and grating ginger.

Karrie added red wine vinegar to the pot to balance sweet with acid.

As the ingredients began to meld, Karrie offered Nan a taste so she could test the flavors and their balance.

Once the jam was cooked, it was time for the canning process. Under the best of circumstances (no cameras or filming involved) it requires some quick, efficient moves to get this part accomplished. During filming, there are lots of starts and stops, some spills, a lot of moist heat--and a lot of joking around. But when the camera was rolling, it was all business and look at how well Nan got those jars filled for their water bath!

In brief, you wash and sterilize the jars in a hot water bath, fill them with the jam, put on the lids and lightly tighten them, then put them into the rapidly simmering water for another 15 minutes to kill off any remaining bacteria. That allows you to store your jams (or pickles or whatever else you can) in your pantry for a year or so.

Karrie and Nan got most of the jars completed, then they had to leave to finish taping at the restaurants. Trish and I finished off the remaining batch. It was about 4 p.m. by then. I was done but on it went at The Red Door until I don't know when. And, of course, after that would come editing sessions to put it all together into a polished half hour show.

Seamless? Flawless? It takes a whole lot of time and repetition to make it look that easy!

And, here's the recipe. Here we use cabernet sauvignon to enhance the tomatoes instead of ginger.

Red Wine Tomato Jam 
(printable recipe)
From Karrie Hills

We made this jam during an earlier preserving session, but you can adapt this recipe to your own favorite flavors. Trish Watlington happened to have an open bottle of cabernet so in it went, along with some black pepper and orange zest. Hills likes to use the jam with a garden bruschetta and goat cheese, as a dip (mix with a soft cheese like ricotta or Neufchatel), as part of a Bloody Mary mix, as a garnish on soup or chowder, or as a sauce—adding beer and apple cider vinegar—with chicken, fish, or shrimp. 

7 to 8 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped with skins on
5 cups granulated sugar
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons orange zest (Tip: slide the blade on the orange zest while pressing down to bring out the oils, which is where the flavor is.)
1 ½ teaspoons salt or to taste
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Place tomatoes is a large non-reactive pot. Add sugar, red wine, and orange zest. Bring to a boil. Skim the foam, which is filled with impurities, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes, all the while skimming the foam. Add the salt. You’ll stop the cooking process once the mixture has thickened. You can test this by dipping a spoon into the tomato jam and either getting a slow drip from the back of the spoon or carefully placing the spoon with the jam in the freezer for about eight minutes. If the thickness is to your liking, it’s fully cooked.

Once the mixture has thickened, you can use an immersion blender to break it down into a consistent texture or you can leave it chunky. Then skim again. (Note: you may get as much as a cup of impurities from skimming from the time you started with the boil.)

Add the black pepper and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the flavors.

Fill sterilized jars just to the neck and screw on the lids. Process for five minutes in a simmering water bath. Remove from the water bath and let cool. While you can use it immediately, it’s better when it’s had a chance to rest for a couple of days. Otherwise, store in a dark, cool spot and refrigerate after opening.

Yield: 7, eight-ounce jars

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