Some of you might have noticed that I have a bit of anti-Martha Stewart sentiment. It usually surfaces when I read a blog post that used her recipe. It all stemmed from an unfortunate microwave minestrone recipe I got from Everyday Food. I know, I know, the title alone should have signaled disaster, but I was hard of head so I tried it and as a result got to taste the blandest-ass soup ever. The only other recipe I've made of hers (and her rumored not-so-thoroughly-tested kitchen) was a peanut butter swirled brownie, which was okay (on the bitter and cakey side). So since then, I've just enjoyed looking at the pictures in her magazines, even if I've stopped buying them. But I don't hate her: in fact I quite enjoy the undercurrent of bitchitude she has on her talk show and the creepy, crazy, robotic obsessive-compulsiveness. You just know, if you weren't a celebrity and your stencil or whatever didn't line up, she'd shiv you.
I haven't seen one of these things in a while, so it was pretty cool.
The thing is, I was not the neatest kid in school. I recall dumping all my notebooks (we had 13 of them, one for each subject) in my bag in grade school. One day, I found remnants of a dead rat inside (Hello! Welcome to a man's blog). Even in high school, I just piled my books haphazardly inside my locker while my classmates had theirs vertically arranged according to height and subject. In college, my friend Marga constantly criticized me for having the messiest bag ever: sometimes I'd just throw receipts inside, and if a box of staples spilled, my books would be littered with tiny metal confetti. I'm sure Martha Stewart would approve. There were times when I'd fix my locker (even go so far as to add knick-knacks to make it look good) or bag, and I've found that neatness inspires even more obsessiveness. Suddenly, there's a little space in your brain devoted to keeping things in order, because you've already established the order. I think, in the past, keeping my things a mess was my way of not using up valuable head space. I know, I'm making excuses. I've since reformed my ways. Except on my bed. I share it with Claire Clark, Pichet Ong, Pierre Hermé, Flo Braker, Jamie Oliver, and Jason Atherton (and the editors of New Zealand magazine Dish). Quite an orgy I have each night! I wake up with paper cuts all over. Just kidding.
How do you like the picture? The brilliant stylists at the Martha Stewart institute were my inspiration. It took me a while after I'd made the jam to take it, because of the rain. Then when the sun came out, it came out too strong and I had to wait for that 10-minute window of time when it just hides behind the horizon but there's still daylight. It helps to scramble for the props early in the day, and to just wait. I'd also just bought several napkins of varying hues at Shoemart (about 67¢ to $1 each), so I'm really happy!
When I started the blog's food trajectory I told myself I would tackle on a new skill each time, but lately I've been rehashing basic skills (like cake mixing). Making preserves was altogether frightening for me. But, I thought, hundreds of Americans do this, so why can't I? Anne and Allen make wonderful preserves (Anne's I've even tasted!), so it inspired me to make my own-- I used the Ball home canning jar that Anne gave me, mangoes that were gifted to us, and pineapple leftover from another dish. I squealed with delight when I heard that reassuring pop as I took it out of processing. Vacuum-sealed, baby! Unfortunately, I didn't have any of the other tools, like a jar lifter and magnetic lid lifter, but I just used a pasta pot with removable colander, and a large spoon to fish out lids. And asbestos fingers.
I didn't just use these fruits because they were what I had-- Mango-Pineapple Jam is widely commercially available in the Philippines and is my favorite flavor hands-down (I may have to gift some, with all my raving...). As for the taste and texture? Absolutely perfect. Since my mangoes were really ripe, I didn't have to add as much sugar and as a result, they were less artificially sweet. Serve on warm rolls or lightly toasted bread (it goes well with soft, buttery bread). You can also use it to fill pastry and make turnovers. Would I do it again, though? Probably only if I have a lot of fruit that needs preserving (as in, the quantities listed below). I only made one and a half jars and it was plenty of effort, handling scalding jars.
There are so many different recipes for making mango jam that I've come to the conclusion that it rarely can be messed up. Some call for 5 parts sugar to 6 parts fruit (!). Some more reasonable recipes call for 1 part sugar to 4 parts fruit, or 1 part sugar to 7 parts fruit. Take note that the recipes that call for smaller amounts of sugar were formulated in the Philippines, where mangoes are far superior to the ones in Europe or the US. Philippine mangoes are smaller and more elongated in shape, softer, and are yellow when ripe-- do search for them if you can. I use a very conservative 1 part sugar to 8 parts fruit, but that has to be the absolute minimum amount of sugar to use. Because both mangoes and pineapples are low in pectin, some recipes call for subbing 1/3 of the amount of ripe mangoes with green mangoes. I find this unnecessary (potential for tastelessness) and used citric acid instead.
Prepare around 5 or 6 250mL (8oz) jars suitable for home canning. Sterilize and prepare them as directed here. Chop the pineapple finely (the mangoes as well if they are not very soft). In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the fruit and the sugar and set over high heat to bring to a rapid boil. Once it does, decrease the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches a setting consistency, or 105°C (220°F), about 20-30 minutes. Drain the sterilized jars and make sure they are dry. Pack the jam into the jars, leaving 7mm (¼ inch) headspace. Use a clean rubber spatula to release any air bubbles. Center the lids on top and screw on the bands until fingertip-tight. Process in boiling water for 25 minutes. Check if it has properly sealed by making sure the central button is depressed; if not, you will have to refrigerate the jam or reprocess it.