Saturday, October 29, 2011

chels doesn't fry green tomatoes

so, at some point in october the family goes into garden-panic mode, usually (but not always) right before the first freeze. this year, mom was already in yard project panic mode trying to finish the framing for the outdoor kitchen, so grandma came down with grandpa dave and went into garden-panic mode vicariously for my mother (i was stuck in new york.) they pulled all the tomato plants and picked every last tomato, including all the green ones. so! we had like a million green tomatoes that i was tasked with figuring what the heck to do with.

last night i used about half of them (5 lbs, once they were cored and diced) to make a spiced green tomato jam. it turned out much better than even i had imagined, never having eaten green tomato anything before. instead of just being sour and tasting green, the jamming process and the spices really do enhance the intriguing fruity flavor of the tomatoes. almost like a green apple, curranty flavor, but with an entirely different texture. i was quite pleased, and had my first taste straight-up on mom's homemade whole wheat oatmeal bread and it was delicious!

so! if you're scrambling for something to do with all your green tomatoes, check this out. (bonus feature: it'll make your house smell like wassail for the two hours it cooks down, and you can totally pack it in cute little jars for holiday gift-giving.)

spiced green tomato jam
5 lbs green tomatoes, cored, diced (i did a 1/3" dice) and seeded (if you prefer)
2.5 lbs sugar
1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 big lemon (you can use the zest too, if you want)
2" chunk of ginger, peeled and finely grated (i use a lemon zester)
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 pinch of nutmeg

once your tomatoes are diced, weigh them so you know how much sugar to use (half the weight of the tomatoes.) i had 5 lbs of diced tomatoes, hence the 2.5 lbs of sugar.
grate your ginger, or chop it very finely. the easiest way to grate ginger root is to freeze the thing (we always keep a ginger root in a ziplock bag in our freezer.) after it's frozen, peel the two inches you're going to grate and then grate with a microplane zester, or just a small-holed grater.
slit the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with a knife, holding each half flat against the cutting board as you scrape.
get out a really big pot. add the tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, ginger, spices and vanilla bean with the seeds. i did this in 3 layers. 1/3 of the tomatoes, 1/3 of the sugar, etc to kind of get it all in evenly before i stirred it all up.
bring to a boil, stirring, over medium-high heat. then reduce the heat to medium low and let the jam bubble (smack dab between a simmer and a hard rolling boil) and reduce until thickened. it should look like a thick, syrupy green tomato sauce, and can take up to two hours. my batch reduced to about 1/3 of what the pot started with. you want your tomatoes to be completely translucent.
to test doneness, put a small saucer in the freezer for about 5 minutes. take it out and add a small spoonful of the liquid onto the plate and drag your finger through it. if the jam doesn't fill in the space your finger made, and it feels thick, it's set and the jam is done.
when you've got about 20-30 minutes left on your reduction time, get out your half-pint jam jars, lids and rings and sterlize them by boiling them for 10 minutes, or washing them well and putting them in the oven at 375 to dry for 20 minutes.
fill the jars with the jam while both the jam and jars are very hot. seal with clean lids. process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes to ensure a good seal if you're planning on storing these anywhere other than the refrigerator.
and enjoy! it's super yummy on toast, or on cream cheese and crackers, or even as a glaze or sauce for chicken or pork.

i want to make some green tomato jam thumbprint cookies, but this stuff really is so delicious by itself on some great homemade bread...