Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Green tomato jam with ginger and vanilla

I've been doing my best to forget about tomatoes, loading up at the market on knobbly-skinned winter squash, the tender little broccoli known as brocoletti, and skinny carrots the color of beets courtesy of organic market gardener Joëlle. Oh, and lots of local oranges and lemons too, their leaves still clinging to the stems.
But on Saturday, at Pierre's stand, tomatoes couldn't help but catch my eye one last time. Pierre, you might remember, is the producer who cultivated more than 100 heirloom tomato varieties this summer. His plants continue to produce, even sprouting new seedlings which he has replanted under cover because on the Côte d'Azur there is an off chance that tomatoes could flourish in winter.
Saturday's heat-deprived green tomatoes couldn't compare to the summer's flamboyant display, but they brought to mind an extraordinary green tomato jam I had tasted at Oliviera with the fresh ewe's milk cheese known as brousse de brebis. As luck would have it Nadim, the maker of this jam, was standing next to me and all I had to do was turn to him and ask for the recipe. Armed with his generous advice I picked up two kilos, happy to give tomatoes a last hurrah before winter really sets in.
At home, I was curious to see what recipes might be circulating on the internet and soon came across one from the famed Alsatian jam maker Christine Ferber. Her recipe, although similar to Nadim's in its proportions, involved macerating the fruit overnight and giving it a 10-minute boil the next day before leaving it for another 24 hours and boiling it again. I rejected this method not because I'm against jam that takes three days to make, but because my Saturday expedition to the market had left not an inch of space in my French-sized refrigerator for the luxury of letting fruit macerate.
Ferber also advises carefully deseeding each tomato and removing the white membranes, directions that I took rather lightly as Pierre's heirloom varieties don't have many seeds or membranes. When I did come across a tomato with a lot of seeds, I squeezed them out.
I added ginger to recreate the taste I so loved in Nadim's jam, but also couldn't resist throwing in one of my lively-scented Madagascar vanilla beans that had just arrived in the post. You'll be hearing more about these beans and their uses very soon.
The result, after a relaxing hour and a half of bubbling and occasional stirring, was a beautiful translucent green jam flecked with black dots, its sweetness enhanced by the vanilla and offset by the ginger. You can of course spread it on bread, but I agree with Nadim that it's particularly delicious with fresh cheese or thick yoghurt.

Green tomato jam with ginger and vanilla
Makes about 4 11-oz (300 g) jars

4 1/2 lbs green tomatoes (2 kg)
1/2 the weight in sugar of the tomatoes, once the tomatoes have been deseeded and diced
2-inch chunk ginger, peeled (5 cm)
1 vanilla bean
Juice of 1 lemon, organic if possible

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze out the seeds if they seem to have a lot of seeds. Cut the tomatoes into small dice and weigh them to find out what quantity of sugar you will need. Slice the ginger against the grain and then chop it finely. Slit the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with a knife, holding each half flat against the board as you scrape.

Place the tomatoes, sugar, ginger, vanilla bean with its seeds and lemon juice in a large saucepan or a copper jam basin if you have one. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat and let the jam bubble happily and reduce until thickened. It should look like a thick, syrupy green tomato sauce, which can take up to 2 hours. To test for doneness, drip some of the liquid onto a cold plate. If it sets, the jam is done.

Meanwhile sterilize the pots, either by boiling them in a large pot of water for 10 minutes or washing them well and placing them in the oven at 375 F (180 C) to dry for 20 mins. Fill the pots with the jam while both are still very hot. Seal with very clean lids.


Warda said...

Hi Rosa. I can't never get enough of tomatoes,green yellow or red. I have a tomato jelly recipe made with vine tomatoes, lemongrass, star anise and clove. You're making me wanna try it. But next here because here it's already gone for the season.

roxanestoner said...

Oh My Goddess!!! Should I say more...? The picture with the "brousse" and the green tomato jam on top sent my taste buds into a franzy... Thank You!

Susan said...

WOW! Those flavors must be fabulous together, really fabulous.

Rosa said...

Rose, your tomato recipe sounds amazing. Is it also with green tomatoes? I hope to see it on your blog sometime, though it sounds like I'll have to wait until next year... sigh.

Roxane, I wish you could taste this jam, because it really and truly tastes as good as it looks (sorry!).

Susan, I love ginger with just about any fruit and it seems to work particularly well here, even with the slight intrusion of the vanilla.

Nora B. said...

Hi Rosa,
Lucky you (& us) that you got this recipe off Nadim! I still haven't come across green tomatoes here, or maybe I haven't been looking hard enough.

p/s: I'm looking forward to the reading more about your Madagascar vanilla beans...

Anonymous said...

Oh if I could just roll the clock back a month and get some green tomatoes! Looks just wonderful.

Thanks for dropping by and for considering joining the revolution. :-)

Ann at Redacted Recipes

Rosa said...

Ann, I realize that few people are likely to find green tomatoes in late November! But I just had to share my recipe anyway. I'm looking forward to concocting some mini tarts for your event!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, this looks so delicious! And with vanilla - so good.

Anonymous said...

THis is amazing, and so is your cauliflower soup.

Lori said...

Just wanted to let you know that I made the jam and hope to blog about it if thats okay with you. I will link back to you. I just love it and would never have put those flavors together but they are so very tastey. I am seeing them on crackers with some mascarpone cheese.