I love gardening … flowers, vegetables, it doesn’t matter. So after returning from a two-week trip to England, I was anxious to see how my vegetable garden had faired without my constant attention. Because it was the middle of September and I knew the veggies, especially tomatoes, would be ripening on the vine, I told friends and family to just ‘help themselves’. Of course, no one did, so when we returned the garden was bursting. Yikes!
It took not one, but three trips with a basket from the kitchen to the garden, to pick all the beautifully ripe, red, sweet tomatoes. The first thing I did, of course, was to put as many into the freezer as there was room for. (Yes, I freeze tomatoes. All summer, I had been stocking the freezer with all sorts of tomato-based soups, stews and salsas.) The next thing was to look online for inspiration … something completely different using these luscious fruits … something I hadn’t made before.
Tomato Jam! The “world wide web” had done it again! Tomato Jam it was going to be. I narrowed it down to three of what appeared to be, from the reviews, reasonably successful recipes on three reasonably successful websites. Before trying any recipe from any website, I always check out the reviews. Most of the reviews are merely comments from people saying “how good that looks”, or “I can’t wait to try this” yet never having made it. Or, “this was delicious after I added ‘this, that or the other’ and ‘cooked it for'”. So, it can be a bit frustrating and does take a bit of sifting through each review to find those who actually have made the ‘original’ recipe.
The first recipe said 1 cup sugar to 1-1/2 lbs. of tomatoes. Seems like a lot of sugar to me. The second recipe said 1-1/2 cups sugar to 2 lbs. of tomatoes. Same ratio. The third recipe said 3/4 cup sugar to 4 lbs. of tomatoes. Okay, now I’m interested. They all said chop the tomatoes, put them into a heavy saucepan and then add lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, freshly grated ginger and salt. At least they agreed on something.
Again, the first recipe said to bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour and 15 minutes until thick and jam-like. The second recipe said the same except after an hour the jam should be ready. The third recipe stated it takes two to three hours for the fruit to break down and become thickened. This is beginning to sound like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. All the recipes did agree, however, that the jam would be sweet, spicy and delicious … a wonderful spread on sandwiches, with cream cheese and crackers, as a condiment or dip.
I started with 10 lbs. of tomatoes, washed, hulled, and cut up. Put the chopped tomatoes into my Le Creuset stock pot (love that pot), added the lemon juice, grated ginger, cinnamon, cloves and one cup of brown sugar and one cup of white sugar (more tomatoes, less sugar per pound was my thinking). Because we like a bit of spice, I added a heaping teaspoon of red chili flakes. I then brought the mixture up to a boil, reduced the heat to a sputtering simmer and waited.
Feeling quite confident, I made a cuppa tea and relaxed in front of the telly. An hour later, I check on the pot. It’s soup. Huh? Okay, it’s obvious that because I used more tomatoes, it’s going to take a bit longer. An hour later, it’s still soup. It has reduced down, but it’s still soup. Patience is not one of my strong points. An hour later (now three hours into this, I chop up an apple, thinking the pectin from the apple is going to help with the thickening. Another hour goes by. No thickening! I’m getting annoyed … take out my immersion blender and start pulverizing. The time is now 10 pm and I’m tired, but I’m not about to give up. Go to the cupboard and get powdered pectin. Add two heaping tablespoons, mix everything together, cover the pot, turn off the heat and go to bed.
Next morning, I check. Still soupy, but better. Back on the heat it goes. Another hour goes by and it’s beginning to thicken. By hour no. six, I’m done with this. Off goes the heat, I let it cool, taste it for seasoning … and it’s surprisingly good. Spicy and sweet, but not overpoweringly so. Jam? Not really. I pour it into individual plastic containers, cover, label and put them into the refrigerator.
That evening I take one container out and, yes, it’s finally thick, rich, sweet, spicy Tomato Jam! Hooray! What the problem was, I will probably never know. Were my tomatoes too juicy? Should I have removed the seed pods? Did the other recipes intentionally mislead readers? As for now, Tomato Jam is on the table and we’re going to enjoy it tonight as a spread on our leftover pot roast with goat cheese, arugula and sauteed onion sandwiches.
If you want to try your hand at making Tomato Jam, here’s MY recipe!! And take it from me, start in the morning. Good luck!
Length of time …? How much will it make …?
10 lbs. of good quality, fully ripened tomatoes – hulled, chopped, with seed pods removed
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
Juice from one large lemon
1 tablespoon minced/grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more to taste)
1 large apple, chopped
powdered pectin, if needed
In a large stock pot, add all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until thick and ‘jam-like’. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon and there should be no separation. Taste and season according to your likes. This could take anywhere from two to six hours depending upon the level of liquid from your tomatoes. If necessary, mash with your potato masher or get out the immersion blender and blend the pulp. When ready, pour into individual jars or plastic containers. Will keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks. To keep longer, freeze or can.