This weekend has been all about jammin’ with tomatoes! I’ve also become confident enough in my basic jam making skills that I’m making up my own combinations now rather than relying on a cookbook to give me ideas!
As I was making my Yellow Tomato and Apple Chutney yesterday, I started thinking about what else I might be able to concoct with the abundant heirloom tomatoes that have been at the Farmer’s Market over the past few weeks. Last week I saw these pretty little striped green tomatoes called Green Zebras. Not being from the south, I’m not as familiar with the joys of green tomatoes as some people. I’m sort of ashamed to say that I have never even tasted a fried green tomato! I’d like to, I just haven’t. They’re not often on California menus, and I do tend to reserve and limit my fried food consumption for the occasional order of fries or sometimes calamari (mmmm). I’ve had a few heirloom tomatoes of greenish-reddish tint before, but most of my knowledge of green tomatoes is associated with 70s actress Fannie Flagg‘s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the movie with Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker and Cecely Tyson. (I have to admit to loving the scene where Kathy Bates rams her car into someone who’s being snarky with her in a store parking lot under the guise of “I’m older than you and have more insurance.” Who hasn’t wanted to scream “Towanda” and do that to someone who steals their parking space at some time or other?)
As I started noodling on the idea of these pretty little green tomatoes, I started thinking I’d like to go the sweet route for them rather than savory like I’d done with the yellow San Marzanos. I haven’t really had sweet tomato jam before and most of my recipe books don’t really have any sweet tomato jam recipes, but with tomatoes being fruit and all, why not? They should be able to stand up well to some sweetness. Then I started thinking about limes–maybe just because they’re both in the family of “green things.” A lighter colored tomato–yellow or green–should also be able to stand up to some tartness. Green tomatoes. Lime. Hmmmm… Mmmmmm…
I think this could be a winner!
So I embarked on a trip to the Farmer’s Market this morning hoping some of the stands would still have Green Zebras in stock. I was in luck–one of my favorite stands–Tomatero Farms (they always have awesome strawberries, btw) had the stripey green tomatoes. Since I wasn’t familiar with their flavor palate, I asked one of the workers what the Green Zebras were like. We’re they on the sweet side like yellow tomatoes, I asked.
“The best way I can describe them,” she said, “is tart. They’re sort of tart. They’re also really juicy. Feel free to try one–just pop one in your mouth!”
So I grabbed a small one and did just that. It was sort of tart. Tart’s good. Tart goes with the lime combo I’m dreaming up in my head. Excellent! And what else goes with tomatoes? Basil, of course. And basil goes well with limes when paired in Thai food. That was it–green tomato, lime and basil! And make it sweet, not savory!
I also wanted to experiment with not peeling the tomatoes before using them for the jam. I like things on the rustic side, so I wanted this jam to have some seeds and have skins and texture that said “I’m made from tomatoes, and I’m jam dammit!” Plus, it seems such a waste to peel off all those pretty stripes. The skin of these tomatoes is so attractive–there’s no way it wouldn’t add some eye appeal to the jam. I didn’t want a ton of seeds, though, so I did decide to core the tomatoes and then dice them into 1/2-inch pieces. And the woman at the farmer’s market was right, these are juicy tomatoes. So I decided I didn’t want to waste all that juice. As I gutted the tomatoes, I put the cores, seeds and all the drippy juice from the cutting board into a bowl. Then I strained the juice to use for the jam rather than rely on just on water for the liquid.
I used the zest of 1 1/2 limes for this recipe. I put the zest of one of the limes, along with the juice from one lime, into the the jam mixture. Here lime juice can be used rather than lemon juice as the preservative in the jam. I got about 1/4 cup of lime juice from one lime (it was a juicy one), but I did add 2 tbsp. of lemon juice to it rather than use just lemon juice alone to brighten the flavor. Also, since I added a bunch of zest to what was going to cook down, I realized half way through making the jam that you couldn’t see the pretty green flecks of zest in the cooked concoction, so I decided I should add some fresh zest at the end so that would (hopefully) be a bit more visible in the finished product.
So, without further ado…
Green Zebra Tomato Jam with Lime & Basil
2 lbs. organic heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes, cored (reserve juice to add back to jam mixture) and diced
Zest of 1 1/2 organic limes (reserve zest from half of one lime)
1/2-3/4 c. water
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
Juice of one lime (approximately 1/4 c. lime juice)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 c. basil, chiffonade
1) Bring tomatoes, reserve juice, zest of 1 lime and water to boil in non-reactive pan.
2) When mixture reaches a boil, add sugar and citrus juice.
3) Continue boiling over medium high heat. Once sugar is added, the mixture will begin to bubble up and foam. Be careful that it does not boil over.
4) Boil mixture until it begins to gel and reaches desired thickness. Foam will form on the mixture throughout the process. You can remove the foam if you desire, but I’ve found that if you just cook your jam long enough, most foam will disappear and you don’t need to do any skimming. For the fruit to reach a “jammy” texture, you’ll likely need to cook it down and reduce for about 30-45 minutes and you’ll have approximately 2/3 of the volume of liquid that was in the pan after you added the sugar and it first puffed up to its largest volume.
5) Once mixture has reached desired consistency, turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix in what’s left of the lime zest and the basil.
6) Jar and water bath can according to canning instructions for your location and altitude.
This should be great on toast, of course, but also good with goat cheese, I think. But then I think pretty much everything goes with goat cheese! I wouldn’t suggest serving with strong cheeses because I think the citrus will fight with the tang of the cheese, but with mild, creamy cheeses–even with cream cheese on a bagel–this should be pretty awesome!