Friday, August 10, 2012

Spicy Tomato Preserves

Tomato season is at its peak.  Now is the time to preserve the great flavors of summer to enjoy after the last ripe tomato is plucked from the vine.  I've been putting up pasta sauce and tomato salsa for a few weeks.  Last week, when I volunteered at the Farmer's Kitchen, Chef Ernest Miller had us make these delicious tomato preserves with fruit from the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

We started with 10 lbs of tomatoes, but you can make make the same great preserves with much less fruit, though you'll need to get a few more tomatoes than we got in today's box.  Fortunately, tomatoes are easy to  come by right now.  Perhaps you or your neighbor have some in your garden.  If not, check out one of our local farmers markets for the freshest fruit.

3 lbs ripe tomatoes
2 C sugar
2 t red chili flakes
generous 1/2 t cinnamon
generous 1/4 t nutmeg
1/3 C fresh lime juice
pinch salt

1.  Remove the core and coarsely chop the tomatoes.

2.  Put the chopped tomatoes and all remaining ingredients in a heavy-duty medium saucepan.

3.  Bring to a boil, stirring regularly.  Then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until the preserves thicken, 30-60 minutes, depending on the heat of your burner and your taste.  As the preserves thicken, stir them more frequently, as they're more likely to stick to the bottom of your pan and scorch.

4.  When the preserves reach your desired consistency, turn off the heat.  Cool slightly.  Ladle into glass jars and store in the fridge.  These preserves will keep for months in the fridge.  If you prefer, you can process the preserves in a boiling water bath canner to make them shelf-stable.  Use canning jars.  Leave 1/2-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims and seal the jars, then process for 20 minutes for half-pints.

Tomatoes do not have a lot of pectin, so if you want a firmly jelled product, you may have to cook the preserves to the jell point, which is approximately 220 degrees F.  However, these preserves are delicious firm or slightly soft.

Serve the preserves on toast; or make a delicious sandwich with goat cheese, arugula, and spicy tomato preserves.  Puree the preserves (or not) and use them as a much tastier condiment in place of ketchup with French fries or roasted potatoes, on burgers, hotdogs or with sausages.

Today's bounty included:

From Drake Family Farms:  Chevre;

From Jaime Farms:  Eggplant, green beans, basil, and cilantro;

From  JR Organics:  Heirloom tomatoes and watermelon;

From Sage Mountain Farm:  Starship patty pan squash, chantenay carrots, white and yellow onions, arugula, and salad mix;

From Sweet Tree Farms:  Plums, nectarines, and peaches; and

From Weiser Family Farms:  Beets and French fingerling potatoes.



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