Thursday, June 30, 2016

Got Tomatoes? Make ... Jam!

The idea of making tomato jam may seem odd at first, but tomatoes are, after all, a fruit. They have a lot of natural sugar and pectin; add the right spices and you have a sweet-spicy condiment that's terrific on sandwiches, with cheese and crackers (including goat cheese or cream cheese), and even on toast for a savory/sweet switch-up with your usual strawberry.

If you are looking for something to do with your summer glut of summer tomatoes, this is a good choice. Every time I make it I give away several jars and it's always a hit.

More than a few years ago, I picked up this recipe from Mark Bittman's old The New York Times column, and there was even one of the entertaining videos he did periodically.



Bittman does not call for peeling the tomatoes, but I do; the skins don't really break down and I don't care for those chewy bits in my jam. Some people would go so far as to seed the tomatoes, but the seeds don't bother me. Besides, it's been shown that a lot of the strongest flavor components come from the "jelly" around the seeds, and if you remove the seeds, you'll wind up removing a lot of the jelly. So, seeds in; skin out.

NOTE: In the video, Bittman mentions canning this jam. I do not know if this recipe is suitable for canning or not, so I've never risked it. If sharing the love, be sure your gift recipients know it needs to stay refrigerated.

Tomato Jam 

adapted from The New York Times

1 1/2 pounds good ripe Roma tomatoes
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR 1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves OR 3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with a mixture of ice and water. With a sharp knife, cut a very shallow "X" in the bottom of each tomato.Working in batches if necessary, drop the tomatoes into the pot of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds. Using a scoop or slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and drop into the bowl of ice water. Remove from the ice water when cooled. Using the X as a starting point, peel tomatoes. Dice the tomatoes.

Combine tomatoes and the remaining ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the cinnamon stick and whole cloves, if used.

Cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

TIP:
Even though I have never processed this jam in a canner, I do typically dispense the jam into sterile 1/2-pint jam canning jars with new lids. I allow to cool to room temp and then refrigerate.