Summer Notes and Green Tomato Preserves

green tomato toast

For years my mom made green tomato preserves every summer. For years, she and my dad gobbled them up on toast while my sister and I ignored them in favor of the strawberry and plum jam she also made (wouldn’t you?).

Last week I brought home a handful of green tomatoes from the farmers’ market, intending to bread and fry them, southern style, for dinner. I set them aside on the counter.

green tomatoes

Not quite ready to plunge into the work day, I pulled my mother’s copy of Il Talismano della Felicita, Ada Boni’s seminal book on Italian home cooking, from the bookshelf on which it has resided since I borrowed it some time ago. I started flipping through its  splattered pages while I drank my coffee and, by coincidence, found myself staring at a recipe for “confettura di pomodori verdi” ~ green tomato preserves. (My guess is that this is the recipe my mom used as a guideline for her own.)

green tomatoes chopped

Finally, after all these years, I was curious, so I made it. I hope you will too, because it’s wonderful, sweet with a rich, almost caramel undertone, and just a little bit tartness from lemon juice and zest. I made a couple of changes, subbing honey for some of the sugar and scraping in some vanilla bean seeds.

Boni recommends going through the tedious task of removing the tomato seeds, as they are the only evidence of the key ingredient. The seeds in my tomatoes were so tiny and immature (with no bitterness) that I couldn’t see going through the trouble. It’s true, though; if it weren’t for the occasional tiny white seed suspended in the jam, you’d never know it was made from tomatoes.

We’ve been enjoying the preserves on toast, but they would be great sandwiched between butter cookies, as a jam crostata filling, or served on the savory side with some runny Italian cheeses like Robiola or Taleggio.

green tomato marmalade 2

So, what preserves are you putting up this summer?

* * * * * * *

Friends, I apologize if life on the blog has been a little slow of late. I have not abandoned my kitchen or my computer. It’s been a hectic spring. As of this week, I am officially the parent of a (rising) high school senior and junior, a circumstance that makes me both ecstatic and sad.

On the work front, I’ve just sent back the final galleys for Ciao Biscotti, due to be published early next year. I wrote about mulberry pie for American Food Roots, and fried pizzas for the Chicago Tribune. In a few days’ time, my daughter and I will head to Abruzzo, where I’ll be working out the details of the culinary tour I’m leading at the end of September with Abruzzo Presto.

Everything charges forward, and yet, more and more I find myself looking back, to the place my parents came from and to books like Ada Boni’s, for inspiration. I hope I’ll bring lots of it back from Abruzzo. To that end, I’ve created a Tumblr blog called Abruzzo365 (because…why not?),  on which I plan to post photos and short snippets daily once I get there. Of course we all know my track record when it comes to blogging, so we’ll see. If you’d like to, please follow along.

Makes 3 1/2 pints

Green Tomato Preserves

These green-gold preserves go well with both sweet and savory dishes. Enjoy them on toast for breakfast, or spread them on crostini along with a good runny cheese. They also make a delicious filling for jam crostata. You can find green tomatoes from early summer through early fall in many farmers' markets. This recipe is adapted from one in 'Il Talismano della Felicita' by Ada Boni. I like to use small (4-ounce) jars for these preserves, but you can use 1/2-pint size jars if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds firm green tomatoes (about 6 medium)
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 organic lemon (about 1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup mild honey
  • 2 pinches coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

Instructions

Wash and then sterilize seven 4-ounce jars (or three 1/2-pint jars and one 4-ounce jar) and their lids by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Remove the cores from the tomatoes and cut them lengthwise into quarters. If the seeds are small, leave them be. If they are mature, taste to see if they are bitter. If so, scrape them out. Cut each quarter crosswise into thin slices.

Put the tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, sugar, honey, and salt in a large nonreactive saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot. With a small paring knife, slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the pot and toss in the pod.

Set the pot over medium heat and bring it to a boil, stirring to combine the ingredients. Cook at a fairly lively simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the preserves are glossy and thick enough to spread. Be sure to stir often to prevent burning. Reduce the heat to medium-low if necessary. Remove the vanilla bean pod at the end of cooking.

Funnel the preserves into the sterilized jars, screw the lids on tightly, and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Or store the preserves in the refrigerator, where they will keep for at least 2 months.

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24 Responses to Summer Notes and Green Tomato Preserves

  1. Rosa May (@RosasYummyYums) June 20, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    Oh, delicious! It has such a pretty colour.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Helen Horton June 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I love this idea, green tomatoes. I’m making Persimmon Mango Jam when the persimmons are in season this fall.

    • Domenica Marchetti June 21, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      Wow, Helen, that sounds like a delicious ~ and beautiful ~ combination. Will you post the recipe?

  3. cristina June 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m on the lookout for green tomatoes now! I’ve taken such a liking to making my own jams, butters and preserves, when possible. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    Is this a new book, you’re working on…about cookies? Looking forward to it! Wish I could attend one of your culinary tours. Will need to start saving some $$ and hopefully you’ll be offering more similar tours for 2015. :)

    • Domenica Marchetti June 21, 2014 at 11:14 am #

      Ciao Cristina ~ yes, Ciao Biscotti comes out in early 2015. It’s been a fun book to work on. On the culinary tours, I literally just updated the page with 2015 tour dates–in July and September. Think about it! I’m happy to chat with you about it any time. Would love to have you join us.

  4. bettyannquirino @Mango_Queen June 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    What a fantastic way with green tomatoes. I love preserves and this seems so simple, yet so traditional. I myself am making mom’s green mango pickles, a weekend project. It’s the most basic family recipes that stay with us like this one you have. Thanks for sharing, Domenica.

    • Domenica Marchetti June 21, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      That sounds so good Betty Ann. My daughter loves mangoes and I’ll bet she’d love mango pickles too.

  5. Ciao Chow Linda June 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Domenica – great way to use up those green tomatoes. I made some last year, after tasting the green tomato crostata at Le Virtù. Rosetta Costantino has a good recipe in her book on Calabrian cooking. How I wish we were going to connect in Abruzzo, but I just left for Puglia and la bella Roma. Maybe another year.

    • Domenica Marchetti June 21, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      Linda, I’m sorry we’ll miss each other in Abruzzo. I was in Puglia two summers ago with my family. We loved it. I didn’t know about Le Virtu’s green tomato crostata! I just love that place. Enjoy the rest of your stay in bell’Italia. Magari ci vediamo a New Jersey. xo

  6. katia4italia June 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Sounds wonderful!! I will definitel this recipe! I’ll reserve some green tomatoes from my friend who has an orto here. I am still working my way through the 8 jars of plum jam I made late last summer, with your recipe! Loving it! When and where are you in Abruzzo now? Our son, Nico, and his lovely wife, Alicia, arrive on 27 June, On the 29th, we’ll be in Gamberale (CH) visiting relatives……..and on the 30th, Azienda Vinicola Talamonti in Loreto Aprutino (one of our favorites!) then pranzo at Convivio Girasole nearby. Buon viaggio!

  7. Domenica Marchetti June 21, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    Katia, excellent. I’m glad you’re enjoying the plum jam. I have a couple of jars left as well. I’m thinking about making a jam crostata out of them. Loreto Aprutino is one of my favorite towns. So picturesque. I’ll be hopping around finalizing plans for September’s culinary tour. Have a wonderful time with your family. How could you not?!

  8. jamielifesafeast June 23, 2014 at 3:25 am #

    Oddly enough, I think I just saw green tomatoes at the market, a rarity in these parts. I never make preserves or jams, never. Although I have made it once it is one of those things that scares me just a little but you make this sound so wonderful! I could use it for a crostata which we all love.

    On another note, I so wish I could go on your Abruzzo culinary tour more than anything! But I do know I’ll be seeing you next March!

    • Domenica Marchetti June 29, 2014 at 3:54 am #

      Jamie, preserves are easier than you might think. And imagine your beautiful homemade cakes and pastries made with your own preserves. You gotta do it. As for culinary tours, I am in Italy right now nailing down all the details for the September tour. Wish you could join us. We’d have a blast.

  9. Jenni Field (@PastryChfOnline) June 23, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    I actually made thick slabs of fried green tomatoes last night for our dinner, Domenica! Love the tang of them, and I can already taste how amazing this jam is. I have one big old green tomato left, and our neighbors have a ton of them. I know what I’ll be making next! =)

    • Domenica Marchetti June 29, 2014 at 3:55 am #

      Jenni, my kids love fried green tomatoes. Do you use flour or cornmeal? Or both? I’m curious.

  10. Melissa July 4, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    Looks great! Can you use more hungry instead of sugar?

  11. Melissa July 4, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Sorry, I meant honey instead of sugar

    • Domenica Marchetti July 4, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Melissa, the amount of honey in this recipe makes the jam pleasantly sticky, but I’m not sure how it would be with all honey; probably looser and also stickier. I guess the only way to know is to try it ~ I’m all for experimentation in the kitchen. Here’s a link I found about substituting honey for sugar in preserves. Good luck and let me know how it turns out: http://www.pickyourown.org/SubstitutingHoneyForSugar.htm

  12. Nessie July 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    I have a garden full of green tomatoes, in Australia, this recipe has come at exactly the right time for me. I am making it today!

  13. Chiara July 7, 2014 at 12:26 am #

    ho anche io il Talismano , è un libro storico, si trova sempre qualche ricetta interessante ! Buona questa per i pomodori verdi ! Buona settimana

  14. Meggy July 14, 2014 at 2:46 am #

    Thank you for this, it looks yum and is perfect timing as I’m planning the ‘great tomato storage strategy’ right now. It’s not the ripe ones that tend to go to waste, and now thanks to you I’ve another recipe to add to the green tomato list, which is woefully short.

    I love making jelly and preserves, a tablespoon warmed through with a little hot water and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar makes the most lovely sophisticated tasting sweet and sour sauce for pork, lamb and duck.

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