Let’s face it, the vaunted, bally-hooed tomato sandwich is basically a one-off. Sure, it’s a ritual that gets the endorphins going and, just like new moms who swear they don’t remember childbirth pains once they held their newborn baby, you’ll declare that all the gardening work it took to get that beautiful tomato was worth it.
Still, it’s just one tomato.
Of course, the perfect tomato sandwich requires the perfect tomato specimen, properly sliced and salted. The pristine loaf of bread. Mayo, yes or no, and properly applied. Lettuce and bacon, optional. Ratios and textures examined and noted for next year’s sandwich. Because it’s always about the first tomato sandwich of the season. With a row of ripening tomatoes on your windowsill, how many sandwiches can one person eat?
What I said: it’s a one-off.
My solution: when the tomato harvest reaches critical mass in August, it’s time to focus on efforts that take more of the fruit off the counter.
It’s Time to Make Jam
This is why every August, I make Roasted Tomato Jam. The inspiration is from Food52, with a few adaptations, like adding a yellow bell pepper to vary the fruit, color and texture. The oven-roasting method requires some hands-on attention, but less than if it were bubbling away on the stove.
Note to readers: I have an upcoming tomato jam with garam masala recipe (publishing tomorrow).
Once the jam cools, I spoon it into jars and store it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. It doesn’t last long. My favorite way to serve it is to spread a baguette with goat cheese and top with tomato jam. That’s after deciding I’m too mature to just eat it straight from the jar.
Roasted Tomato Jam Recipe
The original recipe called for beefsteak tomatoes. I’ve made this recipe with Romas, beefsteaks and heirloom tomatoes and it’s turned out fine each time.
Adapted from Food 52
2 cups sugar
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced
1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
Large pinch salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried red chiles
- In an enameled cast iron or similar Dutch oven, pour one third of the sugar over the bottom. Place half the tomato slices on top. Add half of the remaining sugar, along with the salt, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon stick and chiles.
- Place the final layer of tomatoes on top of the seasonings, followed by the rest of the sugar. Let the mixture rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
- While the mixture rests, heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the uncovered pan in the oven and let it cook for one hour and up to two hours. Check every 20 minutes and stir. It may take up two hours to thicken. When it’s done, remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Remove the dried chilies from the mixture.
- Store in jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Perfectly Imperfect Recipes
My recipes are perfectly imperfect, that’s my way of saying that I try them out in my home kitchen, but they’re not tested elsewhere. I get things wrong sometimes, so I ask for grace when I do. Please let me know when I have a time or temperature that looks off, or, for goodness sake, when I leave the sugar out of the ingredients for the sweet potato pie.
Store in Jars
^^^Do you have a jar drawer? I created one after I went all Marie Kondo on my kitchen in 2021. There were jars tucked into every nook and cranny, because you never know when you’ll need a jar, right? Putting everything in a drawer is a simple trick that saves time in the kitchen because I’m not looking all over for the place that I stuck the jar in.