Autumn Tomatoes and Tomato Jam

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Cape May, NJ – It’s been an odd growing year.

Garden Partner’s favorite Fourth of July and Early Girl Tomatoes, which usually yield ripe, red tomatoes very early in the season, never kicked into full production until late in the summer.

But this is not a bad thing. Long after the other exquisite but easily bruised heirloom tomatoes bit the garden dust, the work-a-day varieties are still producing.

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That includes the canary yellow Golden Boy tomatoes, which will never win awards for best taste, but oh that color.

Unfortunately, September tomatoes are never as flavorful as their August cousins. So what does one do with a basketful of late season tomatoes?jam2
My late mother-in-law Betty showed me how the folks in Minnesota turn their end of the season, pock marked, not so great tomatoes into the most amazing concoction.

Tomato Jam.

You start with about six cups of peeled, seeded tomatoes, cut coarsely. Cover them with about three cups of sugar (no mixing!) and put the dish in the fridge overnight.

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In the morning (you better have a little time on your hands)  drain the syrup that’s accumulated in the dish and reduce it in a heavy pan.  Add the tomatoes, then two or three lemons sliced very thinly into slivers – quarter them first, to keep them small.

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Then stir in the secret ingredient – chopped, crystallized ginger. I use an entire seven ounce bag.

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Bring the tomato mixture to a boil then cook over medium low heat for one and a half to two hours. Stir the pot regularly. Do not leave!jam5
You’ll know it’s done when the spoon has just the right amount of tomato jam clinging  to the back.  It should still be somewhat liquid. If you cook it too long (as I did one year) you’ll end up with something akin to tomato ginger candy. Tasty, but impossible to spread on toast.

We put the finished jam in clean glass refrigerator dishes and keep them in the back of the fridge. Don’t know how long the stuff lasts. Our tomato jam – or tomato preserves as Betty correctly called it – is usually gone within a month or two.

Just in time to start ordering the tomato seeds for next year’s garden.

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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak is a journalist, a gardener and a Cape Island resident. She's also Cape May Times' photographer. She founded Cape May Times after a long and lively career in TV news.