Tomato jam, for all occasions

Not pickles, not relish, not exactly jam—this wonderful recipe can be used in a variety of ways...

Credit: iStock / toulouse_lulu

Not pickles, not relish, not exactly jam—an old friend named Leslie Peterson gave me this recipe. She’s someone who calls them “Tom-AH-toes,” by the way.

My long-time pal Diane Beveridge loves this tomato jam with poached eggs. It’s good with eggs in any form. Not being an egg fan, I smear it on sourdough bread, add a bit of mayo and white cheddar for grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s great on its own or mixed half and half with mayonnaise to accompany cold chicken or turkey, fish, meats or meatloaf. Yummy on crackers with cream cheese, too—especially rye triscuits. The flavour is off-dry in wine lingo—not as sweet as regular jam.

Cooking time really depends on the juiciness of the variety of tomatoes you are using to make the jam. It’s a lot easier if you use big tomatoes—especially the skinning part. ☺

If you go to the trouble of seeding the tomatoes (removing seeds and juice), boiling time will be less.


7 lbs. (3.2 kg) tomatoes, skins off
2 cups (500 ml) white vinegar
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) salt
Handful of mixed pickling spices in cheesecloth bag – throw in a cinnamon stick if you have one
6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar

To skin tomatoes:

Using a small sharp knife, remove small core end and make a few long, shallow cuts in each. Place in a large bowl, cover with rapidly boiling water. Leave 30 seconds, then drain and put the tomatoes into a bowl of very cold water. The skins should slip off easily. This sounds complicated but it’s easy! Do not be afraid of this step. You can omit it but the jam will not be as luxurious.

To make tomato jam:

1.    Combine first four ingredients in a large heavy pot (not aluminum). Bring to boil, lower heat to a slow bubble. Cook for one hour, stirring with a wooden spoon frequently. Remove bag of spices & cinnamon stick.
2.    Add the sugar and simmer until quite thick—usually about 30 minutes. 
3.    Meanwhile, prepare jars by washing, then sterilizing. (I do this by putting about an inch of water in the jars, then processing on high in the microwave for about 5-8 minutes depending on the amount of jars. When the water has boiled for at least a minute, that’s enough.)
4.    Fill jars with jam, wipe edges, then cap.
5.    No processing is required if you use the jam within a year.
6.    When storing and after the caps have sealed properly remember to remove the screw band. Leaving them on can trap a bit of condensation underneath which can make the screw bands rust.
7.    This recipe makes about a dozen 8-ounce (250 ml) jars, but you can cut in half if you don’t feel like dealing with so many tomatoes at once. The jam looks beautiful in the jars and is especially nice if you cover it with a little piece of colourful cloth (you may have a drawerful, like me?) and tied with raffia, string or ribbon.