There is a proverb in Russia – “Готовь сани летом, а телегу зимой” (literally translated as “Prepare your sled in summer, and your cart in winter”). In the world of cooking, that would mean, preserve your food in summer, and… enjoy it in winter. The fermenting and canning tradition in Eastern Europe is rich and long-standing, and so it is in my family. One of my vivid childhood memories is helping (or rather – pretending to help) my grandma make the strawberry jam. The main purpose of “helping” was obviously not to miss that golden moment when the sweet bubbly pink jelly forms a light foam on the edges of the huge pot and to scoop it with the wooden spoon to eat it right away while it’s hot. This delightfully sweet and sour tomato jam is a twist on our Eastern European tradition. You would be surprised how successfully tomatoes can substitute for fruits and berries in canning, and how complex the flavors of this tomato jam are.
Accompany savory meat dishes with this tomato jam. For example, it creates a surprising and sophisticated twist to roasted pork ribs, and is also brilliant as a condiment for a burger and foie gras. Or serve it on the cheese board to smooth out pungency of blue cheese.
Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes | Makes: Four 4oz jars
2.5 lb underripe green tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup brown sugar
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 ounce sliced peeled fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried raisins
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Sterilize jars for canning. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Place a rack over the pot (you can use a small grilling rack but it is convenient to use a special canning rack like this one). Place the jars on the rack, mouth side down, and steam for about 10 minutes. Use tongs or oven mitts to remove the jars from the rack.
In a heavy bottomed pot, combine tomatoes, sugar, onion, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon stick, raisins, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and salt. With a cheesecloth, make a spice sachet with cloves and add it to the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 2.5 hours, or until the liquid evaporates and the mixture reduces to jam-like consistency.
Remove the cinnamon stick, the spice sachet and the slices of ginger. Scoop the tomato jam in the sterilized jars.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Submerge the jars with the tomato jam in a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator or cellar.
This recipe is inspired by Paul Bertolli’s green tomato condiment recipe from “Cooking by Hand.” Truly, one of the most educating and inspiring cookbooks out there, and a highly recommended addition to your book shelf.