October 2, 2012
What do you do when your sweet Argentine husband confesses that he's homesick? If you're like me, you find that food–while never being quite like the real thing–brings you pretty close to home. And having that comforting flavor of home in your mouth soothes the homesick beast (even ten years, two kids and a mortgage later) for a little while.
And also if you're like me (sometimes a little loca when I get going on a recipe) you hit the farmer's market on Saturday morning and come home with 25 pounds of tomatoes. Most of those tomatoes became Dulce de Tomate, and our funky old kitchen became a virtual factory of blanching, peeling, seeding, chopping, boiling and canning.
Dulce de Tomate was one of the first recipes I posted here when I started out, and I'm embarrassed to admit that since then, I haven't made it even once. As far as the flavors of Argentina go, classics like the alfajor and chimichurri tend to get all the attention, while equally interesting and delicious treats like Dulce de Tomate are the wallflower in the corner.
So with my mother-in-law, Florencia, coaching me via Skype, those piles of tomatoes shrank into candied tomato jam, which found its way into jars and onto our pantry shelves. If you have an abundance of tomatoes this season, Dulce de Tomate is a delicious way to explore one of Argentina's unsung heroes of taste, one that will bring you–or your sweetheart–right back home.
Below is the orginal recipe I posted for Dulce de Tomate with some additional updated notes.
Dulce de Tomate
This recipe is my mother-in-law, Florencia's. She has lived on a farm almost her entire life, and in her years as a farmer's wife, has canned literally thousands of pounds of tomatoes in one form or other. Serve the tomato jam on toast or crackers. It would make a great companion to a cheese course or picadito plate with a dry sparkling white wine.
6-7 lbs. fresh tomatoes (about 2 dozen)
6 cups sugar
2 cups water
Wash the tomatoes and bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, submerge the tomatoes for about 20 seconds to blanch them. Remove to a bowl of cold water to stop the tomatoes from cooking. Peel them, cut in half and remove seeds. I found that the easiest way to do this is to use a serrated knife to remove the top, then squeeze the skin off from the bottom. Then cut them in half and squeeze the seeds out or used your finger to pull them out. Chop the tomatoes into large dice.
Weigh them–for every 6 pounds of tomato pulp, you'll need 6 cups sugar and 2 cups water. If you don't have a scale, you can guesstimate–a bag of flour weighs five pounds, so it will be slightly heavier than that. Also, a good rule of thumb for making jam is to do just one batch at a time and avoid the temptation to double the recipe–it doesn't cook as well.
Why removing the seeds is important: Florencia says this is just for looks, since sometimes the seeds turn dark and in general the jam looks prettier without seeds. However, it's fine, flavor-wise, if the seeds remain, so it's up to you.
Put the 2 cups water and 6 cups sugar in a pot on the stove top. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved in the water, making a simple syrup. When the syrup is at a boil, add the 6 lbs. tomatoes, and cook for 15-20 minutes, lowering the heat to a simmer. Be sure to watch the pot so that it doesn't boil over and it does foam! The foam can be skimmed off the top. After 20 minutes, turn the stove off and let the mixture sit for a few hours. Florencia says this is also aesthetic; the dulce de tomate takes on a shinier, more brilliant look if it goes through a cooling and re-cooking process.
After a few hours, re-heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, taking care that it doesn't stick or burn. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and let cook for 1-2 hours, stirring periodically. After this time, the tomatoes should have a shininess and transparent look.
Let cool and then put it into jars. It can keep for a couple of weeks refrigerated, or can according to the manufacturer's instructions of your canning kit.