Archive | heirloom tomatoes

Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup: 3 Drink Recipes

Smoky Tomato Shrub Bloody Mary

Smoky Tomato Shrub Bloody Mary

Last year I smoked much of September’s heirloom tomato harvest, then froze them in freezer bags and used them in stews, sauces, and soups throughout the winter and spring.  This year I’m smoking the tomatoes again, but instead of freezing, I’m preserving them as “Shrub Syrups”  and using them in drinks, sauces, stews, etc., as well as selling them at the farmers’ markets.

Basic Explanation of a Shrub Syrup:

In case you’re new to this site, here’s a brief explanation of what a  “shrub syrup” is:  Basically it is a concentrated syrup made of fruit, sugar and vinegar.  There are various methods of extracting the juice from the fruit (i.e., cold shrubbing vs. hot shrubbing), and various ratios of fruit juice to sugar to vinegar.   I will explain the different methods for making shrub syrups in future videos, but one method is illustrated in this previous post:

(click here to see a previous post on making a blueberry shrub).

Popular Uses of a Shrub Syrup:

Although shrub syrups can be used as vinaigrettes, marinades and sauce additions, the original (and most common) way to use them is in drinks.  The fruit and sugar take the pungent edge off of the vinegar and the vinegar enhances the sweetness of the fruit syrup, resulting in a really refreshing drink.  Recently there has been a revival of shrub-based drinks, especially in the cocktail world.  Shrub syrups can take cocktails to new levels, adding depth and complexity to a drink, especially when bitters are added in.

For non-imbibers, the popularity of the sodastream as a replacement for sweet carbonated beverages (i.e., pop) is the perfect foil for shrub syrups.   No sodasteam?  Just add a few tablespoons of shrub syrups to any kind of fizzy water (club soda, sparkling water, tonic water, etc.) and you have a really nice way to get that much-needed water into your dehydrated body.  Make it as sweet as you want and control the calorie count yourself  instead of the soda companies controlling it for you.

Behind the Scenes at HeathGlen Farm with our Tomatoes

If you are interested in meeting the HeathGlen Team and seeing some of the ways we use heirloom tomatoes, watch the final video on this post (The Bloody Mary Video).  Skip to 1:00 if you just want the how-to.

Using the Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup in Cocktails:  3 Ways

The Smoky Tomato Martini

(See the 15-sec Video here)

In a shaker of ice, combine:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz tomato shrub syrup
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes plum bitters

Shake ingredients and strain into martini glass.  Garnish with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls.


The Smoky Tomato Daquiri

(Recipe only – click here to see video on youtube)

Tomato & Smoked Cherry Shrub Daiquiri

Tomato & Smoked Cherry Shrub Daiquiri

  • 1 oz. Citron vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Effen Black Cherry Vodka
  • 1/2 oz. Smoked Cherry Shrub Syrup
  • 1 oz  Tomato Shrub Syrup
  • 2 dashes cherry bitters
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

In a shaker of ice add all of the above ingredients, shake and strain into glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel.


The Smoky Tomato Bloody Mary (and a look at HeathGlen)

**Note:  The beginning of this video is a behind the scenes look at HeathGlen’s Farm.  If you want to go straight to the “how-to” on the Bloody Mary, skip to 1:00.

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Pork Ragu with Spaghetti Squash for Low Carb Keto Lifestyle

Recipes for a Low Carb Keto Lifestyle

The cooler temperatures of Fall seem to cry out for those robust, hearty flavors in our dishes, but this favorite season also begs for dishes that show off the autumnal color palate.  A hearty Italian ragu sauce coupled with golden buttery squash speaks to the robust flavor profile, as well as the visual yearning for the beautiful fall colors.  Ragus are typically combined with pasta, but the substitution of spaghetti squash for pasta makes this a perfect dish adapted to a Slow Carb, or Low Carb Keto lifestyle.

low carb keto lifestyle

pork ragu with spaghetti squash

Smoking Tomatoes:

Smoking Heirloom Tomatoes

Smoking Heirloom Tomatoes

I’ve been smoking my tomatoes in the Bradley Smoker that my husband gave me last year for my birthday.  Tomatoes are allowed on a low carb keto lifestyle, but smoking them just ups the flavor profile a bit.

After they are smoked I place them in a freezer bag and freeze them to use in sauces over the winter.  It is so wonderful to thaw out that bag and smell the rich aroma of smoked tomatoes.  They don’t seem to lose any of the smokiness in the freezing process.  This year I am also taking the smoked tomatoes and preserving them with sugar and vinegar as a “shrub syrup”.

See this post for more on how to use the Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup in cocktails.

The Ragu recipe below uses the smoked tomatoes straight from the freezer.  You can use regular canned or fresh tomatoes instead of course, and it is still wonderful.  If you want to add the smoky flavor without the smoked tomatoes, I would try adding a little smoked sea salt or even some liquid smoke.  It is a wonderful dish however, even without the smoke!


Pork Ragu & Spaghetti Squash for a Keto Lifestyle (a recipe)

Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped (and seeded) sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork or Italian sausage (I used a mix of sweet and hot Italian sausage)
  • 2 cups smoked tomatoes with juice (or 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (leave out if on slow carb diet)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt (optional: if using, decrease amount of kosher salt to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash


  1. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Either roast in 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes or cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes.  If roasting, brush the tops of the squash with a little oil so it doesn’t dry out.  If microwaving, I just turn the squash flesh-side-down on a plate and microwave for 10-12 minutes.  Click here for a more detailed way of cooking it in the microwave.  Either way, just cook until it is tender enough to easily stick a fork in it.  Leave it in the microwave or oven until ragu is done.
  2. While the squash is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook quickly (30 seconds).  Add the bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground pork.  If using Italian sausage, cut the casings open and spread out the sausage throughout the pan, chopping it with your spatula to break it up.  Cook until the pork is browned, about 5 minutes
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes (or smoked tomatoes), balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes (depending on how hungry you are)
  5. Scrape out the flesh of the spaghetti squash with a fork or spoon onto a plate (use a potholder to hold the squash if it is still hot).  Spoon the ragu sauce over the squash or serve the squash on the side with plenty of butter and salt and pepper.

I like to call this the Low Carb Hamburger Helper 🙂  It’s really quick and easy but much better than the Hamburger Helper I grew up on!  Perfect for the Quick and Easy weekdays of a low carb keto lifestyle.



Pre-Season “BLT” with Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam BLT

Tomato Jam BLT

It’s summer, but the heirloom tomatoes are just not quite ready yet and I’m craving a BLT.  Using a good Heirloom Tomato Jam for a spread was the ticket today for an awesome out-of-season BLT.  Made with a soft, doughy egg bread, some arugula, and thick crispy bacon, I satisfied the BLT craving and more.

The Tomato Jam:

Here in Minnesota we don’t usually get large ripe heirloom tomatoes until August.  Because heirloom tomatoes are one of my main crops at the farm, we had plenty to freeze last year and have been making them into jam all winter.

I also grow a range of hot peppers, and smoked a lot of the jalapenos last year, giving me a large supply of chipotles.  Once the peppers are smoked and dried, they last forever, and I have found many culinary uses for them over the winter and spring.  We also pulverize the dried chipotles in a coffee grinder and use a little in HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam, which gives it a delightful smoky kick.

I had a wonderful dinner last week at a restaurant in Minneapolis called Saffron and they used a bit of saffron (of course) in their tomato jam.  It was excellent, but I can’t grow saffron at the farm (unfortunately).  Home-smoked jalapenos, or chipotles, is something I  can grow and make however, and they add excellent flavor to a tomato jam.  Not better or worse than the saffron-infusion, but different.

Recipe for Pre-Season Tomato Jam “BLT”

Tomato Jam BLT - Deconstructed

Tomato Jam BLT – Deconstructed


  • 4 slices egg bread or brioche, (or your favorite bread)
  • 2-3 slices thick bacon
  • 1-2 Tbsp tomato jam
  • 4 large leaves fresh arugula
  • 1 tsp Hellmans mayonaise


  1. Get all your ingredients out so you can make the sandwich while the toast is still warm (mise en place).  Turn on your oven broiler.
  2. Generally you cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet over the stovetop, turning often, until it is as crispy as you like it.  I wanted to get the bacon to stay flat for the sandwich, so I cooked it in my Cuisinart Griddler, which has a top and bottom griddle plate similar to a panini-maker.  It worked like a charm, giving me flat but crispy bacon.  Drain the bacon on paper towels.
  3. Cut the crusts off of the bread and place the bread on a cookie sheet.  Place the cookie sheet under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is light brown toast.  Turn and toast the other side.
  4. Assemble the sandwich.  Place a bit of mayonaise on one side of the toast and the tomato jam on the other piece of toast.  Top the mayonaise with arugula and then the bacon.  Place the other piece of toast (tomato spread side down) on the bacon toast and you have an awesome out-of-season BLT

I’ve used HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam as the specialty spread, but you can use any good tomato jam that you can find.  Ours has a little bit of spice from our smoked jalapenos.  

Enjoy these till the real tomatoes come in!

Heirloom Tomato Tarte Tatin Recipe & Technique

Heirloom Tomato Tartin from HeathGlen

Heirloom Tomato Tartin from HeathGlen

After discovering that the sweet and umami flavors in a tomato jam are a winning combination, I wanted to use our heirloom tomatoes in something else that featured a sweet background to the tomatoes.  There were several recipes out there for a Tomato Tarte Tatin, and after reviewing several I realized this dish was not going to be quick and easy.  Bon Appetit included pictorial directions, which is the way I like to learn any truly new dish, so I went with their recipe.  I have made this twice now, once with great success and once not-so-much.  Here is Bon Appetit’s recipe for Tomato Tarte Tatin, modified to reflect what I learned from the failure.

This is truly a unique taste treat that will surprise and delight you.  The heirloom tomatoes cook in the caramel until tender, but they manage to retain their fresh tomato flavor at the same time.  Combine that with a sweet crunchy pastry crust and it is definitely my pastry of choice for the morning cup(s) of coffee!

Tomato Tarte Tatin

(slightly adapted from Bon Appetit)


  • 2 lbs. heirloom plum or roma tomatoes (I used Amish Paste but Opalka or San Marzano would work great also)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-oz package), thawed, corners cut to make very rough 9-10-inch round


  1. Peeling tomato skins

    Peeling tomato skins

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring large saucepan of water to boil.  Cut shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Add tomatoes to boiling water. Blanch tomatoes until skins begin to peel back (30-60 seconds).  Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to bowl of ice water to cool quickly.

  2. Place room temperature butter in 12-inch cast iron skillet and place on burner that is off, but still slightly warm from the boiling water for blanching tomatoes.  Let in slowly melt in pan while working with tomatoes.
  3. Coring and seeding tomatoes

    Coring and seeding tomatoes

    Peel tomato skins off.  Cut off end of tomato, slice in half lengthwise, and remove the hard white core if there is one.  Remove most of seeds with finger (I left some seeds in, as they are connected to the tasty tomato gel).

  4. Spread melted butter over bottom of skillet as evenly as possible and sprinkle 3/4 cups sugar over the butter.  Arrange tomato halves, rounded side down and close together, in concentric circles in skillet to fill completely.
  5. Place skillet over medium heat.  Cook until sugar and butter are reduced to thickly bubbling, deep amber syrup (about 1/4 inch deep in bottom of skillet), moving tomatoes occasionally (and gently) to prevent burning, about 25 minutes.  The first time I made this I loosened the tomatoes as they cooked and it came out beautifully.  The second time I just let them cook in the caramel and they stuck to the bottom when I inverted it and it was a mess (a tasty mess however).

    Caramelizing Tomatoes

    Caramelizing Tomatoes

  6. Remove skillet from heat and immediately drizzle vanilla over tomatoes.  Top with the pastry round.  Bon Appetit tells you to tuck in the edges of the pastry with a knife, but it worked much better for me when the pastry was just laid on top of the tomatoes with about 1/2 inch ring of caramel exposed around the pan.  When I tucked it in, the pastry puffed up and made a rounded tarte bottom rather than flat.  Cut 2 or 3 slits in the pastry also
  7. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until pastry is deep golden brown, about 24 minutes.
  8. Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes.  Cut around sides of skillet to loosen pastry. Place large platter over skillet and, using oven mitts as aid, hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert.  Allow tart to settle onto platter.  Hit bottom of skillet several times with end of knife to loosen the tart also.  Carefully lift off skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have become dislodged.
Heirloom Tomato Tartin from HeathGlen

Heirloom Tomato Tartin from HeathGlen

Serve tart warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy for dessert.  Enjoy in the morning with coffee.  Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes: Tomato Recipe Series 2012

Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Pine Nuts & Olives

Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Pine Nuts & Olives

Quinoa is an ancient grain that has recently regained popularity in the foodie world.  I had been hearing a lot about the health benefits of quinoa, but was also hearing accolades on its excellent nutty flavor profile.  Apparently it is still in a  “niche”, as it took me a while to find it in the local grocery stores.

As I was researching different ways to use some of the heirloom cherry tomato varieties we grow, I stumbled across this quinoa salad recipe on a blog called that looked like the perfect foil for the abundance of cherry tomatoes we have this time of year.  It was.  Jenna, the author of the eatliverun blog is a trained chef, freelance food writer and recipe developer.  This is her recipe, only slightly modified by me:

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Pine Nuts &  Olives


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 16 oz cherry tomatoes (heirloom cherries are great, but mix it up for color and flavor)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground if possible
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or, to taste)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped (she used walnuts)


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Spread the nuts out on a foil-lined sheet try and toast for 3-5 minutes, until golden. Remove and place toasted walnuts in a mixing bowl.
  3. Spray foil with cooking spray and place cherry tomatoes on top. Roast tomatoes for about 30 minutes, or until they have burst and charred.  Cool slightly and place the tomatoes in the same bowl with the walnuts.
  4. Combine the quinoa, vegetable broth and spices in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.
  5. Add the quinoa to the nuts and tomatoes and stir in the olives. Season with salt to taste.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

This kept its flavor well, even after refrigerating it with the tomatoes.

Enjoy!  Next up is some kind of  Tomato Pie.  Do you have any favorites for tomato tartin or tomato pies?  I’d love to hear from you on any of your favorite tomato recipes.  We have about one month left for the fresh tomatoes, and then it’s on to the dried Principe Borghese and the tomato chutney recipes!




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