There are a couple of great farms near us, my favorite of which is Ward’s Berry Farm. They have fantastic produce. They also have a store packed with fresh baked goods, specialty snacks and prepared foods. What I love most, though is their selection of pick-your-own offerings. Throughout the growing season they have strawberries, blueberries, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, peaches, potatoes and pumpkins (yes, I’ve picked them all).
Last Saturday I visited WBF and picked three quarts of cherry tomatoes. The seemingly endless rows of plants were overflowing and the varieties were impressive – we’re not just talking your run of the mill grape tomato. They had the good stuff – sweet Sun Sugars, scarlet red Supersweet 100’s and the high-coveted striped Pink Bumblebees. It was a beautiful day and the little fruits looked like shiny gumballs. What I really enjoyed most was being surrounded by the incredible scent of the tomatoes. It’s hard to explain, but it’s unmistakable and I’m sure you know what I mean if you have your own garden. It’s a strong fragrance, but to me it’s synonymous with Summer and I love it – I wish I could turn it into a perfume or a candle.
We’ve spent all week enjoying these little red, yellow and pink delights – Grilled BLT sandwiches, All At Once Pasta, Peach Caprese Salad and Cherry Tomato-Vanilla Bean Preserves. This little concoction is a nice way to capture the last bit of Summer as we ease into Fall. The preserves pair perfectly with a soft, triple-cream cheese. I also think this would be a nice addition to a grilled cheese with some sharp cheddar and hearty multigrain bread.
Cherry Tomato-Vanilla Bean Preserves
Adapted from Saveur
1/3 cup sugar
2 pints assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
1 vanilla bean
Generous pinch of salt
2 – 3 sprigs of thyme
In a nonreactive bowl, combine the sugar and cherry tomatoes. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them to the tomato and sugar mixture along with the bean itself. Toss until the tomatoes are evenly coated with the sugar and vanilla. Cover and let macerate for 30 minutes until most of the sugar is dissolved and the tomatoes have released their juices. Pour the combined ingredients into a nonreactive pot and place over medium high heat. Add salt and thyme. Let mixture come up to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the tomatoes to reduce to about ¾ of its original volume, about 12 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming any foam off the top.
Let cool, remove sprigs of thyme and refrigerate.
Serve at room temperature with crackers and a triple-cream cheese, like Mt Tam from Cowgirl Creamery.