As per usual, the end of summer drifted by under my nose, and is now gone, leaving only the lingering memory of hot days and cold swims. I spent my last two weeks of August in Cushing Maine, with the family of my best friend Katherine. Maine in summer is a dream destination, and the Nyce family have every farm shop, cafe, and restaurant worth visiting within a 20 mile radius mapped out.
We spent most days eating and then planning the next meal and it was difficult not to overdue it because of the embarrassment of late summer produce that was rolling in. My love affair with tomatoes continued, and I decided that it was finally time to try a recipe that I had originally seen last summer at Wright's Food Emporium in Carmarthen Wales, tomato confit.
A confit is when you gently immerse some kind of food in fat and slowly simmer it over several hours. The most well-known version is duck confit, but recently there's been a trend to confit vegetables and fruits, and I think it's a triumph.
In the case of tomatoes, especially ones picked at the height of the season, it's the perfect way to bottle the intense tomato flavor. You can make these tomatoes, jar them up, covered in the oil they were simmered in, and then store in the fridge or freezer until deepest February.
Even for tomatoes, you want to be able to leave your confit in the oven for a long time. In the case of this batch, it was 2.5hrs on 275F heat. I used a range of sizes and colors, which looked beautiful, but were a real pain to peel. Next time I think I would stick to a larger size of tomato, but in as many colors as I can find.
Once the tomatoes were done (confited?), I made a glorious panzanella, but these tomatoes could be tossed in pesto pasta or orzo salads, be served as a side to a grilled steak or roast, or just mash them on a piece of garlic toast and sprinkle liberally with basil.
1-2 lbs of assorted fresh tomatoes
- 6-9 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
- 2-3 cups of good quality olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 275F, 140C. Put a pot of salty water on to boil. Cut an X in every tomato. Dunk tomatoes in the salty water for 30 seconds. Scoop out and place in a bowl of very cold ice-water. Drain and peel off the skins.
Arrange tomatoes in a casserole dish that can fit them all snugly. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt. and poke in the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Pour the olive oil over the tomatoes until it comes almost to the top of the tallest tomatoes.
Cover the tomatoes with a parchment lid cut to fit the top of the casserole dish or a foil lid. Slide into the oven and bake for 2.5 - 3 hours. Take the lid off the tomatoes for the last 30 minutes.
Let cool and then transfer tomatoes to boiled jars, cover the tomatoes completely in the oil from the pan and add more if you need more. Stir out the air bubbles and screw on air tight lids. You could also use tupperware and store the tomatoes in the freezer.