My son gave me a recipe. He scribbled it from memory on the back of a menu from the restaurant where he works. When my husband and I had lunch there, among the flavors, textures, beauty, finesse, and whimsy of the nearly 15 courses we ended up being served (thanks to the Chef de Cuisine who apparently recognizes parents of his young chefs as VIPs), one acoutrement that stood out was a gorgeous tomato marmalade nestled against a perfectly executed fillet of Atlantic halibut. I wanted a piece of this experience I could recreate at home, even though they do give you all sorts of things to take home to remember it by: a proper stiff folder with your menu (which changes every day), a box of house-made truffles, a cloth bag with gooey caramels, also house-made. Still I wanted the marmalade.
Now is the time to make this. Make your first batch, and it will be just that. A first of many. Start perhaps with those late tomatoes that are still coming in from your garden, the slightly damaged or soft ones that have fallen to the ground that may not be so pretty sliced up and drizzled with a little oil. Or maybe you are seeing some magnificent misshapen heirlooms at the farmers market that you can’t resist and you are wondering how you can capture that summer tomato madness for the dark days of winter. Not to mention that this marmalade makes a great Thanksgiving condiment, (a change-up from cranberry sauce, to say the least), and a festive red and Santa-sweet gift for the holidays. Anyone would be happy to have this on hand to break out and elevate a mundane cheese plate during their holiday entertaining, and it’s great with roasted meats, on sandwiches (even peanut butter) and on chinese food (instead of that mystery condiment, duck sauce.)
And this recipe could not be easier. In fact, I’ve written about how easy making most jams and preserves and marmalades are. It comes down to throwing a few things in a pan and boiling (reducing) the heck out of them. In this case you’ll first have to quickly dump the tomatoes in boiling water, which makes them a breeze to peel and de-seed. The X on the bottom makes it even easier. The peels just slide off. (Secret: This can even be made with drained, canned, chopped tomatoes. But at this time of year, it’s kind of ridiculous to do so.)
Then it’s just a matter of combining them with the rest of the ingredients. I substituted corn syrup, (albeit organic corn syrup…if that even makes a difference?), instead of the glucose indicated in my son’s scribblings. Glucose is something a pro kitchen would use—it’s not as readily available for the home cook, though you can certainly order a drum of it online for your pantry if you like—and corn syrup is comparable. In fact I would venture to say that you could use all sugar and no syrup at all and still get delicious results, but the syrup might give it a smoother consistency, with less of a tendency to crystalize, once cooled. Corn syrup is something I don’t use very often but I wanted to follow my son’s recipe rather slavishly so I broke down and used it here.
One caution. When something with this much vinegar is boiling down, (especially if you double or triple the recipe as I do), the air in the kitchen could get a little tough to handle. If you don’t have a strong kitchen fan that actually vents air to the outside, (mine is one of those useless noise-making ones above the stove that may as well be on an Easy Bake Oven for all the real air it actually moves), make sure you have a few windows open, with some decent cross ventilation going. My last double batch cleared out my house pretty quickly, with my daughter and husband holding their noses and insisting they had to take breakfast out. I now cherish this recipe not only for it’s exquisite taste, but for it’s ability to get me a Sunday morning alone to putter around the house in my pajamas. Let them eat breakfast out. I like the smell of vinegar cooking—and who needs all those nose hairs anyway? When the air clears, you’ll have this glorious marmalade and it will have been worth it.
800g(3.5 cups or 4-5 tomatoes) fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored and seeded, then coarsely chopped
150g (2/3 cups) shallots, minced
75g (1/3 cup) red onion, minced
300g (1 1/4 cups) red wine vinegar
100g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
150g (2/3 cup) glucose (or light corn syrup)
15g (1 tablespoon) fleur de sel (coarse sea salt)
1. To peel fresh tomatoes: fill a medium/large stockpot ¾ of the way up with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. In the meantime, take each tomato and, using a serrated knife or a sharp paring knife, cut an X on the bottom of each. When water is boiling, drop tomatoes into the water. (you may have to work in batches…you don’t want to overcrowd the water and bring the temperature down. Do 5-6 plum tomatoes at a time, or less if you are using larger tomatoes.) Allow them to remain in the water for about a minute, then remove them with a slotted spoon, tranfering them to a waiting dish/bowl. Allow them to cool for a few minutes. Using a paring knife, and your thumb, hold on to a corner of the peel at the bottom of the tomato where you made the X. It should lift up easily and allow you to peel away a large strip of the skin. Repeat until the skin is entirely removed. Some areas of peel may stick, but those can be easily cut loose.
2. Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in quarters, lengthwise, and remove seeds and yellowish core and discard. Coarsely chop the tomato and place it in a suitable pot that will fit all the ingredients (depending on how many times you multiply this recipe.) Add all the other ingredients. Combine well. Begin to cook over a medium-high flame, until it begins to bubble, stirring frequently to help dissolve the sugar and keep it from burning on the bottom of the pan. Once it’s bubbling, reduce to medium and continue to cook, allowing it to reduce until it is 3/4 of it’s original volume and all of the water content has evaporated. Remove from heat.
3. Proceed to canning, following standard low-pressure canning methods, if desired, or if you plan to give this away as gifts in the future. Or to store in the refrigerator, first marmalade down to room temperature, then seal in an airtight container. Should last for up to a month in the fridge, with minimum exposure to air and room temperature. So, if you are going to serve it, take a portion out to bring to the table, leaving the larger container in the fridge. Do not put back into the larger container the marmalade that has been out at room temp or has had exposure to utensils. Doing this could hasten the spoilage of the whole batch.