Boiling up pineapple jam is just the first step towards homemade pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year. This jam is unlike any other – it’s definitely jammy and sweet, but it’s also fruity, tart, and very tropical-tasting (for lack of a better word).
It does take quite a bit of time to make your own pineapple jam, but in return you get a much more complex flavour than some of the pre-made versions that are just one-dimensionally sweet.
I do take one big shortcut – I use canned pineapples. Canned pineapple rings to be exact, because I believe they’re “less processed” than the smaller cuts of canned pineapples (e.g., chunks, crushed, etc.).
I get mine in heavy syrup, only because they tend to be cheaper. And I think it’s rather a waste to get the ones in pineapple juice because you’ll need to drain the juice anyway. The aim is to get as dry a jam as possible so it’s better to drain all possible liquids from the canned pineapple.
In my pictures, you’ll see more ingredients than what I’ve written for in the recipe. That’s because I make a double batch of jam/tarts, because they always seem to disappear so quickly around this time of the year!
3 (20 oz.) cans pineapple rings in heavy syrup (approx. 1.2 kg pineapples)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice (opt.)
Step 1: Drain the pineapple rings and rinse off the sugar syrup they were stored in. Blend to a puree.
Step 2: Add the pineapple puree to a large, deep pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
I’ve taken apart a tea bag and discarded the tea leaves so that I could have a muslin bag just for the cloves. You can certainly skip this step, but putting all the cloves in a muslin bag saves you from fishing them out one by one later. Biting into a whole clove is not very pleasant!
You can use a large, shallow frying pan or wok to boil everything up because that will speed up the jamming process. But the consequence of using a pan/wok is that there’ll be much more splattering, so I prefer a pot with side walls for safety. Splattering boiling sugar is a real hazard!
Step 3: Bring everything to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture starts bubbling (or splattering; BE CAREFUL), lower the heat and let it simmer for up to 3 hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so so that the bottom does not burn.
Step 4: As the jam simmers, the sugars will caramelize and turn the jam a deep brownish-orange. To check when the jam is done, run a spoon through it.
If the spoon leaves a channel that doesn’t close up and isn’t too wet looking, then the jam is ready. Take the jam off the heat and cool it to room temperature. Fish out the spices, then store the jam, sealed, in the refrigerator.
I love making pineapple jam, because it scents the whole house with the delicious smell of fruit and spices. It’s like making a festive declaration that Chinese New Year is just around the corner!
Remember, this is not a jam intended for spreading on toast. It’s meant to be sticky and paste-like so that it’ll hold its shape on the tart base. And please, boiling sugar is just like napalm, so be very careful when boiling jam! Have a lid handy to clamp over the pot if the splattering gets too intense.