I’ve written before about my friend E, caterer, farmer, and food preservationist extraordinaire who often challenges my ingenuity with summertime gifts of produce that require immediate attention to avoid spoilage. Such was the case several weeks ago when she passed on to me what another friend had passed on to her: twenty-four pints of very small plum tomatoes. What to do with these versatile edibles was not an insurmountable problem but rather a matter of taking time away from my writing. Anything for an excuse, right? Book 3 in my Savino Sisters Mystery Series would have to go on the back burner for a few days. Again.
I had my choice of treating these little red tomatoes as a veggie or as a fruit. But since I’d already stocked my freezer with marinara sauce, I decided to repeat the fruity tomato sauce I’ve made several times in the past. And what a unique dessert it makes, ladled over a scoop of French vanilla ice cream or a slice of creamy cheese cake. Mmmmm … positively delish!
This original recipe for Tomato Preserves was created in 1948 by Ruth P. Casa-Emellos, the director of the New York Times test kitchen. The recipe works just fine as is, although I did change the proportions to accommodate my twenty-four pints (about 12 pounds when cored and peeled).
MY NOTES: At the end of the cooking period, I used my stick emulsion blender to create the sauce consistency I wanted for toppings or to use with cream cheese on bagels. Be generous with lemon slices—they are so-o delicious! CAUTION: If you have to ask how long it takes to turn tomatoes into this delectable sauce, you probably shouldn’t be messing with it. Next time I will skip the peeling of tomato skins and instead use my emulsifier to chop the skins along with the pulp. Seeds be damned; most of them will disappear with help from the emulsifier.
From the New York Times Magazine 2008
1948: Tomato Preserves
Recipe is best made with at least 3 pounds of tomatoes. Using level pounds makes the math easier. Buy the smallest plum tomatoes you can find, so you can leave them whole.
Small plum tomatoes
For each pound of cored and peeled tomatoes:
¾ pound sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 ¼-inch slice peeled ginger
¼ lemon, thinly sliced, seeds discarded.
- Select slightly under-ripe tomatoes, preferably the small, pear-shaped ones. Core the tomatoes, then skin them by cutting a shallow X in their rounded end and dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Peel. If the tomatoes are large, slice them in half across the middle and remove their seeds. Weigh the tomatoes, then measure the sugar and spices.
- Layer the tomatoes and sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan (enameled cast iron works best). Cover and let stand overnight — no need to refrigerate.
- The next day, tie the spices in cheesecloth. Add the spice bag to the tomatoes along with the sliced lemon. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have become slightly translucent and the syrup is thick and begins to gel. Don’t boil the syrup, or the tomatoes will fall apart. If the tomatoes finish first, remove them from the pan and reduce the syrup over medium-high heat. Remove the spice bag. Meanwhile, sterilize enough jars to accommodate the amount of preserves.
- Fill the jars ¾ full with tomatoes and lemons (or save the lemons to eat separately), and cover the tomatoes with syrup. Seal, using your preferred canning method: paraffin or processing.
That’s it, folks. So what about you? Any unusual recipes for tomatoes?