Now We’re Jammin’

By Beacon Staff

I know there are millions of canning devotees out there. I wish I could be one of them, but my cooking style is too geared toward instant gratification.

So in most cases I like to make my jams, jellies and sauces for immediate consumption. The exceptions are stocks and pesto, which I freeze in ice cube trays, then vacuum seal the cubes in bags for later use.

There’s a spicy tomato jam I make that I’ve used in place of ketchup, but I’ve also found it’s a perfect accompaniment to fish. Yes, I said fish. Now before you go off thinking that I’m referring to breaded and deep-fried fish sticks, let me assure you that I’m talking about fresh fish from the supermarket or fishmonger. And if it’s fresh-caught, it’s even better.

Mind you, this is not for delicate fish like sole or meaty fish like tuna or salmon. It’s for firm white fish like walleye or bass or trout. Other fish you could use for this jam are orange roughy, catfish or tilapia.

My original recipe calls for walleye with the skin on, because I use a scorching hot grill to cook the fish. My recipe also gives instructions for preparing the grill grates so the fish won’t stick – and that’s only one of the reasons why I don’t think this works for the more delicate creatures from the sea.

Back to the jam. Most of the ingredients can came from your garden and your pantry. And now I must confess that I use store-bought jelly because it’s already been processed with pectin and that’s what helps turn this concoction into jam.

4 6-ounce walleye fillets with skin
3 medium tomatoes (about a pound)
1 small onion
1/3 cup apple jelly
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1/2 tsp. dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. Salt

Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. Chop the onion. In a medium sized sauce pan bring tomatoes, onion, jelly, vinegar, tarragon, pepper flakes and salt to a boil over moderately low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. That should take about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool jam to room temperature.

Prepare your grill. Get the grates as hot as you can. The hotter the better because fish won’t stick to grill grates that are scorching hot. Season fillets with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Oil the grates with a paper towel held by a pair of tongs.

Grill the fish, skin side down, and cook until the flesh is firm and cooked through. If you cook it until it’s flaky, you’ve overcooked it.

Serve each fillet topped with a generous dollop of spicy tomato jam.

If you don’t like the idea of spicy tomato jam with fish, then try it with my Polenta “Fries.” I buy quick-cooking polenta, following the directions on the package, but I always add extra cheese. Usually, the instructions will call for water, but I like using chicken broth as my liquid base.

When the polenta has cooked through, pour it into a shallow tray and refrigerate until the polenta solidifies, usually in less than an hour. Then with a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the solidified polenta into sticks that resemble French fries.

In a fry pan, heat some olive oil. Then roll the polenta “fries” in some flour. Shallow fry the polenta sticks until they’re golden. Serve with the spicy tomato jam.

You want a great new wrinkle on fish and chips? There you have it!

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