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Orange Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika

orange tomatoes

Of all the ways you can buy groceries in Philadelphia, the Italian Market is the most unique. It’s a blocks long market, made up of storefronts and curbside produce stands. It was originally entirely populated by Italian-owned stores and stalls, but over the years it has become increasingly multi-cultural.

There are butcher shops, fishmongers, coffee houses, sandwich joints, kitchenware stores, restaurants and produce stalls. It is slightly dirty, prices are often fluid and, in the winter time, they still light fires in giant metal cans to keep warm.

chopped orange tomatoes

Often, the produce you find at the Italian Market isn’t local. In fact, there’s no way to know whether it’s from the US or somewhere increasingly far-flung. However, in late summer, you can occasionally find an incredible bargain on something grown just over the river in New Jersey. Such was the case for me last week.

I was in the market to pick up jars at Fante’s for a class (sometimes I feel like I’m constantly buying jars) and I walked by an enormous display of orange tomatoes. The signage proudly proclaimed that they were fresh from South Jersey and they were just a dollar for an overflowing two quart bucket. A single buck.

orange tomato jam with smoked paprika

I brought them home and riffed on my standard tomato jam (in the last hours before we left for vacation). I reduced the sugar slightly, added vinegar to compensate for the lower acid levels of orange tomatoes (in addition to the lemon juice already present in the recipe) and made it fire-y with cayenne and smoked paprika. My yield was just 2 1/2 pints and after I was done, I wished there was time to dash back to 9th Street and pick up another dollar’s worth of tomatoes.

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Tips for Tomato Canning Season

heirloom seconds

There’s been a rapid up-tick in questions about tomato preservation in the last week, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to gather all my tomato-centric posts in one place. Before you shoot me an email with a tomato query, take a look through these posts because your answer may be there.

Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes – A basic tutorial that will walk you through the steps of canning whole tomatoes packed in their own juices. This is my preferred method for canning tomatoes for use throughout the year.

Tomato Canning 101 – If you’re dealing with floating tomatoes, a separated product or loss of liquid during processing, read this post in order to set your worries to rest.

Did your Sungolds, grape tomatoes and cherries do really well this year? Check out this post which details five ways you can preserve small tomatoes. On the flipside, if your bigger tomatoes are doing well, here are five ways to put them up.

Last summer, I made tomato paste for the first time. I wasn’t too keen on when I first did it, but I must confess, it’s been incredibly useful throughout this year. So much so, that I’m thinking of biting the bullet and doing it again (if I’m able to get a really good deal on tomatoes in the next few weeks).

Finally, no tomato post is complete without mention of my two favorite tomato jams. The classic and the one featuring yellow tomatoes and basil. Both are delicious.

In other news, the winner of the Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway is commenter #717, Elizabeth Dalton. Thanks to all who entered!

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Salt Preserved Key Limes

salt preserved key limes

I’ve been writing a lot here in the last week and a half, but I realized that this morning, that none of it has really been the meat and potatoes of why this site exists. There’ve been a lot of announcements, notifications and favors done for friends, but no recipes. No ruminations on canning or anything really that makes up the heart and soul of Food in Jars.

For that, I apologize. I’ve been tangled up in four-part to-do list that hasn’t left me a lot of time for the kitchen. It’s been hard to find a groove for even the most basic cooking. Last night, I ate toasted corn tortillas of unknown age topped with melted cheese and sriracha and some roasted broccoli.

salt preserved key limes

I decided to duck the demands of the to-do list for just a little while and show you a project I started back in February. Salt preserved key limes. I’ve had them fermenting on the kitchen counter for a few weeks and finally moved them to the fridge last night. The finished limes are nicely softened and have that same intoxicating salty tang that preserved lemons develop.

salt preserved key limes

I started these as a grand experiment, after finding a one-pound bag of organic key limes while grocery shopping. I hoped that they’d work like lemons do when packed in salt. I was also hopeful that I’d be able to create something akin to the pickled limes featured in Little Women.

I didn’t hew to any particular recipe from the past. I trimmed the ends, cut them in half and packed them in salt, hoping that the exposed flesh would help the salt do it’s work of releasing juice and creating a briny liquid for the limes to rest in.

salt preserved key limes

I didn’t measure the salt, but instead just covered each layer of limes with a generous spoonfuls of sea salt. Once the jar was filled, I shook it madly, trying to spread the salt and bruise the fruit a bit.

After a day, the limes weren’t expressing much in the way of liquid, so I helped things along by adding enough bottled lime juice to cover. I didn’t want my precious little limes to succumb to mold before they could ferment sufficiently.

salt preserved key limes

Once covered with juice, they fermented happily on the kitchen counter a little less than a month. If you choose to make these, know that your time could vary from mine. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, the amount of salt you used and the fruit’s ripeness, they could be ready sooner or later.

Make sure to put a small saucer or plate under the jar while they “cook” as there’s always a little bit of leaking brine with this kind of preserve. I forgot to do this in the beginning and the jar ended up stuck fast to the counter. I had to create a little puddle of water around its base to be able to move it. Even after years of preserving, I still make silly mistakes regularly.

salt preserved key limes

Here’s what the finished limes look like. The fogginess comes from the bottled lime juice. Had I squeezed some fresh it would clearer. Thankfully, the taste is still strong and good.

You might be wondering what one does with salt preserved limes. Well, they can do anything that a preserved lemon can do, namely add a tart, salty bite to stews, tagines and other bits of rich meat.

However, I have discovered one particularly good partner for these limes. Avocados. The salty, fermented juice is a dream drizzled over a cut avocado (and helps prevent browning too!). You can mash up the pulpy flesh and a bit of the rind when making a batch of guacamole.

I must confess, there is another way I eat these. And that’s straight from the jar and sliced. My dentist wouldn’t approve (all that acid), but I like just a little nibble or two. On days when the things I’ve eaten have been boring or bland, just a taste of these limes brightens everything, including my attitude.

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Quince Slices in a Spiced Chai Syrup

quince in chai syrup

I am a coffee drinker. Growing up in a cafe-loving city like Portland, OR, it was hard not to pick up the habit during my early high school years. However, every 18 months or so, I cut way back on coffee and switch to black tea. I don’t do it intentionally, there just comes a morning when I wake up craving the nuance of tea.

quince and chai

I am currently smack in the midst of a tea phase. However, this one isn’t as inexplicable as the previous ones have been. I trace it directly to a recent preserving project that Alexis from teaspoons & petals and I recently tried.

Wanting to see how fall fruit would work with a tea infusion, we imagined a few small jars filled with sliced poached quince suspended in a spiced chai syrup (our first collaboration was a peach oolong jelly) and set a date to make it happen.

making tea syrup

The morning of our canning appointment, Alexis picked up an assam-based chai spiked with cinnamon and cloves from Philadelphia’s House of Tea while I ran to Reading Terminal Market to pick up 4 fragrant quince. After washing them well to remove any fuzz from their skin, we chopped the quince into slices, taking care to remove any hard inner bits and put them in water to poach until tender (this took approximately 30 minutes).

poached quince into the syrup

While they cooked, we made the syrup. I combined 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar with 2 cups of water (this makes a fairly heavy syrup) in a medium saucepan and simmered until the sugar was entirely dissolved. Alexis measured out two generous tablespoons of the tea and tucked it into a paper infuser.

poached quince slices

We let the tea steep in the syrup for 5 minutes, tasting after the time was up to ensure that the flavor intensity was where we wanted it (it was). When the quince slices were tender but not falling apart, we lifted them out of the water with a spider and dropped them into the syrup.

Then it was just standard canning procedure. Funnel slices into prepared jars. Top with syrup. Remove air bubbles and adjust syrup levels (1/2 inch headspace, please). Wipe rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

quince in chai syrup

The result of this experiment are three half pints jars of the most wonderfully spiced slices of quince ever. The syrup is also a revelation, we had a bit leftover and I spent a couple of days making myself spiced chai sodas with sparkling water. I’ve served one jar with slices of this gingerbread (good on its own, it’s a marvel when drizzled with this syrup and topped with a couple slices of quince).

The only thing I’d do differently in the future is that I’d wait to make the syrup until the quince were finished poaching and use some of that liquid. That way, I’d get even more of the quince flavor into the final product.

If quince are already gone from your area, you might try this recipe with slices of pear instead. I imagine they’d be wonderful with a spiced syrup like this one. Skip the poached step and instead just cook the pears in the finished syrup for a moment or two. Imagine that served with some creamy cheese. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it!

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Five Ways to Preserve Large Tomatoes

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Two years ago, in the final weeks before my wedding, I bought and preserved 50 pounds of tomatoes. Last summer, I upped the ante and brought home 100 pounds. This year, though I was sorely tempted to push ever upwards, I kept myself to another 100 pounds.

I realize that tomato season is coming to a close, but I thought it would be nice to round up my favorite ways to preserve big tomatoes (here are the ways that I do small tomatoes)

jar of tomatoes

Slow roasted and frozen. These tomatoes are amazing and do wonders to lift my spirits during those cold, dark months, when it doesn’t seem at all possible that fresh tomatoes will ever return.

I did 20 pounds like this a few weeks back. Instead of packing them in jars for freezing (like those pictured above), I froze them on the same cookie sheets on which they were roasted and then packed them into freezer bags. Makes it easier to grab one or two and drop them into dinner.

full jar

Whole peeled tomatoes are the backbone of my autumn and winter cooking. I use them in soups, stews, sauces, casseroles and even whir them into batches of smooth salsa. They come together fairly easily and are so incredibly useful to have in the pantry. If you do nothing else, put up a few jars of whole peeled tomatoes.

one jar of pickled red tomatoes

While you’re peeling those tomatoes for canning, set a few aside and make these pickled red tomatoes. I layer them into toasted cheese sandwiches and serve them with strong cheeses. They are unexpectedly delicious and just fun to have in your pantry for those moments when lunch or dinner needs a little extra zing.

Mrs. Wages pasta sauce

I don’t make tomato sauce every year but when I can squeeze it into the schedule, I’m never sad to have made it. Earlier this month, I stirred up five pints with the last of my 100 pound. And I cheated a bit by using this packet of Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce mix. Do I feel bad about that? Not at all! If you don’t have a spice pack laying around, I’ve also made the tomato sauce from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I most happily recommend it.

tomato butter

Tomato butter. I’ve become awfully fond of this butter that I made last summer for the Can Jam. I like to combine it with whatever leftover runny jam I have in the fridge and braise fatty hunks of meat in it. I just can’t get over how good it is.

There you have it. Five of my favorite ways to preserve large tomatoes. What’s your favorite method?

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Homemade Tomato Paste

12 quart pints of tomato paste

Three weeks ago, I bought my annual batch of tomatoes to preserve. 100 pounds worth. I canned them whole, I canned them crushed, I slow roasted and froze them and I made 17 pints of corn and tomato salsa (keep your eyes peeled for a comprehensive tomato preservation post coming soon). And still, there were tomatoes.

9 quarts of chopped tomatoes

So I tackled a project that had always intrigued me. I made tomato paste. I chopped, simmered, milled, simmered, pureed, reduced and canned 12 quarter pint jars of tomato paste.

cooking down tomatoes

I followed the recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website nearly to the letter. The only omission I made was to skip the garlic clove. I’ve been so conditioned to avoid adding low acid foods to tomatoes that it just didn’t seem right, particularly since this recipe is not acidified (from what I understand, when you cook down the tomatoes to this extreme, you concentrate the existing acid to such a degree that it’s not necessary to add any more).

more food milling

I started with approximately 16 pounds of chopped tomatoes at 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon. After an hour of simmering with three cubed red peppers, a bay leaf and a generous pinch of salt, I ran them through my food mill (a brand new purchase, made by Kutchenprofi. The little legs snapped off the minute I started to use it, making it necessary to hold the mill in the air while pressing the tomatoes through. It was frustrating).

overwhelmed stove

Once the tomatoes were milled, they went back into the pot and spent the next six hours cooking down. It was after midnight by the time they were ready for the jars. If I ever make tomato paste again, I will start much earlier than 3 pm. (As an aside, I don’t think my little apartment stove was designed for this kind of use. With two canning projects going that night, it was utterly overwhelmed.)

filling tomato paste

Even after six hours of cooking, I think my tomato paste might have been able to reduce further. However, I was out of patience and ready for bed so it went into the jars. The NCHFP recommends using half pints to can tomato paste, but I opted for quarter pints because I rarely use more than a tablespoon or two when cooking. However, as is best practice, I did not reduce the processing time for my smaller jars. They still spent the full 45 minutes in the canner.

scraping pot

Canning can be a lot of work. I am aware of this and happily do that work when I take on a new project, knowing that nearly all of the time, my end result will be so much better and more satisfying than anything I could buy at the store. However, after tasting my tomato paste, I was disappointed. My paste, which was made from perfectly delightful plum tomatoes, tasted bitter and flat. For the first time in my canning life, I had to confront the truth that the store bought version was better than what I had made.

finished tomato paste

What’s more, while my tomatoes were fairly inexpensive (I paid $40 for 100 pounds this year), this batch of 3 pints of tomato paste still cost approximately $7 in raw materials and 10 hours of time (that doesn’t include the cost of the jars that the paste is currently occupying). I’m not sure if the investment works out this time around.

I am not suggesting that you guys shouldn’t make tomato paste. I’m sure the fact that my preparations went later than expected and that my food mill started falling to pieces didn’t help me to feel happy and rosy about this recipe. But I think next year, I’ll stick to tomato preservation projects that offer more return on investment (like crushed tomatoes) in less time. This one just didn’t float my boat.

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