Preserving the Best of Summer’s Tomatoes

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Lindsay Landis of Love and Olive Oil

There are few things in life better than a Tennessee tomato.

In fact it is proven that a Tennessee tomato can convert even the most adamant tomato-hater into a tomato fiend. Case in point: myself. I hated tomatoes, and wouldn’t touch them in any circumstance. I was “that one” who would order my tacos and burgers sans tomatoes. Then I moved to Tennessee.

Despite my tomato aversions, the artist in me couldn’t NOT buy one of the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes on one of our first visits to the Nashville Farmers’ Market. The colors and shapes and sheer size of them enthralled me.

And surprisingly, so did the taste. Sweet and bright and acidic, nothing like the tasteless tomatoes that I knew. If this is what tomatoes were supposed to taste like, then I was their #1 fan.

For a few (far too) short months during the summer, tomatoes abound at the local markets here. They are everywhere, Bradleys and Brandywines and more exotic heirloom varieties in every color of the rainbow.

I will gladly endure the heat and humidity if it means I get to stuff myself silly with these incredible fruits. And believe me, I do. But one can only have so many tomato sandwiches (crusty bread with goat cheese, tomatoes, basil and kalamata olives is my favorite variety), and for that reason preserving the summer’s bounty is always high on my agenda. Sure we can always turn to sauces and salsas. For those adept at canning, a case of tomatoes can easily make enough marinara to last through the winter.

But my favorite way to preserve summer’s best involves a bit more sugar.

Indeed, tomato jam, while it may sound unusual, is perhaps the ultimate condiment. It’s like a cross between ketchup and fruit preserves, both sweet and savory. Tomato jam is one of those condiments that you never knew you couldn’t live without. Use it on burgers, grilled cheese (it tastes like a grilled cheese with the tomato soup INSIDE), spread it on bruschetta with cheese, or give your BLTs and extra something special.

If you’re looking for recipes, I’ve adapted a basic tomato preserves recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (my go-to reference for all things canning), complete with a hint of spicy ginger and tangy lemon, as well as a spicy tomato peach jam that’s sweet and spicy and absolutely sublime.

Now is the time to preserve your tomatoes when they are at their best; the time investment now will be worthwhile later. Trust me on this one. You’ll thank your past self when, in the middle of winter, you crack open a jar of bright red tomato jam, earthy and intense and delightfully sweet. It’s the next best thing to a fresh tomato.

Basic Tomato Preserves Recipe

Spicy Tomato Peach Jam Recipe

Lindsay Landis is a graphic designer and entrepreneur by day and a food blogger and cookie dough addict by night. Her food blog, Love & Olive Oil, chronicles her culinary adventures in and around the kitchen. She is the author two cookbooks, including The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook and co-author of the recently released Breakfast For Dinner together with her husband Taylor. Lindsay and Taylor also run Purr Design, a web and graphic design business. They currently reside in Nashville with their three crazy cats.