Friday, August 3, 2012

Tomato Jam: A Love Story

Once upon a time, all throughout the land, people made tomato jam.  In heavy pots, chunks of tomatoes would simmer in sugar and spices until they were cooked down into garnet-colored jam.  The evocative scent of cinnamon, clove and garlic would linger in the kitchen long after the jam was carefully sealed into little glass jars. 

Then one day, Mr. Heinz began to mass-produce tomato jam.  Conveyor belts pushed out bottle after bottle.  As the years passed, the quality of the product declined.  Instead of a sticky, spicy jam, the bottles held a disgusting, pasty sauce. People began to forget about making their own tomato jam.  As their lives became more hectic, they became more apathetic and willing to eat the horrific stuff we call ketchup.*

But this story isn't over, Friends.  We can take back the joy of real tomato jam and stop eating ketchup!**

* I'm pretty sure none of this is true.

**This part is true.

Saturday, Matthew came in from the garden with a bowl full of tomatoes.  Their cracked sides showed the wear and tear of our relentlessly hot summer.  I didn't want them to go to waste, so I pulled out two recipes for tomato jam I've been eyeing for almost a year.  It was incredibly easy.  The only difficult parts are 1. stirring it regularly and 2. not eating it all right away. 

I've mentioned before that I loath ketchup.  Well, I at least feel about ketchup the way I feel about the common cold: I wonder at it's very existence and purpose.  Not surprisingly, tomato jam tastes similarly to ketchup (tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices sound familiar?).  But I delight in the richness of it, the surprise of the cinnamon and clove, and the sheer stickiness of it.  So far, I haven't stopped subjecting my food to its influence.  Very much the way my little sister used to add ketchup to everything.

I've spread it on toast and topped it with a fried egg and shaved Parmesan.  I stirred it into a little mayonnaise and put it on my roast beef sandwich.  And I put it where it most deserves to be: on a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon.  Really.  It's amazing.

Luisa at The Wednesday Chef posted recipes for both Mark Bittman's Tomato Jam and Niloufer Ichaporia King's Parsi Tomato Chutney.  I adapted them to fit what I had on hand already and it did not chutney - it jammed.  If you try either of the original recipes in their unadulterated form, please let me know how it turns out!  In the meantime, I'm pretty pleased with my results.

Tomato Jam
adapted by me from the recipes above; makes 1/2 pint of jam

1 1/2 lb tomatoes (something with a thin skin will work better than thick-skinned tomato)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon powdered ginger (or be greater than I, and use a tablespoon of fresh!)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon salt
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar

Combine all the ingredients in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat stirring regularly until it has the consistency of jam (that was 45 minutes for me).  Enjoy with everything.


  1. I have an abhorrence for ketchup that surpasses many things...and no one in my family really cares for tomatoes, but my sister's boyfriend planted tomatoes in our garden this year...and being as that everyone else loves ketchup, perhaps we should try this! I had never heard of tomato jam. Thanks for sharing! :)

    1. If you make it, let me know what you think!

  2. The only kind of tomato jam I have heard of is a "Fake" Raspberry Jam that you make with tomatoes and raspberry jello. I think your tomato jam would work well in the microwave and you wouldn't have to stand over the stove stirring for so long. I've been making batch after batch of fig jam in the microwave the last couple of weeks to utilize a bumper crop of figs. Here is link to the recipe which describes the method:


    1. Ok, now I'm intriqued. I have to try that! I stirred the tomato jam every five monutes or so, but even that was almost too much for my attempts at multi-tasking. Thank you so much for the tip! I'll be sure to post how it goes.

  3. I now feel a bit ashamed to admit it, but I DO so love ketchup. Hoping though to rise to greater heights of tomato-y condiment glory, I whipped up a recipe of your tomato jam. It is lovely, and after sharing it with my mom and a couple of my sisters today, the jam seems to have caused quite the positive stir. I am hoping to make another recipe of it soon. I think I might brush it on grilled chicken or spread a think layer on a hamburger. Lots of possibilities. Thank you, Elizabeth!

    1. Most people do love ketchup - I'm just weird. I'm so glad you liked the jam! We ran out, and M told me he wants more. Guess I'm going to make another batch. I LOVE the idea of putting it on grilled chicken. I never even considered that. Thanks for the suggestion! P.S. I really am going to e-mail you back!


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