You Say Tomato

Fresh tomatoes are perfect lightly dressed with good olive oil and vinegar with a sprinkling of salt. Slice the big ones up for sandwiches like BLTs, mozzarella and tomato salad, and quesadillas.
Fresh tomatoes are perfect lightly dressed with good olive oil and vinegar with a sprinkling of salt. Slice the big ones up for sandwiches like BLTs, mozzarella and tomato salad, and quesadillas.
Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil makes a quick appetizer. Dress it with your best olive oil and sea salt.
Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil makes a quick appetizer. Dress it with your best olive oil and sea salt.

What a difference a year makes. This could easily be dubbed the year of the tomato and I think we’re all a little giddy over it. I challenge you to find me a farmer who isn’t swelling with pride as he relates the challenges of babying rare and notoriously finicky heirlooms like the Black Krim to maturity. Or an eater that’s not looking forward to their next tomato fix.

Admit it. We’re going to miss them. As soon as temperatures drop below 50 degrees, it’s time to bring in the tomatoes before their tender flesh gets damaged. Please do not refrigerate these beauties. If you’ve got a batch of super ripe tomatoes, make sauce or jam and freeze or can each batch for the long winter. I admit to having a bad case of food envy over the hulking jars of orange heirloom tomato sauce Peter Gorman at The Unqouwa School let me have a peek at yesterday. Lucky kids.

Tomato jam stold the show when served with roast pork shoulder, steamed red quinoa and swiss chard with wilted sungold tomatoes.
Tomato jam stole the show when served with roast pork shoulder, steamed red quinoa and swiss chard with wilted sungold tomatoes.

Tomato jam was a surprise hit in my house this summer, explained in part by its versatility – it’s as perfect a condiment for roast pork shoulder on Sunday as it is  a ketchup replacement for burgers on Tuesday. Actually, the tomato jam became the rationale for making the dishes. Two years ago I saw this NYT recipe for a tomato jam that was served in a tapas bar in Barcelona, and it struck such a chord with my foodie brain that I made a mental note to unearth it the next time tomato fever struck. The cumin, clove and cinnamon add warmth and spice, and when married with the ginger and lime, create such an incredible depth and complexity of flavor that you’ll be reduced to a plate licker.

How to Make Tomato Jam

Organic Jersey Devils from Sport Hill Farm in Easton are one of the most dense and meaty tomatoes and have low seeds and gel. Perfect for tomato jam or sauce.
Organic Jersey Devils from Sport Hill Farm in Easton are incredibly dense and meaty with little seed and gel. Perfect for tomato jam or sauce.

Visit your favorite farmer, farmers’ market or green grocer and buy 1 1/2 pounds of very ripe San Marzanos, Romas, Jersey Devils or other dense fleshed, low seed tomatoes. Pick up a fresh chile pepper while you’re there and make sure you’ve got the other ingredients listed in the recipe available here from The New York Times. Do not skimp on the sugar; this is jam, not sauce after all.

Give the tomatoes a quick bath to loosen their skins. Remove them from the water after they start to split or within 15 seconds to avoid turning them to mush.
Give the tomatoes a quick boiling water bath to loosen their skins. Remove tomatoes from the water after they start to split or within 15 seconds to avoid turning them to mush.

The only change I would suggest making to this recipe is to peel the tomatoes first. I recommend peeling tomatoes for sauces, jams and stews because the skin toughens and curls into a tight little mass that is neither attractive nor tasty. This is really quite an easy and fast process. Boil a pot of water and plunge the tomatoes in the water to just loosen their skins, maximum 15 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon or Chinese strainer, place them on a cutting board, and let them cool for a minute. You can actuallywatch the skin splitting and peeling off the tomato. If this doesn’t happen, do not put it back in the water. Rather, gently rub it with the knife or insert the knife between the flesh and the skin to make a tear and start the process.

Tomato jam keeps up to a week in the refrigerator, if you can make it last that long.

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