Unpacking History One Discovery at a Time
My father, a Minnesota native transplanted to Glendale, California, grew tomatoes. He also grew peppers, plums, lemons, grapes, apricots, and nectarines. Every summer he bought tomato starts from the local nursery. His favorite were the cherry tomatoes because he loved to just eat them fresh from the vine.
He would plant a half-dozen or more plants in the back yard against a tall garden wall to maximize the heat. Compost made from raked leaves thrown over the garden wall was worked into the soil and big trash cans would hold steeping, stinky steer-manure tea to fertilize the plants through out the summer.My sister Gail and I had the icky job of finding and cutting in half the green, red-horned tomato worms. As a 9-year-old it was one of those cool but sticky jobs that made me feel more grown up than I was. I was the arbiter of death; I was the keeper of the tomatoes. 9-year old girls can be very silly.
My father and my mother both spent time during the summer canning and putting up stores for the winter. Plums were a special delight served in mid-winter over vanilla ice cream. And of course, Dad had to put up his tomatoes.
In the mid-1980’s Dad started making Tomato Jam from the Kerr Canning Cookbook. Since we always had a lot of tomatoes I think this recipe called to him. My sister now makes it from the San Merzano Tomatoes she grows in her back yard. She too amends her soil with home-made compost but her manure comes from her three horses, not a bag bought at the hardware store.
A few years ago she came across Dad’s Tomato Jam recipe and is now responsible for keeping the family shelves fully stocked. There are many Tomato Jam recipes but this is the one Dad made and so we claim it as the Sanford Solution to Too Many Tomatoes.
This jam is savory and spicy with dense, rich earthy flavors. It works great on pork, on zucchini bread, with Brie on French Bread, and is wonderful on savory, nutty crackers.
I don’t really remember my Dad making this; I was away at college during the canning season in the 1980’s. But I have fond memories of Dad opening jars and freezer containers full of his Southern California garden’s bounty.
Date Bread with a little cream cheese and a Tomato Jam schmear says Dad like almost nothing else.
Thank you, Gail, for taking on big-sister responsibilities and making Dad’s Tomato Jam.
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