I stopped by the farmers market last weekend, and even though each stand’s tables were practically groaning under the weight of autumn produce—leafy greens, pumpkins, apples—I found myself drawn to a lonely box of end-of-season Italian plum tomatoes. Thinking of the long, quality-tomatoless winter ahead, I filled my bag to the brim with Romas. There’d be plenty of time for kale in the coming months.
I knew what I was going to do with them, too. Last August, I bookmarked a Mark Bittman piece on tomato jam, but, per my usual recipe-overload procrastination habits, I didn’t get around to making it before all of the good specimens had disappeared for the summer. I refused to let that happen two years in a row.
The recipe’s a simple one: tomatoes, jalapeño, ginger, lime juice, sugar and spices, simmered over low heat until thick and sticky. Because I accidentally doubled the amount of cinnamon called for, it was sweeter than it would’ve been otherwise, but if I’d had the foresight to buy extra limes, I wouldn’t have had a problem.
The only real complaint I have here is that you don’t peel the tomatoes before chopping and stirring them in with the rest of the ingredients, so you get bits of skin with any given mouthful. That’s a small price to pay for the ease with which the jam comes together, though, and can be remedied without much trouble if you prefer sophistication to convenience. As it is, I can’t stop putting it on everything I eat. Saturday’s dinner was a tuna sandwich with hard-boiled egg, cornichon, and tomato jam. Sunday’s breakfast was toast with tomato jam. Today, I’m thinking grilled cheese with tomato jam would be perfect for a rainy-day lunch.
Want better news? Even in the dead of winter, a batch of this jam wouldn’t go amiss. Sure, it might lose some depth with less-perfect tomatoes, but when produce in shades of beige and dark green is all there is on the horizon, a splash of vibrant red would be a welcome addition to any spread.
Who doesn’t need a little bit of color to brighten up a bleak, cold-weather landscape? I’m hoping my jar lasts until January.
From Mark Bittman, The New York Times
1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.
1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.
Yield: About 1 pint.