Not going back has come with a price to pay too. That means a no to all the non-stop feasting back in our hometown, a no to a good chance for family and friends to get together and do crazy stuff together, and a no to all the special delicacies that you will only get to see and taste especially on a big festive season like this. The Chinese New Year cookies easily top the "Food that I shall Miss the Most" list of mine lol. To make things worse, I have never actually seen them sold anywhere around where we live here. So sad... So if you want it, then make it yourself! To make up for the rather low-key, unusual, fresh and out-of-the-norm idea of celebration that we will be having this year, I made a vow to make us feel good and at least contented with the decision of us to stay put this year. And I SHALL bake my own batches of cookies! Well lets just hope that the motivation won't dim off any moment soon lol.
I don't remember ever taking baking this seriously in the past. I'm not one who's so into festive baking. But I do bake for fun especially at times when it's least expected of me. This, however, is a whole different scenario. At least I myself am expecting something out of it as the New Year approaches lol. My very first attempt this year - the pineapple tarts! Whoa! Sounds like a big project! And it is! But honestly if I should just make do with one single type of cookies this year, it will have to be these tarts! I'm such a big fan that thinking about not having it for another year has sufficed in getting me started. Seriously! lol. And now I regret not learning it from Jin, a housemate of mine, when she made us all a batch when we celebrated that year's Chinese New Year back in Glasgow. And I regret not paying my full attention and helping my mom-in-law when she made that just a year ago when we were back in Malaysia.
Well then the Internet it is! This is a recipe I got from Wendy at Table For 2.....or More - the ever reliable source for cooking ideas and recipes! And sure enough, despite the hectic process with plenty of time invested and some hiccups in between, the pineapple jam turned out perfect! So good I could already picture how gooey and nice they will be when wrapped in the dough for the tarts soon, real soon! Now fingers crossed that the dough will turn out just as perfectly as this!
Homemade Pineapple Jam - Chinese New Year Series
Adapted from Table For 2.....or More
2 large pineapples (the commonly found kind in the market)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup water
1. Working on a pineapple at a time, cut off the top (the stalk and about an inch more) and the bottom (another inch maybe) of the pineapple. Stand the pineapple up. Starting from the top, slice downwards to trim off a single strip of skin. Do the same circling the pineapple. Try not to trim off too much of the flesh. And it's fine to be able to see those tiny divots or eyes left behind still. When it's done, lay the pineapple down on its side. Notice how the eye spots can be seen in diagonal lines. Using a smaller knife, cut a V-shaped groove along the diagonal line and remove the whole line. Continue through the whole pineapple.
2. Halve the pineapple lengthwise and cut into wedges (one half into four wedges). Cut each wedge into smaller chunks (keep the core, the high fiber contents makes a good looking fibrous jam).
3. Work in batches and fill the blender with the pineapple chunks. Add in 1/3 cup of water and blend on high until you get a pineapple puree. Remove about 80% of the content in the blender and transfer into a large bowl. Repeat the blending process with the rest of the pineapple chunks. The 20% retained from the previous batch each time will help to get the blending started for the next batch and thus minimizing additional use of water.
4. Transfer the pineapple puree into a wok or a large pan (the bigger is the surface area, the better and faster the evaporation will be). Add in the cinnamon stick. Cook the pineapple puree on a medium heat until it thickens into a paste-like texture (one resembling the oatmeal consistency). Stir every 5 to 10 minutes in between.
5. Add in the granulated sugar. It will revert back to its watery appearance. Turn the heat down slightly and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated. Again stir every 5 to 10 minutes in between.
6. When it has regained its paste-like consistency (very very thick oatmeal-like texture this time), bring the heat up to high. Leave undisturbed for about a minute to let the bottom layer slightly caramelized. Stir to mix, and repeat until the paste reaches the jam color that you personally prefer.
7. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before you pack it away. Store refrigerated.
Some personal notes on its making:
- This is time consuming, like seriously time consuming. But just for the record (and a reminder to myself the next time I'm at this again, which I will! lol), it took me about 1½ hours for the pineapple puree to start thickening a little before the sugar comes into the picture. From there as it turns watery again after adding in the sugar, it took me another 2½ hours to re-reduce the water content. So really, start early, and start with lotsa patience to spare! lol
- Wendy's so right about having the jam undercooked is always better than overcooking them. It hardly is reversible when it's overcooked; they have to be compensated with more puree which also equals a lot more work! But if you have undercooked then, you just have to bring it back to the stove and work your way out. I had mine undercooked. Totally unintentional, of course, but I was glad that all I needed to do the next day was to cook and dry it a little further. It barely took me another 15 minutes. So better safe than sorry!
- The initial cooking process with tonnes of liquid in it comes with a lot of active splattering. Pretty much like the bubbling lava from an active volcano (only a tad exaggerated lol). But really, stay away from the wok or pan except for those times when you have to stir it. And start in a wok or pan that gives you a good surface area (maximum evaporation rate) and a good coverage (so that it at least limit the splattering a little). But you can and should still expect a good clean up around the working area after the whole episode lol.
- Wendy suggested the Morris pineapples (the less ripe they are, the better). That makes the commonly found type of pineapples in Malaysia. Over here, I think we are surrounded by the smooth cayenne type. I got two of those (Fyffes Gold). Naturally sweet, I was a little concerned if they would still work out fine, but they are proven unwarranted in the end. So give them a try! They are good, really good!
Next in line... the pineapple tarts!!!