Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tomato Marmalade and Apple Butter Angst

For the past few days I've been thinking about a bizarre recipe I found in an old Gourmet magazine...Tomato Marmalade. Yes, it's sweet. And yes, it's made with regular red tomatoes. Gross? But the person who sent in the recipe called it "superb"! So I made five jars. Here's the recipe I used, modified just a bit from the original (which was served to Calvin Coolidge while he was in the White House!):

2 pounds red tomatoes, peeled and sliced
3 cups sugar
1 juice orange, quartered, seeded, and very thinly sliced
1 tangelo (or another orange), quartered, seeded, and very thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, halved, seeded, and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon whole cloves

Place a small plate in the freezer. Wrap the cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie up the bundle with cotton string. Combine all ingredients except cloves in a large pot and cook over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cloves and turn heat down to a simmer; simmer the mixture for about 30 more minutes, or until it's thickened. (To test, pull the plate out of the freezer and put a small dollop of marmalade on it. Put it back in the freezer for one minute. Get the plate back out and tip the plate to see if the marmalade runs. If it pretty much holds its shape and seems jamlike, it's done.) If marmalade isn't thick enough after 30 minutes, let it cook another ten minutes and test again.

Meanwhile, put your canning pot full of water on the stove and let it heat up to boiling. Wash 5 half-pint canning jars in hot soapy water and rinse them. Put the lids and rims of your canning jars in a small pot of water and heat to just below boiling; keep lids simmering until you're ready to use them.

Use a wide-mouth canning funnel to transfer the hot marmalade to 4 or 5 of your clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims with a clean damp cloth; put on lids and tighten rings finger-tight. Process jars immediately in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 24 hours; check seals. Store those with good seals in the cupboard; if any jars didn't seal well put them in the fridge to eat right away.

It's giveaway time for all the produce that's left now that harvest season is addition to the mountain of green tomatoes that I turned into green tomato chutney yesterday, I have quite a few apples and pears that I got on a brilliant trip to Hood River last weekend.

My friend Kelly took me to her friend's beautiful little farm where we squeezed cider, took pictures of maple leaves, jumped on a trampoline, and ate way too many caramel brownies. At the end, we each got to bring home 7 half-gallons of cider (!) and as many apples and pears as we could carry. It was so much fun. One day Kelly will have a farm just like that one and I'll just go to her house for the annual cider squeeze.

I've been making apple butter for the past...five years? A long time! And I think my apple butter is the best I've ever tried (no offense, everyone else). I don't like cinnamon much, so I go easy on the spices, and I have cut the sugar back more each year so now I use 1 cup sugar for 7 cups apples. My recipe has a little apple cider vinegar in it too, which I think balances the sweetness well. But no one in my family will eat apple butter! They won't even try it. This year I was getting all sulky about the fact that not one of my family members would appreciate a jar of apple butter under the Christmas tree and had decided not to make any. But them my girlfriend's mom asked me if I was making more, and so did Kelly, and so did my friend Rob...all unprompted. So I guess SOMEONE will appreciate a gift of apple butter! I made another five jars tonight.

I did try the chestnuts...soaking them overnight was a good idea, because it made the shells easier to cut. However, I still almost got a blister on my thumb from cutting slits in the shells of about 60 nuts. Not much fun. I boiled half and roasted the other half. The boiled ones were softer and somewhat easier to peel, but I couldn't really get the inner skins off of any of them without crumbling the nut meats! After all that, I started feeling sour grapes-y about the whole thing. Chestnuts have a weird sweetness that I don't love. After eating all the broken nuts, I think I've had my fill for the year. Next time I will serve hot roasted nuts and make my guests do the peeling themselves!

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