Canning is a one great method for preserving summer’s glut of tomatoes, but another (oft-overlooked) idea is to transform fresh tomatoes into sweet, tangy, jam-like preserves. That’s what Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, the duo behind the Canal House, a culinary, design and publishing studio, like to do.
“We turn to our preserved tomatoes to get us through the long, dark time between locally-grown tomato seasons,” Hirsheimer and Hamilton told us. “Spooned like jam on warm crusty toast or stirred into things like stews and sauces, preserved tomatoes give us a taste of summer in the dead of winter.”
Part of the appeal of making tomato preserves is that they take well to being made in small batches. “It’s a more manageable process than having to turn your kitchen over for a weekend canning project, with huge canning pots of boiling water and limited counter space,” they explained. Instead, the two will work with five pounds of tomatoes to make up to half a dozen jars of sweet tomato preserves: “By preserving in small batches, you can even do it when you’re in the kitchen baking cookies or preparing dinner.”
Below is their recipe for tomato preserves. Follow their lead and spread the preserves on toast with jamón Serrano. Enjoy it in the morning with café con leche, or in the evening with a glass of dry white wine or really cold fino sherry.
Red Tomato Preserves
5 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 cups granulated cane sugar
Rind and juice of 2 lemons
A fat 3-inch finger fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stick cinnamon
Plunge tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds to loosen their skins. Remove the tomatoes from the pot and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Halve tomatoes crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Put tomatoes, sugar, lemon rind and juice, ginger, and cinnamon into a large, heavy pot. Cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon to keep the sugar from burning while it melts. Stir gently so the fruit doesn’t break up too much. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until tomatoes look slightly translucent and the liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, divide the tomatoes between 4–6 hot sterilized jars. Increase the heat to high and reduce the juices until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes more. Remove the cinnamon stick. Divide the syrup between the jars and seal. Allow the jars to cool undisturbed for several hours. These preserves will keep in the refrigerator for a few months.
To preserve the tomatoes for a longer shelf life, process them in a hot water bath. Pack the tomatoes into hot, sterilized half-pint jars. Ladle the hot syrup over the tomatoes, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then place sterilized lids on top and screw on the rings.
Use tongs to put the jars into a canning pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the lids by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the jars from the water; place on a kitchen towel. Allow the jars to cool completely, undisturbed, before you move them. If a jar doesn’t seal you can repeat the water bath process or simply refrigerate and use it. Makes 4–6 half-pints.
Jamon Serrano and Red Tomato Preserves on Toast
Brush small, thin slices of crusty bread with some really good olive oil and toast them in a preheated 400° oven until golden on each side. Let the toasts cool. Drape each toast with a slice (or half a slice if a whole one is too much) of serrano ham. Top the toasts with small spoonfuls of Red Tomato Preserves.
VARIATION: Serve thin slices of Manchego cheese on toasts topped with a small spoonful of Red Tomato Preserves.
Recipe from Canal House Cooking, Volume N° 4, Farm Markets & Gardens (Canal House, 2010)