While browsing the University District Farmers Market this weekend, I noticed a surprising number of vendors still offering tomatoes. For the most part, these weren’t the sad, end-of-season seconds and thirds that would normally be kicking around by early October, but rather a colorful array of robust varieties. Seeing these piles of beautiful tomatoes in the hazy morning sunlight felt like a peek at the last fleeting moments of summer.
The great thing about preserving, though, is that it allows us to return to the flavors of a particular season throughout the rest of the year. I picked up a few pounds of assorted cherry, beefsteak, and roma tomatoes and headed home to make up a batch of one of my favorite preserves, tomato jam.
This versatile compote, which I first made two summers ago from a recipe on Jennifer Perillo’s In Jennie’s Kitchen blog and then tweaked to my own taste, offers something for every palate: brown sugar gives it sweetness, cider vinegar and lemon zest offer tartness, cumin and pepper and allspice and green apple provide depth of flavor (the apple also provides much needed pectin for proper jelling).
It also couldn’t be easier to make: you can use any combination of tomatoes (no need to peel or seed them) and all of the ingredients go in a saucepan and cook down until the mixture is glossy, jewel-toned, and thick. After that, you can jar and preserve it in a water bath or just store in the refrigerator.
I’ve dolloped this jam on toast spread thick with goat cheese, brushed it onto grilled fish, layered it into sandwiches, even used it to perk up a salad of roasted vegetables. Most recently, I’ve incorporated it as the “T” in appetizer-sized crostini BLTs, accompanied by arugula and slices of home-cured bacon, which are a perfect starter for an early autumn casual dinner or tailgating party.
However you enjoy it, this rich, delicious spread is a great way to prolong the tastes of summer until the next, all-to-brief tomato season is upon us.