A week or so ago, I decided to clean out the refrigerator and freezer because I am expert at forgetting what I have on hand and buying stuff I don’t need. Among the things I excavated was a pack of four baseball-size beets that I roasted way back in September 2018. My first thought was to toss them into the compost bin as I assumed they would taste freezer-burned, stale. After all, they had been frozen for a long time, gone through at least one defrosting/refreezing, and weren’t particularly well-packaged. But I smelled them, and, well, they smelled just fine. Very beet-y. Then there’s the fact that I really hate to waste food.
My initial plan was to slice up the beets in a cold salad with red onion and vinegar, but I decided to search for recipes in case they contained suggestions for spices or other additions. During the hunt, I came upon a recipe for Spiced Beet and Red Onion Jam.
I’ve had mixed reactions to savory jams in the past. I’ve tried the tomato jam sold by a popular grocery chain, and found it excruciatingly sweet. Then I bought a jar of hot pepper bacon jam made by a boutique condiments company and again, I found it way too sweet. One reason I decided to try making the beet-onion jam was to see if I could make a savory jam that actually tasted savory, not like a fruit spread.
I read the jam recipe, and immediately hit a speedbump–it called for 2 cups of golden sugar. For one thing, I had never heard of golden sugar. For another, I didn’t want to add 2 cups of any kind of sugar to this jam. So I improvised–I decided to use the light brown sugar that I already had, and to cut it back to half a cup, which is a bit more than I use for fruit spreads. I also decided to add a scant teaspoon of the Pomona pectin, which gels by reacting with calcium instead of sugar (I added a teaspoon and a half of the Pomona calcium suspension). That way, I wouldn’t have to cook the jam as long or monitor the temperature. Since the beets had already been roasted, they didn’t need much cooking anyway.
The beets were still frozen, so I grated them using my Cuisipro box grater, which worked like a charm. The red onions, I just chopped. I added the spices, and boiled the mix for a few minutes. Since I wound up with about 3.5 cups total, I didn’t bother with full-blown preserving. I just packed the jam into glass containers and stuck it in the fridge to set.
Verdict? I liked this more than I thought I would, and will definitely make it again. Reducing the sugar allowed the flavor of the beets to come through, and the cayenne pepper added just the right amount of heat. I first tried it on crispbread atop my homemade hummus, with a few pieces of pecorino romano on the side. It made for a nice change of pace from my usual sun-dried tomato spread.
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