Home canning is something that I grew up with my entire life. My grandmother, great aunt, and other relatives were prolific canners and I grew up eating, almost exclusively, home canned green beans from North Carolina – even when we lived in Minnesota. I recall watching (and helping) my great aunt Pauline string a break beans to cook for supper and canning. She always prepared them in the traditional country fashion that involves cooking them to death with flavors of salt pork and a bit of sweetness. Man, were they good. I’ve tried to approximate them a number of times and have never come all that close to making them taste like Pauline’s beans. Then again, I’ve also never been able to make sweet tea taste like hers either. Maybe one day.
It’s my theory that canning dropped off in the 70’s and 80’s when we saw the rise of convenience foods, microwaves, and the like that made cooking something that was meant to be hurried through and not savored. However, home canning is now back in a big way and foodies from all over are embracing the idea of converting their fresh, local, organic produce into something that can be enjoyed year-round. And I’m one of them. The problem with canning is that unless you have an abundant amount of home-grown vegetables and fruit, canning can be a fairly expensive activity. The jars and equipment aren’t all that expensive, but if you hit up any farmer’s market where tomatoes cost anywhere from $3.00 to $4.50 a pound (and let’s not even get started on berries and fruit for jams!) you may end up spending a pretty penny for the amount of produce you need.
This past weekend I decided that the price was worth the product and headed to my local farmer’s market to pick up just exactly what I needed. If you haven’t already read my friend Sarah’s guest post about the salsa we made on Sunday then you should definitely check that out. We made both heirloom tomato salsa and simple marinara that day. But on Saturday I decided to test out all of my new canning equipment and try out a recipe for tomato jam. It’s loosely based on sweet tomato jam posted on Food Loves Writing a few weeks ago, but I decided to use golden cherry tomatoes instead. Just my luck, one of my favorite vendors had plenty.
The Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market is a smaller version of the Dupont market. They have some of the same vendors, but I also feel like they have more of a neighborhood feel. A jug band plays and uses their funky noise machine to startle patrons who drop change in their open instrument cases. Unsuspecting children either jump with delight or right back into mom and dad’s arms. It’s startling to be sure, but it also makes the market a place where you might actually want to pull up a lawn chair and sit back with a fresh peach for a few minutes to enjoy a Saturday morning.
The jam I made with my pile of sunshine-colored tomatoes is a sweet and tart compote that is reminiscent of ketchup (and would be awesome on hot dog), but is sweet enough to also be amazing on plain white toast with butter. I’m dreaming up other applications for it as well. It would be fantastic with a nice hunk of good cheese or slathered on a grilled cheese sandwich. I also would not be above adding a dollop here or there to flatbread pizzas. The possibilities may not be endless, but they sure are plentiful.
Golden Tomato Jam
4 + lbs golden cherry tomatoes
1 finely diced white onion
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
¾ cup light colored honey (like clover honey)
Salt and pepper
Handful of micro or chopped sweet basil
When you bring your tomatoes home be sure to wash them thoroughly and pick off any remaining stems. Dry them and then cut them in half. Combine in a large pot with onion, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper (season lightly then add as it reduces), and a good dash of cayenne. Stew for 1 ½ to 2 hours over low heat. The mixture will thicken and bubble. There is no need to add water as the tomatoes have enough water in them. Toward the end of the process you can add the basil.
When the mixture is thickened and slightly reduced, use a ladle and funnel to add to prepared jars. I used quilted half-pint jelly jars. Add the lids and screw on until fingertip tight. Preserve them in a water bath. I simmered mine for 20 minutes. Use canning tongs to remove to a heat-proof surface to cool for 12 to 24 hours.
Note: This recipe has not been tested for safety when storing over long periods of time. Best judgment was used based on USDA canning guidelines when it came to acid added and length of water bath.