A Perfect Pair

Green Tomato Chutney and Parmesan
 If the old adage "The best things in life are free" has any truth to it, then it must encompass green tomatoes. Ah, the last crop, that no matter how warm the days, the nights are far too cold for one last harvest. So there they hang, big pale green orbs on dried out, almost dead plants. And then, just before the birds set upon them to pick them apart, I pluck them from their vines and carry them off to my kitchen where I'll turn their paleness into heavenly delights.

Recently, I sang the praises of the most delectable Green Tomato Casserole that I made after discovering it in Edna Lewis's cookbook. But, there were far too many green tomatoes to use them all up in that dish, though, I assure you, it was so good, so tasty, that if my senses had left me, I would surely have given it a try. Instead, I decided to cook up a batch of my green tomato jam, which is much more a chutney. Thankfully, I had enough tomatoes leftover to net a good half dozen jars.

Perhaps, you're wondering what the devil you'd ever use this luscious condiment on. Or rather, you already know how delicious it is dolloped on roasted chicken or as a glaze for a country ham. However well-acquainted you are with this mix, I implore you to try it spread over lightly toasted crostini and topped with a thin sliver of aged Parmesan, Gouda, or really good cheddar.

This is the perfect appetizer to set out for your Thanksgiving guests to munch on while they're waiting to sink their teeth into the turkey. The sharp, spicy flavors and hint of sweetness pair perfectly with wine. Put any remaining jam into a pretty serving bowl and set it on the dinner table where it will proudly compete with the cranberry relish for top billing.

Mel's Green Tomato Jam
*There are no set measurements on this dish, rather guidelines. The amounts of sugar and spices to use will really depend on your taste and on how many tomatoes you have left to use.

Green tomatoes. washed and seeded; coarsely chopped
firm pears, washed and cored; coarsely chopped
white vermouth or white wine
finely minced onion
finely minced garlic
currants
golden raisins
chopped, dried figs
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
mustard seed
coriander seeds
all spice
cinnamon
champagne or cane vinegar (apple cider would work as well)
lemon zest
salt
pepper
brown sugar
white sugar
olive oil

1. In a large heavy pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until hot.
2. Add the onions and garlic and mustard seed and cook until fragrant and the onions and garlic are tender and translucent.
3. Add the coriander seeds and cook until softened; smash with the back of a wooden spoon as they cook.
4. Add the tomatoes and a good amount of brown sugar and white sugar (for 2 lbs. of tomatoes, I use 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/3 cup of brown sugar). Cover and cook over low heat until tomatoes fall apart and soften and sugars turn syrupy.
5. Add currants, raisins, figs and chopped pears; continue to cook adding a little white vermouth to thin out mixture and provide moisture.
6. Once the fruits soften and plump, stir in about 1/4 cup of vinegar and simmer until vinegar is incorporated and the strong sour smell subsides.
7. Add spices to taste--a little of this, a little of that--until the flavor pleases you.
8. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest and cook for a few more minutes.
9. Let cool and pack into jars; store in the refrigerator, or in the freezer.
10. Serve at room temperature.

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