Depending on who you talk to, tomatoes are either gone already, will be gone tomorrow, next week, or by the end of September. That gives me little comfort. For one, if you love tomatoes as much as I do, you’re paralyzed with fear every time you go to the farmers’ market. Will some tomatoes remain, or will they be gone for good? It’s unfair that for a crop this glorious, this celebrated, we’re given but a few weeks’ time to truly make good use of it.
So far, I’ve been in luck. Ripe Romas, tiny grape and cherry tomatoes, heirlooms of all shapes and sizes have greeted me at farm stands. I know I’m on borrowed time, so each market trip, I lug home as many tomatoes as I can – our entire dining room table is covered with them. You might wonder where we eat dinner – well, so do we. And sadly, ripe market tomatoes have a limited shelf life – heavy, with delicate skin, some crack or bruise while en route home.
I first tried this tomato jam (or any tomato jam for that reason) a few years ago when I met my friend Jennie for the first time. I could walk poetic about the wonders of the internet and social media, but I’ll say just this: if it weren’t for Twitter, who knows if Jennie and I would have ever met, and my life is most certainly richer with her in it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pie I made for Jennie when I mentioned our improbable connection and get-together. At our initial coffee “date”, where I gave her a cherry pitter, she gave me a jar of tomato jam she made the week prior. When I got home, I promptly ate the whole thing in one sitting – it was delicious. Last year, distracted by a new relationship and thoughts about switching careers, I missed much of the tomato season. I barely managed to make a tomato sandwich – and by the time I got around to pasta sauces and what not – the tomatoes were gone until the following summer. But this year – I was not to be deterred.
This jam is a versatile thing – I’ve had it on toast, I’ve ladled it on top of steak, I’ve stirred it into my usual tomato sauce for added depth, and I’ve eaten it just as, in plain sight, with a spoon. This time, I made a large batch – I can save some jars for later and I can give some away as gifts come holiday season.
Jennie’s award-winning recipe (it won a Food 52 contest) is so good, it hardly needs changing. I simply adjusted the proportions for a larger batch, and added a touch of cayenne along with hot, smoked paprika for warmth. The rest – I kept the same. Why mess with perfection?
Slightly adapted from Jennie
5 pounds tomatoes, such as Roma
2 small onions, diced
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 small tart apples, finely diced
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup cider or Champagne vinegar
1. Place all ingredients in a 6-quart heavy bottomed pot or a Dutch oven; stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a summer. Cook, uncovered, until thickened with jam-like consistency, about 4 hours, longer if tomatoes seem to liquid-y.
2. Transfer to sterilized glass jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or use a hot-water canning bath for 20 minutes for long-term storage.
Makes 3 pints.