The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tomato Preserves Using Agar Instead of Pectin

This summer's garden held a new variety of tomato for me:  Summer Peach.  An online friend suggested I make tomato preserves with them.  I was intrigued, so I took her recipe, researched other recipes online, and came up with my own version, using agar powder instead of pectin to thicken the preserves.  I get to add much less sugar that way!

The taste of the tomato comes out really nicely on my tongue, with a hint of sweetness afterwards.  This would be good on some toast with cream cheese!

Tomato Preserves
Yield:  8 to 9 half-pints

About six cups prepared tomatoes (cored, peeled, loosely seeded, diced)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind (I love my microplane grater!)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups cane juice crystals (you may use white sugar, and adjust to your taste)
2 tablespoons agar powder
thinly sliced lemons from a couple lemons (make sure you seed them!!)

water bath canner
half pint jars

While your canner pot is heating up, and after you've prepared your jars, seals, and lids, bring the prepared tomatoes to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently to avoid sticking and burning.  Let simmer about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Measure about six cups into another saucepan (I started with a little more than six cups and used the whole thing).  Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and stir until it's thoroughly combined.  While this is heating up to another boil, add the cane juice crystals and bring to a full boil.

At this point, I put a small plate and spoon in the freezer in preparation for testing the thickness of the preserves.

Now it's time to stir in the agar.  If you remember, you need to sprinkle just a little bit, whisk it in, sprinkle, whisk, until it's all stirred in.  You can start your 20-minute timer now!  And keep stirring the whole time.  This helps the agar to not settle on the bottom, which it will if you don't stir.

Lemon slices:  If you don't mind them dissolving in the preserves, leaving the rinds to "prettify" in the jars, add them once you incorporate the agar.  Otherwise, add them in at the end (although you will have to make sure the preserves are still at a simmer to maintain correct temperature for canning).

After about 15 minutes of stirring, test the preserves for thickness.  Take your teaspoon/plate from the freezer, scoop a bit of preserves from your pot and put them on the plate, then put the plate back in the freezer.  After a minute or two, take the plate out, and swipe your finger through the preserves.  Is it nicely jelled?  Great and you're ready to go.  Not jelled enough?  Add only a little bit more agar to your pot, whisking it in as before, and wait a few minutes and test again.  Avoid the temptation to add too much agar, since it thickens as it cools!!

When your preserves are at the desired thickness, and your canning pot water is at a good boil, follow typical water-bath-canning procedures and fill half-pint jars with 1/4-inch headspace, wipe rims, place seals on top, screw bands down to fingertip-tight, and place in canner.  Once all jars are in the canner, put the lid on the canning pot, make sure the water is at a good rolling boil, replace the lid and time for 20 minutes.

At the end of the 20 minutes, turn off the burner, take off the lid, and let the pot sit for five minutes.  Then, remove the jars to a cooling rack free from drafts and let cool overnight.  After 24 hours, check the seals, remove the bands, wipe down (or gently wash) the jars, label, and store.  Refrigerate any unsealed jars; use within a week or two.

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