I came home from Vermont on Labor Day with a weighty bag of small plum-like tomatoes from my stepmother’s garden. I was housesitting for her and my father and part of my laborious duties included picking the ripe fruits from their vines. While the Sun Golds burst with the flavors of sun and summer, these more Roma-like tomatoes seemed better suited to gazpacho or a sauce.
The bag sat on my counter in Brooklyn for most of last week until it occurred to me to roast them, concentrating their flavors for a sweeter, more flavorful punch. I like raw tomatoes, I do. They’re one of August and September’s exquisite pleasures: slicing the juicy fruit, whether beefsteak or heirloom, seeds spilling over the edge of the cutting board. Layered with good buffalo mozzarella and basil, or just biting into one like a peach. But I find, after a while, I want my tomatoes cooked. I want the tastes condensed, the flavors warm. Maybe it’s just summer turning into fall.
So I decided I needed more tomatoes. I swung by my local farmer’s market Saturday after the tornado/tornahdo left Brooklyn and the sun came out blazing. A stand had a $1/lb bin of bruised tomatoes that needed a home – I was more than happy to adopt these forsaken ones. I lugged six pounds home for six bucks.
Once home I sliced all the tomatoes and arranged on a baking sheet, drizzling olive oil and salt on top. I roasted them in a 225 degree oven for one hour, a little more, turning once, until they were shriveled and syrupy. These are great to eat just like this – tossed with pasta, or on toast, in a salad, or mixed with rice. But I thought marinated in olive oil with the basil and garlic I brought home from Vermont would be even better. So quite unintentionally I found myself stuffing the roasted tomatoes into glass Ball jars and sealing their lids in baths of boiling water.
A friend came by and said, “you’re canning!” And so I was. Sort of. But I think of it more like cheating – preserving the rich flavors of summer without spending days on a factory line in my kitchen. It took all of a couple of hours to fill four Ball jars this weekend. I know that won’t get me through the winter, let alone fall. September? Maybe.
Roasted, marinated tomatoes, for fall
Tomatoes, any variety, the cheaper/uglier the better
Chili peppers, optional
1. Slice the tomatoes into wedges (unless very small in which case halve them). Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake at 225 F for at least one hour, and up to one and a half hours.
2. Cool completely before transferring to a Ball or Mason jar with a sealing lid. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic to each jar, also adding basil and small dried peppers if you’d like. I add a dash more of Maldon salt. Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are coated and marinating in the oil.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn down the heat to a vigorous simmer and add your jars with the lids on tight. Let sit in the simmering water for at least five minutes, or until the jars are sealed and the lid doesn’t pop when you push on the center.