Vagaries and Jam

Since starting this blog, I have really been looking back at my “eating” history. It’s made me all nostalgic and wistful. I have been craving foods I haven’t had since I was a little kid and my mom still cooked dinner every night and put up all types of amazing preserves and pickles. Specifically, I have been craving tomato preserves.

“Tomato Preserves?” you ask. Stop being a sissy. Yes, sweets made out of tomatoes. When I told Gail, Debbie and my assistant manager, Lori, that I was making sweets with tomatoes – well you can imagine the skeptical reactions. Even Tony, the adventurous eater, was more than a little wary of something this strange.

I have my mom’s recipe for tomato preserves. Here is a scan of it – written in her own hand. (I laughed out loud when I saw “Tomatoe”. My mom used to be the person who busted my chops for not being able to spell!) Not really much of a recipe. It is really more of a note.

I have quite a few of these culinary “notes” including this one for my grandmother’s Date Cake.

And the even more vague Dutch Cake.

Ummmm..thanks Mom. I should be grateful I even have this much to go from. I suppose that back when most women knew how to cook, a few bits of “shorthand” was enough to get by.

Time to play recipe detective! Off to the web we go!

There are lots of variations on tomato preserves. Lots of them use green tomatoes. I can see that. Anyone who has ever had a large garden know about left over green tomatoes at the end of the season…along with all the other half grown produce you just can’t let go to waste.

However – I have a lot of RIPE tomatoes to use. So onward!

Here is an interesting entry from 1855. Not what we are looking for – but the site was damn interesting. I was distracted and lost a whole 30 minutes.

Finally, I found an entry that said “Tomato Preserves – also known as Tomato Marmalade”. It’s true! This recipe relies on the pectin in the citrus to thicken it up – just like a traditional marmalade. Google – here we come!


On the University of Wisconsin Extension site, I found a recipe that seemed to be vary similar to my mother’s note – however – they cluttered up the flavors with cinnamon and cloves. How dare they! Isn’t the clean taste of citrus and tomato enough?! Harrumph!

Time to look in real live books it seems. I pulled out my copy of the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery published in the late 40’s and took a look. A very similar recipe to my mother’s except it used a knob of fresh ginger as the only additional flavor.

My conclusions:

  1. Use the UWEX recipe as the baseline. It includes everything spelled out in clear terms and even talks about the necessary procession times.

  2. Dump the spices and just add the knob of ginger from the Encyclopedia.

  3. I wished I had been able to ask my mom about her chow chow recipe for she died so I don’t have to do this for that recipe as well.

So with lots chopping, peelings and stirring-and more stirring- and even more stirring by Annie – I came up with a nice version of my mom’s tomatoe (sic) preserves. It tastes pretty much as my hazy memory remembers. I spread some on toast and took it in to Tony. He looked at it. He sniffed it. Then he took a bite. “WOW! It doesn't suck! It's even good!”

I gave a jar of it to Gail, Debbie and Lori for a final taste test. Lori came back the next day and said, “I ate a half loaf of bread for dinner last night because of this…thanks for sabotaging my diet!” Debbie said that she loved how you could smell the tomatoes in it the moment you opened the jar. She ate a half loaf of bread too. Gail and her hubby Jim, however, have not tried it to date. I think Jim is just an old scaredie cat – it won’t hurt ya Jim! Eat it already!

So here it is - a reconstruction of a childhood memory. And a damn fine way to have a little bit of summer all year long.

Tomato Preserves

3 quarts ripe tomatoes (about 5 ½ pounds tomatoes)
3 oranges
2 lemons
A piece of fresh ginger about 1 inch wide by 2 inches long
6 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Yield: About 9 half-pint jars


To Prepare Fruit and Spices – Peel tomatoes; cut tomatoes in small pieces. Drain. Slice oranges and lemons very thin; quarter the slices. Tie ginger in a cheesecloth bag.

To Make Marmalade – Sterilize canning jars. Place tomato pieces in a large kettle. Add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved. Add oranges, lemons and spice bag. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil rapidly, stirring constantly, until thick and clear (about 50 minutes). (To test thickness, use the cold plate test: Remove all the jam from the heat and pour a small amount of boiling jam on a cold plate. Put the plate in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator for a few minutes. If the liquid gels, it is thick enough.) Remove from heat; skim off foam. Fill hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner.


sher said...

It looks delicious! I used to make tomato jam. As far as I'm concerned, any veggie or fruit can be made into a jam! I used to make chow chow too. But, that was many moons ago!

Sarah said...

Hey Rosie,

I love tomato jam! My mother started making it back in the late 70's and it's been a hit with my family over the years. In fact, I currently possess the last jar of 2004's covetted batch. I'll just ignore that my daughter has eaten half of that jar all on her own.


Gail said...

I have not thought of tomato jam for years...my grandmother used to make it. Yum!

Looking at the handwritten recipes brought back memories of "gram"...her recipes looked much like those!