“Jam excels at preserving the tastes and smells of the season, but why should berries have all the fun? Adding tomato jam to your summer preserving bounty is just the thing to make you feel like a savory cook and leave you with a taste of summer into the fall.”
Most of us gardeners have so many tomatoes in our gardens each summer we wonder what to do with them beyond tomato sauce. Growing up, my grandmother always made tomato jam. She had a bowl of tomato jam on the table at breakfast for the toast and at dinner to complement whatever meat was served.
Tomato jam takes time to make. The time is well worth the outcome. Put the tomatoes briefly into boiling water until the skin loosens. Remove and peel the skins and quarter the tomatoes. Put back in the pot, add lemon, sugar and spices. Stir and cook down until thick. Ladle into jars, seal and enjoy the bounty from your garden efforts.
My grandfather was a mural artist. My grandparents bought a farm in Arlington, Vermont in 1936; he had been awarded the contract to paint murals for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. He needed a place big enough to hang the linen canvas strips, three 50’x50’ strips. The barn was the place big enough to do the murals. The subject of the paintings was the United States Petroleum Industry Growing up we spent part of each summer at the farm. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered and we celebrated family. Irene, the cook supplied us with great meals. Tomato jam was always offered and holds a firm place in my memory. As with peach jam, tomato jam requires the skins be removed before processing. When arriving at the farm, I think we all removed some of our outer skin. Leaving behind the worries of the world, we peeled down to enjoy the isolation at the farm; four miles up a dirt road on 1,000 acres of land. The quartered tomatoes represent the different families. As children, we never seemed to be judged but simply loved. That love translates to the sugar in the jam. We were encouraged to be ourselves. Just as lemon alone is sour, when added to tomatoes and sugar, it mellows and adds to the taste of the jam. The process of cooking the mixture down to jam concentrates the flavors. Life over the years at the farm taught me to love family, the environment and the freedom to explore the woods, fields, ponds and swing from young birch trees.
Before my grandmother sold the farm in 1967, she allowed my husband and me to use it for our honeymoon. She asked the cook and caretaker for the farm to stay on and provide their services for us. We had a week of pure peace and joy to begin our married life.
Tomato jam has reminded me of the process involved not only in the making of jam but also in the process of life. The joy of harvesting from the garden, doing the work to make the jam and enjoying the savory taste on the tongue lets me wander back in time to understand more fully and celebrate the gift of family.