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.
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.)
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.
So, what preserves are you putting up this summer?
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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.
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.
- 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
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.