I. Love. Tomatoes.
Being Sicilian, you sort of have to or you may never eat. Ok, that’s a bit extreme, I realize. All jokes aside, I really do love all the creativity this wonderful summer food allows me to have in the kitchen as I explore a multitude of dishes, no matter what type of cuisine I’m in the mood to cook. At the end of summer, I’m almost always in the mood to create something with tomatoes.
I’ve seen several interesting recipes for Tomato Preserve, also known as Confettura di Pomodori, in Italian. The only reason I procrastinated making this or any other type of preserves lately was to avoid the refined sugar almost all the recipes called for. I wanted to change the recipe in order to use a healthier type of sugar and I wasn’t sure honey would be the best sweetener to cook with in this particular preserve. Of course on the day I’m ready to use what’s left of my organic cane sugar, I just don’t have enough of it to make my Confettura.
Next stop: quick run to the grocery store. They don’t carry turbinado sugar or enough organic sugar, just raw sugar in packets. That wouldn’t do- too much hassle to break open each packet and the crystals are so big I’m afraid they won’t dissolve properly, even when cooked.
Then I remembered my travels to Mexico and piloncillo came to mind. Piloncillo is a Mexican unrefined brown sugar with a high amount of natural molasses. It comes in the shape of cones and is used by either grating or chopping up into pieces. Although it looks hard on the outside, it’s actually pliable and moist. It’s a great substitute for brown sugar, but I also recommend using it instead of white refined sugar. Of course it also depends on the recipe. For the Sweet Tomato Preserve, I knew I would be cooking the sugar and piloncillo melts nicely, so I didn’t have much chopping or grating to do. (Never put the whole cone into a blender or food processor- it may break the blades.
I don’t know if I would have the same results with just any other sugar, but I’m sure if you try an all natural brown sugar in this recipe, you will enjoy the preserve as much as I did. Use it on toasted bread and add a bit of grated cheese or even as a sandwich spread- that’s what we did and it was a surprising, delicous treat I have yet to find at any sandwich shop or restaurant.
Sweet Tomato Preserve
Yields approximately 1.5 quarts
- 5 pounds ripe, round tomatoes
- 1.5 pounds piloncillo sugar or natural brown sugar
- 1 small lemon, skin cleaned, quartered and seeds removed
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. At this time, the skins on the tomatoes should start to break. Remove any tomatoes whose skin is breaking.
Put tomatoes either in an ice bath or in a colander. If you use a colander, gently rinse or spray tomatoes in cool water.
Peel the skins of all the tomatoes and remove the core. Try to drain off any excess water, as tomatoes hold a lot of water, especially after blanching.
Cut tomatoes into chunks and add to a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven.
Once the lemon is cleaned and chopped, add it to the pan as well. Add the sugar next and turn on the heat, bringing the mixture to a rapid boil
Lower the heat at the first sign of boiling and simmer, uncovered for about 1-2 hours, OR until your mixture reaches a thick consistency and is devoid of much water. (Each mixture may take longer, depending on the type of tomatoes used and how much water they retain from the blancing process).
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Immediately store in air-tight glass jars.
Note: Unless your jars have been sterilized and you are properly canning this preserve, it will last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator.