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.
I know, I’ve been MIA for a bit. I’ve been up to my elbows in tomatoes, literally. September is looking like a pretty hectic month and I needed to make sure I got my tomato canning in. With the next three weekends booked, last Saturday seemed like my only option so I headed down to the Fort Greene Greenmarket and my favorite farm, Wilklow Orchards, to pick up 50 pounds. Where they sat, all weekend while we visited family in Jersey. Part of me hoped we’d return to find them magically transformed into chopped and sauced tomatoes, but alas, these weren’t the self canning variety. Instead, I’ve spent the past three nights canning. Coming home around 5pm, and peeling, cutting and canning until near midnight each evening.
It’s the peeling that really gets me, a step required for chopped or whole tomatoes. For marinara sauce, you can leave them unpeeled and push everything through a food mill before cooking it down to a thicker sauce. Though if you’ve ever messed around with a food mill in tomatoes, it’s not the easiest or cleanest job. I feel like I loose half my tomatoes with the skin and end up with a fraction of the yield promised. BUT this year I discovered the secret to easy sauce, higher yield and less skin problems.
I’ve never made gazpacho. I’m not even 100% convinced I really like it. But it’s a soup, and I love soup. And it’s socially more acceptable to eat in the summer compared to a rich cream of whatever vegetable blend. So it was settled. This year I would make gazpacho. But it couldn’t be a bland, ordinary version. I needed something different, something vibrant that would push me over the wall into “I love gazpacho” territory. For my husband’s birthday we dined at Traif for the first time. After what seemed like hours to choose our selection of tapas-style small plates, we were greeted by a sake glass filled with icy strawberry gazpacho. It barely touched my lips and I knew. I was making this soup.
It might have warmed up outside (a bit) but my apartment is still cold as ever, a drastic change from our last place. We used to live across the hall in the same building in a one bedroom apartment. I mean, literally right across the hall. Open our door and our old apartment is right there. We’re now in a two bedroom because we decided we needed more space. Really I was tired of being forced to read in the bedroom, where I would usually fall asleep, or combat the sounds of Doctor Who in the living room.
The two places might have been right across from each other but they’re drastically different. Before we were in the back of the building, but now we’re on the main avenue so it’s a bit noisier. The radiators in our old place where loud (think bowling balls being thrown on the pipes) and way too warm. Our apartment would run a toasty 80°+, with windows open, and generally shorts and t shirts where the winter attire. I guess I should also clarify that our apartment, along with most NYC complexes have forced hot air systems. On the plus side we don’t have to pay for heat but on the negative, we can’t control it either. We moved into this apartment last November and the temperature seemed to be pretty comfortable. What we didn’t account for was living here after a full summer, with window air conditioners that stay in the windows year round. So now, it gets a bit drafty. We’re working on some sort of temporary insulation plan or those thermo curtains, but for now, the solution is lots and lots of soup.