Nothing reminds me more of summer more than a beautiful sun ripened tomato. So when I clocked these beauties on a grey drizzly morning at the farmers market I absolutely couldn't resist. Displayed in a simple bowl on my kitchen table, they looked beautiful, but it wasn't long before I decided what to do with them.
Tomatoes... marmalade? Yep that's right, its not a typo. I recognise this is probably not music to the ears of any marmalade purists out there, but let me tell you it really works. Tomatoes are both sweet and sour, which make them a fantastic choice for a marmalade, and when paired with citrus it lifts the flavour to a whole other level. Try to imagine a beautiful tomato salad without a lemon & oil vinagrette and you'll understand that tomatoes and citrus happen to love each other. And when you combine those flavours with the sweet, earthy undertones of saffron, it's a perfect triad for the happiest of marmalade marriages.
The key to making this marmalade really sing is in the quality of the tomatoes. I try not to get too annoyed when I hear people talk about using up gluts of fruit or damaged fruit for preserve making. It has long been my belief that like any fine wine you have to start with fruit at the peak of its ripeness to expect a good vintage. It's the same principle with preserve making; you're aim is to capture the flavour of the season in a jar. You won't get that flavour from bruised or damaged fruit that's past its best. Give it to the compost heap instead.
Draw breath. Rant over.
So, what you are looking for are deeply coloured and firm tomatoes, with a little give. Give them a sniff. If their missing that sweet, woody smell, leave them behind. Check also for wrinkles; a sign of age. In my marmalade I used a mix of speciality tomatoes in a variety of colours, but you could choose a red flavourful tomato like cocktail or plum instead. I encourage you not to skip the overnight maceration step; it really is important because it it draws out all the lovely flavours of the tomatoes and citrus.
There are all sorts of ways you can enjoy tomato marmalade. It makes a perfect partner for crackers, rye bread, or sour dough, especially when paired with a soft goat or ewes cheese. Bring on the summer!
Fills 5-6 x 225g (8oz) jars
1.25kg mixed vine tomatoes
625g unrefined cane sugar
250g Valencia or Navel oranges
250g unwaxed lemons
2fl oz fresh lemon juice
large pinch of saffron
First, prepare the oranges and lemons : cut in half crosswise, each half cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced crosswise medium-thin. Place the slices in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute, and then drain, discarding the liquid. Return the slices to the saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender.
While the citrus is cooking, prepare the tomatoes. Remove the vines and stalks from the tomatoes and cut into medium pieces. Put them into a large non reactive bowl with the sugar, lemon juice, and saffron. When the citrus are cooked, drain, and add to the tomato mixture. Stir well to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, place a saucer with a couple of metal teaspoon in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later.
Remove the tomato mixture from the refrigerator and transfer it to an preserving pan or large heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Gently heat for 5-10 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook at a lively boil until thickened (about 15-20 minutes), skimming off any scum that rises. Reduce the heat, stirring frequently, to prevent the marmalade from sticking. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes, stirring continually, until no longer watery. The mixture should appear glossy, the texture more unified, and the colour darkened.
To test, turn off the heat and remove one of the teaspoons from the freezer. Carefully take a sample of the marmalade, replacing the spoon back to the freezer for 3-5 minutes. Touch the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for another minute. Tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the marmalade runs; if it runs slowly onto the saucer, and if it has thickened to a spreadable consistency, it is done. If it runs quickly or appears watery, cook for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.
Pot in warm, dry sterilized jars, and seal. Store in a cool place and refrigerate once opened.