Thursday, January 20, 2011
When I was a teen, right after my SPM (which is something like middle school examination, or O’levels), I made and sold pineapple tarts to earn some pocket money instead of slaving away at local supermarkets.
That time, I didn’t even think of selling my tarts, but then word got out after a few tasted my tarts and came asking whether I want to make these for sale. I gave it some thought and said, ok. My tarts were sold for 100pcs/RM12 (don’t worry, still made good profit from it). My tarts were open faced, weren’t big, but still, dirt cheap. I know, but that was like 15 years ago. Haha, now u can guess my age, right? But even that, there were some who said my tarts were expensive(mostly women in their 40’s trying to press a teen for price). But some said, how could I ever charge a cookie that needs 3 layers of job that cheap(tart, jam, lattice deco). And those who said that were men, men in the renovation and construction line, customers of my family’s coffee shop. Because when they quote their customers for reno works, it depends on how complicated the job is, and when they look at my cookie, even though they can’t cook nor bake, they’d scream “complication”!!
I made my jam from scratch, I don’t buy. I tried buying once, 5 years back, and my family told me never to buy pineapple jam. NEVER AGAIN. The store(BWY) bought jam smelled of pineapple essence. Not something that we can accept because we are so used to real jam. Well, can’t blame the manufacturers. The fibre used in the jam, might be remnants from the pineapple juicing and canning industry where it is almost tasteless by then, so the extra flavouring is inevitable. There is one cookie stall in Klang Valley’s shopping centres, Shazz Delight who used to make quite nice pineapple tarts, but once they changed their filling to stuff that reeks of pineapple essence, that was it. I no longer purchased another box from them. Before that, I was a regular customer. Call me picky. Yes I am.
Cooking 16 pineapples at one time was my record. I didn’t peel every fruit. Actually I never did until recent years when I no longer stayed at my hometown. I paid 50 sen extra to the fruit seller to have them peeled. Well, for professionals, it’s easy peasy. They’d get the job done in just a fraction of the time. That time one pineapple was sold for RM1.20, and 50 sen for peeling, seemed like 45% extra profit from the fruit. The 50 sen seemed little in amount, but substantial by percentage. I didn’t mind it at all. Even if they want to charge me RM1 to peel each fruit, I’d pay too, but of course, I just kept quiet. Hahahahaha!! And I didn’t cook all the jam, 16 fruits in one big wok. I’d cook 4 first, let the jam reduce, then add more, adding as it reduces. Needs good bicep work to get the jam stirred.
Now if you ask me, what varieties of pineapples work best?
I’d say Morris. Morris is the most common pineapple around. Fruit vendors may not call it Morris, but maybe call it, the “usual pineapple”. Please bear in mind that, here, they don’t even call green apples as “granny smiths” but just green apple. So, don’t think that they might know what you are talking about if you ever ask them about Morris. Fruit vendors here are mostly proficient only in Durian varieties, haha!
1. It’s big and cheap (this year I bought each fruit for RM2)
2. It’s very fibrous
3. It’s tart (sourish), doesn’t taste sweet
Pineapple jam is all about fibre. How much jam you’d get depends on how much fibre the fruit has. I’d never go for a sweet eating pineapple like Josapine(not Josephine ok, no such pineapple exists) to make this jam. Because sweet eating pineapples are more juicy and has less fibre. I don't think you'd use fuji apple to make your apple cake, but use green tart baking apples instead, right? I won’t go for ripe Morris too. Ripe ones are juicier and of course, less of the crucial stuff. The more under ripe they are, the more I love them. Simply because you can add more sugar. Crazy woman, why use more sugar, isn’t less much better???? Sugar is a preservative. If you want your jam to last, make sure you use lots of sugar. Tart pineapples allow you to use lots of sugar without tasting overly sweet. My cookies were known to last for months, and not a mould or fungus in sight! My friend kept a box of my tarts in her cupboard for almost 4 months and forgot about it. And it was still fine after the 4 months. And I’ve seen some pineapple tarts getting mouldy by the 15th day of CNY. Yucks!!!! So I won’t be trading sugar with fungus. No Way.
If you want to ask me,
Can I reduce the sugar?
If you can be sure your tarts are eaten within 1 week, u may. I won’t take risks. Anyway, mine is still LESS sweet and sticky than store bought ones.
Can I omit the cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a natural antimicrobial spice. It helps in food preservation. Omit if you want, but I won’t.
Can I drain the juice before cooking so that it cooks faster?
You may if you prefer jam with less flavour. The juice has tons of flavour in it. I’d never do that.
So, here's what you need to make pineapple jam, my version.
2 large Morris pineapples (about 1.6kg each fruit before peeling, after peeling it’s about 900gm each)
2 cups sugar (400gm)
1 smallish cinnamon stick
*Take note that hypermarket's Morris's are smaller than those at the wet market
1. Peel the pineapples. Method found in this post
2. Cut pineapples into chunks. DO NOT DISCARD THE CORE. That part has the most of the precious fibre.
3. Put half the pineapple chunks into a blender, add 1/3 cup of water and blitz away. Pour 80% of the blended stuff into a pan or wok (please, no pot, you need a large evaporation surface)
4. With the remaining blended pineapple in the blender, repeat blending process with the rest of the pineapples, always leaving some blended stuff in the blender if you need to blend more chunks and you won't need more water.
5. Cook pineapple paste with cinnamon stick on medium heat until it's very pasty, like thick oatmeal. I don't stir it all the time, see notes below.
6. Add in sugar, it'll turn watery again. Turn to lower medium heat, and cook until it is very pasty. Stir once a while only, but keep an eye on it. See notes below.
7. Increase the heat to high. Don't stir and let the base take on some colour. It will caramelize the jam. Stir once a while to check on the colour. Stop when it almost reaches your prefered colour. Take note that some pans will continue to caramelize even when the heat is off.
1. Add sugar in after the pineapple paste has lost more than 80% of its water. It reduces the risk of burnt jam and the most importantly, it splatters horribly when there is a lot of water with the large amount of sugar.
2. Do not stir often when you reduce the pineapple paste. Once you stir, it starts splattering again, even with no sugar. When it doesn't contain sugar, it doesn't burn that easily. Stirring once a while is fine, just keep an eye on it. I let it cook and surf the net, checking it every 5 minutes. Splattering is no fun, it's very very hot and the burns are horrible.
3. Use a heavy based pan to do it, if you can. It reduces the risk of burning the jam, drastically. But if you use a regular wok/pan, then you need to stir it more often and you face a higher risk of getting hurt by the splattering.
4. Wear kitchen mittens when you stir to prevent the splatters from hitting ur hand and wrist. It can splatter up to my kitchen hood. No joke! So, don't lean forward to look at the jam. Your pretty face will be at risk. CNY is coming, you will want to look your best.
5. Take note that the jam will thicken further upon cooling. It's best to undercook rather than to overcook the jam. You can cool it and see the texture. If it's too wet, you can cook it again to dry it, but if it's way too dry after cooling, you can only dilute it by cooking another pineapple (with sugar) and adding the too dry paste into it. Adding water might ruin the sugar formation in the dry paste and cause it not to last long.
6. If you want to cook more than 2 pineapples, do not cook all at once. Pour in paste from one fruit into the pan/wok and let it reduce. While it reduces, prepare the next fruit and pour in when it's almost dry. This way, it reduces much faster than cooking all at once, and you save time too. Preparing while cooking, rather than prepare all and cook. Just go by the ration of one large Morris with 1 cup sugar and it'll work fine.
7. If you have a kitchen hood, turn it on. Even though it's not smelly or oily, the exhaust will help with the evaporation. You want it to be quicker, right?