Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tomato Marmalade

Plum tomatoes are ripe at the pick your own places in Maryland and Virginia, and no doubt, points South as well. It's time to make tomato marmalade. If you are new to this blog, your reaction is probably something like "Tomato marmalade? That sounds completely disgusting!" Well, slow down. It occurred to me that I have become something of a marmalade expert. I have made, over the three years of writing this blog, at least six different kinds of marmalade, including carrot and cucumber.
Here's my theory. Remember how children used to receive an orange in their Christmas stocking? Oranges were rare and expensive back in the 1940s and earlier. But tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers? They were as plentiful as grass. So inventive cooks bought one or two oranges for flavoring, cut up mounds of the cheap vegetable ingredient, poured in sugar and boiled. Voila! Marmalade. Cucumber marmalade does not taste of cucumbers. It tastes of lemons. No more does carrot marmalade taste of carrots. It tastes of oranges.
Tomato marmalade is more of the same. I noticed a huge pile of plum tomatoes at Homestead Farm in Poolesville, where I stopped off after my riding lesson. I quickly called Bob and asked him to  find out how many pounds of plum tomatoes I would need. We determined that we did not want or need 24 six ounce jars of tomato marmalade, so I cut the recipe in half. I bought four pounds of plum tomatoes, and a bunch of other stuff as well, including fresh corn.
I commenced the marmalade manufacture after lunch. I had to go to Safeway to buy more sugar, as the recipe calls for a cup of sugar for every cup of tomatoes, and of course, because it was a sleepy summer afternoon, I had to stop off at Starbucks. Once we had gotten all that out of the way, I filled up a pot with water and began boiling the tomatoes to peel them. That was easy. 1. Drop plum tomatoes in boiling water. 2. Leave them for a minute or so. 3. Fish them out with a slotted spoon. 4. If the skin hasn't cracked, pierce it with a knife. 5. The skin comes right off.
Then I chopped up two oranges and one lemon and threw it all into my soup pot, along with the chopped tomatoes that I had first drained and measured.  Tomatoes contain a good deal of water, which, if you don't drain it off, you have to boil off.I had eight cups of tomatoes, so I needed eight cups of sugar. The sugar dissolved right into the tomatoes. After a few minutes of boiling, the tomatoes gave up their juice, so I had tomato and citrus solids floating in a sea of tomato juice.
The recipe says to stir constantly to prevent burning. If you set the gas on medium, and check it occasionally, you should have no problem just stirring it every so often. If you did stir it constantly, you would drop dead from fatigue because it has to boil for something like 4 hours.
I kept complaining about how long it seemed to be taking for the marmalade to jell. Bob responded that I was too impatient, and I should know that marmalade takes a long time to make, because I have made it before. It really did take about four hours.
If you want an explanation of "sheeting off the spoon," read the jams and preserves section of The Joy of Cooking. Irma Rombauer Becker has a diagram and everything.
This recipe has a considerable amount of cinnamon and cloves flavoring it. My  husband says it tastes like Christmas. It is well worth the boiling time. You do not have to seal the jars in a boiling water bath. You seal the jars with melted paraffin, which is available in hardware stores and some grocery stores in areas where people can (as in preserve food in jars.)

Tomato Marmalade

8 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, approximately
boiling water
3 oranges
3 lemons
8 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole cloves
sugar (lots of sugar. Buy a new large sack of the stuff.)

1. Dip the tomatoes, a few at a time, into a kettle of boiling water. Remove skin, chop tomatoes roughly and measure four quarts. (16 cups) Let stand while preparing the oranges and lemons.
2. Finely chop the skin and pulp of the oranges and lemons.
3. Place in a large kettle. Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
4. Pour off and discard most of the tomato liquid that has accumulated in the tomatoes. Measure the tomatoes and add to the kettle. Add one cup of sugar for each cup of tomatoes.
5. Bring to a boil, stiring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, stirring, to prevent sticking, until the marmalade sheets off the spoon, registers 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or a drop chilled on a plate leaves a track when pushed by a finger.
6. Remove the cinnamon sticks and most of the cloves. Ladle the marmalade into  hot sterilized jars. Top with two thin layers of melted paraffin. Allow to cool. Cover and store in a cool, dry place. Makes about 24 six ounce jars.

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