Tomato jam?  Really?

When I first heard of it, I didn’t know what to expect.  Yes, tomato is a fruit and therefore is in the realm of possibilities for jam.  But is it savory or sweet?  How do you eat it?  Tomato jam intrigued me, but didn’t know if I’d ever make it.  Since I don’t often get tomatoes for free (dad’s plants have a small yield – and they often end up on his plate instead of on my stove), I wrote off tomato jam as something I’d probably never make.

However, when I read Marisa of Food in Jars’s challenge to make up your own small batch jam recipe for Sustainable Eat’s Urban Farm Handbook challenge, I knew immediately that this was my chance to try tomato jam.

I had a little under two pounds of tomatoes sitting on my counter that were about to go bad.  I also had some basil that was near the end of its life.  Inspiration struck – Caprese Jam, a riff on Caprese Salad.  So I followed Marisa’s instructions on the ratio for fruit to sugar, adding the requisite amount of lemon juice to balance the relatively low acidity of the tomatoes.  I added some chopped basil, and balsamic vinegar.  And as an afterthought, a grind or two of black pepper.

As it started cooking, it looked and smelled like tomato sauce.  This made me a little skeptical.

However, after about 20 minutes, it had cooked down and started caramelizing.  I turned off the stove just in the nick of time – I think any longer and it would have burned.

The result is a really complex jam.  It tastes like there’s a lot more in it than the relatively few ingredients.  On the front end it tastes almost plummy, and then you get the taste of tomatoes – but sun-dried and caramel-y.  Then there’s a hint of spice from the balsamic vinegar and black pepper.

I think it will be delicious with any number of cheeses (cheddar, goat, brie) or on a sandwich (roasted veggie, or grilled cheese).  I even think it would be good on vanilla ice cream, or on a sweet cornbread.  The only problem with a small batch recipe, is that it only yields a small batch!  This jam is so good but it only made a precious two jars (I made it again within a week with a second gift of dad’s tomatoes).

If you have some extra tomatoes lying around, I highly recommend giving this a try.

FYI it’s generally a no-no to create your own canning recipes.  You should follow a trusted recipe to make sure there’s enough acidity to prevent spoilage and botulism – you don’t want to be THAT person who killed people with their jam.  While I’ve been kind of freaked out to create my own recipes (this was a first), Marisa relieved the pressure by giving the proportions to create your own recipe safely.

Caprese Jam Recipe

A complex jam compared to its relatively few ingredients. Like sweet caramelized sun dried tomatoes with a hint of spice and grassy basil. Serve with any number of cheeses (cheddar, goat, brie) or on a sandwich (roasted veggie, or grilled cheese). I even think it would be good on vanilla ice cream, or on a sweet cornbread.

This recipe yields a little more than 2 half pints. Enjoy the leftovers and can the two full jars.

Yield: 2 half pints

4 cups chopped tomato (skin and seeds in tact)

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoon bottled lemon juice

1.5 tablespoon chopped basil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

A few grinds of black pepper


Prepare jars for water bath canning.

Combine all ingredients except the basil into a large, non-reactive pot.  Bring to a boil, and then let simmer stirring occasionally at first (and then more frequently as it cooks) for 20 to 30 minutes.  The jam will turn a dark maroon hue and the liquid will begin to thicken when the jam is ready.  Turn off the heat and stir in the basil.

Ladle into hot, prepared jars, and process for 10 minutes.

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