I read a lot of cookbooks. I mean a lot, a lot. I read them for fun, like novels, taking in the stories and beautiful photography, for research, looking at the science of how ingredients blend together and what I can create on my own, like poetry, how the components all marry together on a plate just so and for work, helping me pick the perfect book every month to review for the Just Food monthly column I write. I wouldn’t say I’m the authority, but I have some opinions.
Quite pleased with my first batch of spicy tomato jam (I’m convinced I could have made another jar if I didn’t sample it so much), I still had about 4 pounds of tomatoes left over from my two bushel canning projects and craving for more. What I wasn’t up for was the 5 hour cooking, babysitting, tomato splattering all over my stove again. I was convinced there had to be some shortcut. Lots of people make tomato jam. Busy people. Sane people who don’t work all day then stay up canning until 2am (a fact I will not confirm or deny). So what was the secret?
In February I went to my first ever BK Swapper event. My jams, jellies and caramel sauce traded well for a bounty of goods but what I remember most was the tomato jam. Sweet, sticky, with a bit of heat to round things out, it made ketchup seem so bland and basic. It took a few months for me to open the jar, but once I did it was gone in a matter of weeks. Never have I gone through a condiment so quickly. It went on everything from burgers to toast to grilled chicken. I’ve never been good with names or faces so I had no idea who made this delicious jam. I searched the BK Swappers Facebook page for clues but nothing. With much despair, I realized if I ever wanted to enjoy this yummy jam again, I’d need to make it myself.
Sorry, it took me a while to get this one up. Our Greenmarkets are still abundant with the last tomatoes of the season. As a bonus, they’re pretty cheap. Sure, some aren’t the prettiest, maybe a little bruised, but still tasty and perfect for sauce. Earlier this summer I put up chopped tomatoes. I probably should have just stuck with those. A few weekends ago I bought another two half bushel baskets of tomatoes from the Fort Greene Greenmarket with intentions of making sauce. I was excited because the sauce involved no peeling, rather I would cook the tomatoes down, then push them through my food mill to remove the skin. You could seed them as well in the beginning, but I have nothing against seeds. So what I thought might be less work turned out to be a lot messier and took a long time.
Twenty five pounds of tomatoes–you REALLY feel those last 5lbs when you carry them long distance…
I remember when I first started canning, almost exactly two years ago. I started with Peach Salsa and Salsa Verde. MANY hours later, I remember being super excited to have canned my own goods, but also frustrated, tired and defeated. Nearly a full day for a little over half a dozen jars. I’m NEVER doing this again, I thought. Then I canned some jam a few weeks later, some applesauce after that, and it kept getting easier. I mean, last week, I came home around 6pm with jalapenos I had no idea what to do with, pickled them and was relaxing with (homemade!) dinner by 8:30pm. It’s an easy evening task, or a few hours on a weekend afternoon. No big deal. That is, until I tried to tackle tomatoes for the first time.