This is the time of year I hold in deep anticipation through the fall, winter, spring, and early summer – the season where red, ripe, just-picked off-the-vine tomatoes show up by the boxes and baskets at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and even in cardboard boxes on upturned milk crates as hastily created “displays” at the end of someone’s driveway who is selling the bountiful crop of tomatoes from their own garden.
I’ve been known to buy a couple lovely tomatoes and a couple ears of picked-that-day Silver Queen corn from a local farm stand and come home and cook an ear of fresh corn and slice up a tomato having only those two items for my dinner! I love fried red tomatoes , too, and sometimes those would appear solo on my dinner plate.
“Back in the day” when I was a kid in the ’60’s and ’70’s my Pop used to plant tomatoes in a well-used little strip of land in our side yard that he fed with kitchen scraps throughout the winter. But he really only planted enough to satisfy the needs of my immediate family. My Nana (grandmother) would always can chow chow and other veggies, so she often raided our garden at the end of the season to find useful stragglers among the yellowing leaves of the plants there.
Nana’s need for “extras” in her canning fervor usually meant supplementing our garden with baskets of veggies bought from a farmer in Valley View, Pa. every year. We were such good customers, he would hold bushel baskets of beets, cucumbers, and tomatoes for us to pick up after the roadside stand closed for the day.
Often, Nana wound up with some unused tomatoes after making her chili sauce (I will share the recipe soon, I promise…) and the “coalcracker” in her would not let perfectly good food go to waste (I inherited that gene) so she was always looking for a small batch of something yummy to create to “put things to good use”.
Spicy Tomato Jam was the perfect answer. This sweet, tomato-y jam is excellent on cream cheese and crackers, spooned over hot dogs, even as a topping on meatloaf. It is one of those recipes that makes a small batch, but is well worth the effort.
Tomatoes are high in pectin, more than some fruit. Many traditional tomato and jam recipes call for cooking the fruit mixture until it sufficiently thickens — which, for tomato jam can be somewhere in the range of two to two and a half hours! My physical limitations as of late mean I can no longer stand around babysitting a simmering pot of anything for two and a half hours. However, this recipe uses powdered pectin and suits me perfectly. (Powdered pectin is available in many grocery stores or you can buy it online through Amazon.)
If you don’t want a spiced version of this jam, the recipe is adaptable by simply leaving out the allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. This recipe makes approximately five half pint (8 ounce) jars. Make sure to use fully ripe, unblemished tomatoes in this recipe. The tomatoes used can be slicing tomatoes or plum (Roma) tomatoes. If the tomatoes are particularly “juicy”, I sometimes pull out the seed pocket with the tip of my index finger and discard this. The choice is up to you.
Safely Preserving Food At Home
Be sure to follow proper procedures for water bath canning.
Spiced Tomato JamCourse: AppetizersCuisine: Pa. DutchDifficulty: Intermediate
Makes about 5 half pint jars.
3 cups prepared tomatoes (prepare about 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes, see directions)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin
1/2 teaspoon butter
- Prepare Canning Jars
- Bring hot water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
- To Prepare Tomatoes
- Use firm ripe tomatoes. Scald, peel, and chop tomatoes. (I lightly squeeze out most of the seeds and “watery” gel in the seed pockets before chopping and discard these, but you do not have to. I feel it helps produce a thicker finished jam). Place chopped tomatoes in saucepan and heat slowly to simmering, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Making The Jam
- Measure exactly 3 cups of the cooked tomatoes into a large saucepan. Add lemon zest, allspice, cinnamon and cloves.
- Add lemon juice to the tomatoes in the saucepan.
- Measure sugar and set aside.
- Stir powdered pectin into prepared tomatoes. Add butter (to reduce foaming). Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. At once, stir in sugar. Stir and bring back to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat. Skim off foam with a metal spoon.
- Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space.
- Wipe jar rims and threads; adjust two-piece metal canning lids; tighten bands.
- Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes adjusting time as necessary for your altitude.
- Remove from canner, place on towel to cool, check seals.
- Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and use first.
- At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet-increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet-increase processing time by 10 minutes; 6,001 to 8,000 feet-increase processing time by 15 minutes.
- You may omit the allspice, cinnamon, and cloves if you desire for a non-spiced version of this tomato jam.