How much do I love tomatoes? Let me count the ways. I eat them in some form or another most every day and in the summer, when they are at their peak of availability, diversity and flavor, rare is the day in which tomatoes are not consumed around these parts.
Sometimes a fresh, ripe tomato, rinsed and pat dried, eaten as one would an apple, with perhaps the slightest sprinkling of good salt and pepper is good enough for lunch.
The thing I love most about tomatoes other than their effulgent, puerile nature is their beneficience. They take pity on the fact that by the time their cute, little bodies reach their most adorable, juicy and delectable stage, it is already the end of summer, when the air is getting chilly and the leaves have already started to fall. When we have almost given up on the warmth and taste of summer.
These beauties then show up at our local farmers markets, ready for the picking as if saying, don't be sad, here is one last summer hurrah, one last chance to be happy before it's time take out the woolens from storage and start consoling yourselves with sun dried and canned tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce.
It is around the middle of September that fresh organic green tomatoes start appearing in massive quantities at the farmers market. And the sight of them could not make me any happier.
Because while I love tomatoes of all kinds (heirlooms in particular), sizes, and colors it is the late summer green tomato that lends itself best for one of my favorite things to doing the kitchen: preserving and jam making.
I had been looking forward to making green tomato jam at home ever since discovering O&Co.'s heavenly Green Tomato Jam (Confiture Au Chaudron Tomate Verte).
After finishing the jar and before running up the street to buy some more, I figured I could always give it a go, and see if a home version would be as good or better.
So, reaching once more for my favorite manual on jam and jelly making, the little gem of a book that is Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures I searched for her Green Tomato and Cinnamon recipe (page 201).
The tomatoes were as beautiful as can be. Organic, green, firm, the perfect size. I took them home and aided by the simplest of ingredients--superfine sugar and a couple small lemons-- and my laconic recipe, I got to work.
As in most of Madame Ferber's recipes, the endeavor took a couple of days to complete but it was by no means a burdensome or complicated task.
The idea was to macerate the tomatoes in the lemon juice and sugar overnight, cook them the second day, refrigerate the mixture overnight for a second time and cook the fruit one last time before transferring the jam to little jars (and in my case to the refrigerator).
I was very happy with the results. The jam came out thick and chunky and substantial. The tomatoes cooked until they became translucent, the color of candied citron, like the one I've found while shopping at Izraël in the Marais (or Big John's PFI in Seattle).
The flavor is pure green tomato, with a slight floral undertone that reminded me of borage blossoms, contrasted by the lemony tartness I prefer in my jam.
The recipe, as I interpreted it--by skipping both the cinnamon stick in and the food mill step in Ferber's original version--, allowed for the taste and texture of the tomatoes in all their glory to remain palpable, unadulterated. Perfect!
Until the very last spoonful is used up this jam shall be a reminder of this year's gorgeous Seattle summer, of my weekly trips to the market and a promise of next year's summer and the market season ahead.
Here's to great tomatoes everywhere!
Green Tomato Jam
(adapted from Christine Ferber's Green Tomato with Cinnamon Jam)
4 pounds green tomatoes (2 1/2 pounds net)
4 1/3 cups superfine sugar
Juice (and zest) of two small lemons
Rinse tomatoes in cold water. Dry them with towel. Cut in wedges and remove juice, seeds and the white center parts. Dice tomatoes.
In a bowl, combine the tomato pieces, sugar and lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and let macerate overnight.
The next day, pour this mixture into a preserving pan. Bring to a boil and on low heat cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour back into the bowl. cover with plastic wrap and again refrigerate overnight.
The third day, bring the mixture to a boil, skim if necessary and continue cooking in low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Check the set and cook a bit more if needed. Put the jam into jars immediately and seal (or for small batches, just refrigerate).