School started on Monday for Culver City Unified School District students. This week’s Fresh From the Farm marks the start of the school year with a short pop quiz.
Please answer true or false:
1. A tomato is a vegetable, scientifically speaking. TRUE ___ FALSE ___.
2. A tomato is a fruit, culinarily speaking. TRUE ___ FALSE ___.
If you answered FALSE to both questions, you were right. Reward yourself with some farm fresh Culver City Farmers Market tomatoes.
If you answered TRUE to both questions, sorry. You were stumped by trick questions.
Scientists classify tomatoes as a fruit, because they contain seeds. Since their seeds are contained inside, tomatoes fall into the same basic category as cantaloupes and honeydews. But wait, you might protest. Pumpkins, spaghetti squash and Chinese winter melons have a thick external rind, edible flesh and seeds in their interiors, just like cantaloupes and honeydews. And everyone knows that pumpkins, spaghetti squash and winter melons are vegetables, not fruit. Well, from a culinary point of view, that’s right. We generally categorize fruits which are savory (like spaghetti squash), not sweet, as vegetables. Just don’t make the mistake of calling tomatoes vegetables in your science homework. But if you’re taking home economics or a culinary course, you might be able to get away with calling them vegetables.
No matter how you classify them, anyone who’s had a juicy, vine-rippened farm fresh tomato knows that they can be just as sweet and delectible as a peach or a nectarine. So it should not be a surprise to find out that tomatoes were put up as marmalade, as well canned as juice, ketchup, and whole cooked tomatoes.
The Los Angeles Master Food Preservers and the University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles County, provided the following recipe for tomato marmalade. It is imperative that you follow these instructions exactly. Don’t risk your life and those of your family and friends by improvising. Without scientific testing, you do not know how much time is needed to process the product safely. Do not use non-canning jars (pickle, mayonnaise, commercial jam and jelly jars, etc.) They may crack and/or fail to seal properly. To ensure a proper seal, do not fill the jars to the top. And even though your ancestors might have done so, do not use paraffin wax instead of new canning lids and rings to seal the jars. The USDA’s hot water bath processing techniques (below) avoid the high risk of contamination paraffin-sealed jars present.
(about 9 half-pint jars)
3 quarts (about 5 _ lbs.) ripe tomatoes*
* Make sure all tomatoes are disease-free, deeply colored and firm fleshed. Do not use immature green tomatoes. (Fully ripe “heirloom” tomatoes such as the green-fleshed Zebra are OK; the firm, unripe green tomatoes which are sliced and fried in the American Southern cooking are more acid than ripened fruit and will not work in this recipe.)
4 sticks cinnamon (3 inch pieces)
6 allspice berries
6 cups granulated sugar
1 t. salt
Wash and core tomatoes. Dip in boiling water for about a minute to loosen the skins. Peel, chop and drain. Slice the oranges and lemons very thin. Cut the slices into quarters. Place the spices into a sachet or a piece of cheesecloth. Combine tomatoes, sugar and salt in a large, stainless steel (non-reactive) saucepan. Stir until dissolved. Add oranges, lemons and spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring occasionally until thick and clear (about 50 minutes). Meanwhile, place jars and lids in another large saucepan. Cover them with water and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes to sterilize them. Turn off the heat. Remove the jars and lids carefully, making sure not to touch the interiors of the jars or the bottom of the lids. (I generally leave them in their water bath until I am ready to use them, filling one at a time.) Remove the marmalade from the heat and quickly skim off the foam. Quickly pour the marmalade into the jars, leaving _ inch headspace. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth. Center the lid on the jar. Screw the band down over the lid until resistance is met, then increase until fingertip tight. Place jars in canner (or large saucepan), ensuring that they are completely covered with water. (I make sure that the water is at least and inch or two deeper than the jars.) Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool and store in a cool place away from light. Quality is best within a year of canning.
The Culver City Farmers Market is held each Tuesday from 2 to 7 pm on Main Street between Venice and Culver Blvds.
Katie Malich suggests B & B Hardware on Washington Blvd. as one local source for canning supplies. She finds that an investment in canning funnels, magnetic lid lifters and jar lifters make all the difference in the world if you make multiple batches of marmalade. And she cautions against doubling the ingredients. To ensure your marmalade sets correctly, make only the amount indicated in this recipe at one time.