My brother Matt has a job working at a farm stand near my parent’s house and offered me a deal: Split a crate of bright, beautiful tomatoes for 10$ each. These tomatoes, called “Scarlet Red” were described by the owner of the farm stand as “the best tomatoes you can buy.” Those are big words, methinks, for any variety.
One concept I’ve seen floating around the interwebs a lot is tomato jam. I hadn’t heard about it before I started canning and reading related blogs, and didn’t initially have any plans to make it. However, the more I read about it, the more I needed to try. I took about a dozen of my new tomatoes, grabbed a good-looking recipe, and whipped up a test batch.
But let’s not forget that I am the great and powerful Andrew. I don’t need no stinking recipe. I can cut out some of the sugar to make it healthier and adjust the seasonings and use one of my fresh home-grown serrano peppers instead of the dried pepper flakes. I tossed all those ingredients in the pan and started cooking. I am lion, hear me roar! Forty minutes of cooking later without it thickening into a proper jam-like consistency, I remembered that the “Jam” comes together by having a correct ratio of sugar to moisture and bringing the mixture up to the “gel point“. My modifications to the amount of sugar used were going to screw this up. Badly. Too little sugar would either have prevented gelling or required me to cook the heck out of it. I waited until nobody was looking then added the extra sugar back. Don’t tell nobody.
While the tomato jam was simmering away, I started cooking up a batch of bruschetta. This recipe is much easier: Stuff a bunch of cold, raw, diced tomatoes into jars, cover with a boiling vinegar mixture, and process it. I’ve never tried a recipe like this before and Dana and I are pretty picky when it comes to bruschetta. In the worst case, I bet it could be used over pasta with some pan-fried chicken and some Parmesan cheese for a light summery meal.
From left to right: The scarlet red tomatoes I used, a jar of bruschetta and a jar of tomato jam.
We haven’t yet tasted any of the bruschetta. We’ve used the tomato jam on some grilled cheese sandwiches and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I wish it was a little less sweet and a little more savory, so I may try a different recipe next time. I’m especially interested in a re-try if we can find more uses for it throughout the year.
Of the remaining tomatoes, some went on salads and others went on sandwiches. Days later, as the final few tomatoes were reaching end-of-life, I threw them into a big pot to make some Tomato chutney. Neither Dana nor I enjoyed the result, and since neither of us had ever eaten anything like it we weren’t sure where to lay blame. Do we just not like like chutney? Was this a bad recipe? Did I screw the recipe up, with my lion roars? With no frame of reference, there’s no way to know for certain. Regardless, it all ended up on the compost pile post-haste. When you’re trying new recipes sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
Overall the scarlet red tomatoes were winners. I tried to save a few seeds, and maybe I’ll try to plant them in my garden next year.