Friday, October 7, 2011

You say Tomato and I say Tomahto.

We are so lucky to finally have local growers produce tasty, succulent heirloom tomatoes. Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, wrinkled dark red brandy wine, bright yellow ones and even a sprinkling of green zebra have been spotted. Since I am next to the Via Organica plant stand, I noticed a brisk sale in their tomato plants and customers stop by to report on the growing progress of their plants. The tomato is another gift from the New World and it is a tragedy to see what we are offered today on a commercial level. Tasteless and hard, prematurely picked green and gassed with ethylene to turn them red, all for the sake of long distance travel and year round availability. So, how can we make the most of our local crop as long as the season lasts? Tomato sauce is on top of my list because it can be added to so many dishes, pasta being the most favorite one. Homemade ketchup is another favorite. Dill pickled cherry tomatoes make a great accompaniment for meat dishes. However, these methods require canning, which is more effort than many are willing to invest in. Oven-dried tomatoes are absolutely delicious in salads and pastas, even in off-season winter guacamole. If you are in the habit of having afternoon tea (that’s the fancy one, high tea is the substantial savory fare for hard working folks), then here is an old-fashioned recipe for you that is absolutely delicious and you can keep several jars in the refrigerator for weeks. Tomatoes for the longest time had an identity crisis, is it a fruit or a vegetable? The use as a vegetable seems to have settled the dispute by cooks but this sweet recipe will have your friends coveting an invitation to your afternoon teas. Don’t forget to bake some fresh scones!

Tomato-Orange Jam
Mermelada de Jitomate y Naranja
Makes about 2-3 cups

2 lbs ripe tomatoes
2 medium navel oranges
1 slice of quarter coin size of fresh ginger (or ¼ teaspoon powdered)
2 inch strip of lime rind
1 cup sugar

Skin the tomatoes by dropping them into boiling water for a few seconds, and then plunging them into cold water, the peel will now come off very easily.
Cut the tomatoes across in half, and squeeze out the seeds if you wish, it is not necessary. Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch cubes.
Make orange wedges by peeling the orange and then cutting out the “flesh” between the membranes.
Combine tomatoes, orange slices, ginger and sugar in heavy saucepan and cook covered for 20 minutes. Uncover, add lime rind and slowly boil for about 1- 1½ hours until the mixture has a thick syrupy (jammy) consistency.

Fill hot into a glass jar with a screw top lid, and then cool completely before refrigerating. This will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, if you do not consume it faster.
If you like to can, you can multiply the recipe to your liking and preserve it with proper canning methods. This way it will keep for months without refrigeration

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