Good-bye Summer, welcome Fall! The change of season from Summer to Fall feels like watching an exuberant, vibrant girl turning into a sappy, complex lady. I love seeing the green leaves magically turning into celebratory Fall colors. I am also mesmerized by the snow-capped New England Mountains decorated with festive, multi-colored leaves like a wedding cake. Dreaming of New England’s colorful Fall in my California kitchen, I’m making some of its rich foods that are perfect for this change of season.
New England cooking is strongly influenced by the English, Irish, Portuguese and Italian settlers. Extensive dairy farming in the region also makes dairy products easy to be used in their cooking. Blending creamy butter with eggs, I’m baking Sally Lunn bread, which was brought to New England by English settlers. I’m also making sweet tomato jam, which came with the Portuguese immigrants to the region. Together with the Sally Lunn bread this jam makes a delicious sweet jelly sandwich.
For Sally Lunn bread, I first warm up ½ cup whole fat milk to 100F and dissolve a package of dry yeast (active culture will make bubbles in warm milk within a couple of minutes). Then I beat in 3 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar and ½ cup melted butter (i.e. 1 stick) in a separate bowl and combine everything together. Next, I sift in 4 cups flour to the mixture, knead the dough, cover and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. Then, I punch down and place in 2 greased medium loaf pans. Once again I cover and let them rise inside each loaf pan. Finally, I sprinkle some sugar and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. This bread has a hint of sweetness and the rich flavor of eggs and butter. Its creamy texture and flavor makes it absolutely delicious to eat with sweet jam.
To make “fruity” tomato jam for this bread, I first dip 2 ½ lbs of very ripe tomatoes in boiling water for one minute and then peel away the skin. Then, I chop the tomatoes, place them in a pot and combine them with ¼ cup Zinfandel port, 2 cups sugar, one cinnamon stick, ¼ lemon peel & 4 whole cloves. Next, I bring it to a boil and simmer at medium-low heat for an hour. When the jam thickens to a “jelly” consistency, I turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon, lemon peel & cloves. Lastly I put the tomato jam in an empty glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
Just like the colorful Fall foliage, this tomato jam has layers of flavor complexities ranging from blackberry, raisin, fig, lemon peel, cinnamon & clove. Sweet tomato flavor comes forward in the month, followed by the deep flavors of Zinfandel port, cinnamon & clove from the back of the throat. On the finishing note, the refreshing flavor of lemon peel gently coats the mouth and lingers in the mouth for the long time. How nicely the crunchy tomato seeds also accentuate the velvety texture of the jam. It’s an exciting jam. It makes a warm piece of rich Sally Lunn bread absolutely irresistible!
Enjoy the change of season with the colorful taste of New England. Wishing you a warm and delightful Fall. Happy cooking!