This time of year always seems like it’s in the midst of an identity crisis: it’s 80 degrees and sunny, then it’s 50 and rainy and dark; strawberries are still at the market, right next to winter squash, apples, and pears; I’m running a fan during the day and curling under a blanket at night.
But sooner rather than later this identity will resolve itself into full-on fall. Leaves will be more red and orange than green, the skies will change from nearly neon blue to a subdued blue-grey and shadows will stretch longer as the angle of the sun shifts lower, roasting and braising and stewing will fully take the place of grilling.
Before that happens, I’ll enjoy the balance between these two seasons, tastes of fall alternating with tastes of summer, a night of burgers on the grill with a side of oven-roasted root vegetables.
This particular recipe represents that balance perfectly to me–the sweetest of summer tomatoes cooked down until thick and jammy; flavors brightened by lemon and basil, but with a decidedly savory bent and with an eye towards preserving it for a time when flavorful tomatoes are impossible to come by.
2 pounds (around 6 cups before slicing) sweet, yellow cherry tomatoes like Sungolds or Sunsugars
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons basil, lemon basil if available
Slice tomatoes in half and toss with the sugar in a large bowl; let rest for about an hour or so until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the tomatoes have given off their juices.
Heat a pan over medium heat and add tomatoes and the accumulated juices among with the lemon juice. (If you plan to preserve the jam, begin preparing your jars and hot water setup now.) Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 35 minutes until darkened slightly and thickened (plop a little bit on a cold plate and let it set for a minute, it should be just thick enough to draw your finger through and not immediately run back together).
Remove from the heat and add half of the lemon zest and all of the basil. Stir, taste, and add additional lemon zest if desired. Pour into jars and either keep in the fridge for a few weeks or proceed with canning, processing in boiling water for 10 minutes.