Preserving Summer: Tomato Jam

This year I had my vacations planned just right.  We took two weeks in April and toured the country, driving parts of the famed Route 66 to Arizona on our way to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  On the way home we took a different route to see more of the country and some of our friends in Colorado.  While the weather was a little chilly at night in the desert and mountains, it was perfect during the day for a variety of outdoor activities.  Now we are gearing up for another two week adventure at the end of this month to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It may seem late in the year for the beach but for me it extends the summer a bit. One last hurrah before fall sets in.  Driving south where even in September and October it is warmer than in Ohio is one way I like to preserve and lengthen the summer.  It helps to stretch it out and squeeze out every last bit of the flavor and fun of summer. Thinking back on all I was able to do this year I realize what fortunate girl I am.  Tallying up our time vacationing this year including big getaways and the small ones such as going to the Short North in Columbus, we will have spent over a month and a half traveling!  I think that is a record for us.

Me on the South Kaibab this April

The timing of our vacations was just right for another reason, rather than planned however it was a fortuitous blessing. Vacationing in April and late September really helped me to have the whole summer open to work on our shared garden we keep with our parents.  My Dad did most of the work early in the season with all the planting and tending to most of the weeds.  But when harvest time came around I was home and able to preserve the taste of our summer garden with the help of my Mom. Together we worked on three separate days picking, cleaning, cooking, and canning tomato sauce.  So far the tally is 58 quarts of thick, vine ripened, fresh homegrown herb infused, delectable sauce.  On those days while we were resting during the lull that occurs after all the tomatoes are washed and chopped and are finally cooking down on the stove, I picked up a few magazines and looked through one particular canning book.  I actually purchased the book with great expectations and intentions but other than glancing at its pages, never really used it to its full advantage!  The book is aptly named, Preserving the Taste.  The taste of homegrown fruits and vegetables is really the main reason why canners like me can and preserve.
    Preserving the Taste by Edon Waycott is a wonderful book.  Before I made anything in the book, I just enjoyed reading it.  The recipes are very appealing sounding, such as fig jam with candied lemon zest and rosemary-mint jelly.  Other than sweet things like jams and jellies, the book contains many recipes for salsas, fruit butters, and preserved vegetables.  What particularly intrigued me in the book was the recipe for Tomato Jam.  I love savory things and a thick savory and slightly sweet jam made me salivate.  I really wanted to try it.  After our three days of canning tomato sauce I had to wait for more tomatoes to ripen but I planned on trying out this jam recipe.  So when I unexpectedly was told I was not needed at work on Tuesday, I knew what I was going to do.  I ran over to the garden to pick tomatoes for making this jam.  The recipe calls for 8 pounds of tomatoes which to me seemed like a lot until I actually weighed them.  I ended up doubling the recipe because to my delight I had picked exactly 16 pounds in a very short time.  I think it was the universes way of telling me to make more!  I strayed from the original recipe slightly for a few reasons that I will share below along with a few tips I learned.

  1. I doubled the original recipe.
  2. I used mostly San Marzano tomatoes and a few smaller juice tomatoes.
  3. I did not peel the tomatoes. I cleaned them well, removing any imperfections from the skin and processed them in the food processor.  This is a tip I learned from a co-worker for making the process of making sauce easier and I applied it here as well.  I worked beautifully.
  4. I did not have a pot large enough to hold all the puree from 16 lbs of tomatoes.  I used 2 pots and naturally divided the ingredients between the two pans.  If you have a large enough pot that will hold all the puree then use that if you wish.  But it helps with thickening if the pot is wide and shallow.
  5. The original recipe called for raspberry vinegar which I did not have.  It also called for cinnamon. What I had on hand in the way of vinegar was plain distilled and a fancy cinnamon pear balsamic.  I used a combination of these two as a substitute.  I did not want the balsamic which was very thick and rich to overpower the final product.  Since the recipe already called for cinnamon, I figured this would add to the existing flavor profiles, which it did.  The final product turned out great.  So use whatever you have on hand as well.
  6. The original recipe has listed in the directions a total cooking time of approximately 1 hour until the mixture is thick and ready to can.  This did not happen with mine.  It took much longer about 2 1/2 hours to get to the desired thickness and this was AFTER I added double concentrated tomato paste which the original recipe did not call for.
  7. I processed mine in a hot-water bath as the recipe suggested.  I had never done this before in my canning experience but did not want to take a chance with the potential spoilage after all my hard work.  However I was not prepared with the proper equipment.  After placing my jars in the hot, nearly boiling water, I wondered how I was going to remove them!  I ended up using a large wooden spoon.  Lifting them up gingerly while trying to balance them on the spoon, as the tops came out of the water I grabbed them with my hand which was somewhat protected with an oven mitt.  Cloth oven mitt + hot water and metal rings = some burnt fingers.  Plastic coated jar lifter ~ Priceless!  Make sure you have the proper equipment before beginning.  I learned my lesson for next time.
     I did not mind adapting the recipe to suit my needs.  The final result was great.  It also perfumed the entire house with a wonderful aroma which was an added bonus.  I left about a pint of the jam in an unsealed jar in the fridge.  We ate it that very night as a condiment over steak soft tacos.  Eric loved it.  It was so flavorful and delicious right away, I am looking forward to what it tastes like after 2 weeks or so of aging. The flavors by that time will have had more time to blend and meld.  It paired very nicely with the steak and soft tacos which where slightly charred.  I can imagine this on some rye toast, a nice slab of corn bread as the book suggests, or even adorning the top of a little crostini with herbed goat cheese for a fancy yet simply prepared appetizer.  Eric said it would make a great barbecue sauce, which made me think of adding it as a cooking liquid for pot roast in the crock pot.  Last night we even used it as a sauce for a pizza I came up with which was a riff on my version of a BLT sandwich that I used to make at home as a kid. It was so delectable!  If a hobby gardener like we are and love to can and have tomatoes are ready to use, give this recipe a try! You will love it, trust me.  Go preserve the taste of summer!

Tomato Jam

 

Recipe adapted from Preserving the Taste

Ingredients

  • 16 poundsripe tomatoes (see note #2 in post)
  • 4 tspsalt
  • 4 tbspsugar
  • 4 tbspcinnamon pear balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbspdistilled vinegar
  • 8 tbspbrown sugar
  • 2 tspground cinnamon
  • 1-4.6 oz.tube double concentrated tomato paste
  • freshlyground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Wash tomatoes thoroughly, using a paring knife remove any imperfections from the skin, core and cut tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size.
  2. Thoroughly puree tomatoes working in batches in food processor, pouring puree into a shallow wide pot and cook over medium heat. (I had to use 2-30 cm le creuset wide french oven pans which each holds about 6.5 quarts. Be sure to divide all ingredients equally between the two pans if using two. See note #4 in post).
  3. Stir in salt and white sugar. (Reminder: ingredients listed are for the whole recipe. If using 2 pans divide ingredient amounts between both pans for each of the following steps).
  4. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring occasionally and continue to cook until mixture goes through the following stages first becoming foamy, reducing and then thickening.
  5. Once mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan add vinegars, pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon and tomato paste. Stir to combine and continue to cook stirring occasionally.
  6. Continue cooking until the jam is very thick and holds it shape when mounded onto a large wooden spoon. This took about 1 to 1.5 hours for mine. It is really going to be dependent on how juicy your tomatoes are.
  7. Once to desired thickness ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars. Wipe rims clean with a clean damp towel and seal with new lids and metal rings. Process in a hot-water bath for 5-10 minutes. Remove, cool, check seals, label, and store. This recipe for me yielded a total of 8.5 pints.
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