Preserving Summer — Tomato Jam

Sweet Tomato Jam

How on earth is it the end of August? Labor Day is just around the corner, but I still have so much summer to get in! We haven’t gone to the beach, or made s’mores, or even gone to the Hollywood Bowl. And I need to get in several more hours being lazy in the hammock. I feel like I’m turning into one of those old people who is constantly exclaiming about how fast time passes, but it does. This summer has passed in the blink of an eye.

When I was a child, the summers stretched into infinity. I don’t know if it was that each summer was a greater proportion of my life, or if it was just that I had more time to slow down, visit the library, stretch out on the grass with a book, and let time stop.

Sweet Tomato Jam

The Nuni is in that childhood stretch of time passing slowly, and she so badly wants it to charge on, full speed ahead. In the past few weeks, the Nuni (who will turn four in less than a month) has adopted a new persona, and has told anyone who will listen that her name is Polish (as in making silver shine, not as in Pope John Paul II), and she is seven. Those two things are intertwined. Of course, it is moments like this that make me want to stop time, to preserve forever the moment when my daughter is on the cusp of childhood, and nothing sounds better than being seven.

Tomato Jam 2

I can’t stop time, but I can preserve the summer just a little, and capture some of my childhood summers at the same time. When I was a little girl, I would spend some of those infinite summers with my great grandmother, eating berries out of her garden, getting into her cookie jar (I can still remember where it was kept), and eating her homemade tomato jam. Not a chutney, or another version of ketchup, the way so many tomato preserves recipes are, but a tomato jam, brightened with lemon, with that musky tomato flavor and the pure sweetness of preserved summer. Perfect on toast, for that lazy summer breakfast, this really is summer in a jar.

Sweet Tomato Jam

Preserving Summer -- Tomato Jam
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 4.5 lbs ripe red tomatoes
  • 4.5 lbs granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons
  1. Using a sharp knife, score the bottoms of each tomato in a cross, then plunge the tomato into boiling water for about 20 seconds. Remove and let cool, and when cool enough to handle, peel and roughly chop the tomatoes over a large pot, to catch the juices. (This is not a neat process. You might want to wear an apron.) Discard the skins, and place the tomato chunks into the pot.
  2. Add the lemon juice to the pot, and add the lemon halves to the pot with the tomatoes. Heat the tomatoes over medium heat. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition, and waiting about 10 minutes in between each addition. Lightly crush the tomatoes, or use a hand blender to puree slightly, and let cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the jam begins to jell and the entire mixture is bubbling like a swamp, being careful not to let it burn. Remove the lemon halves.
  3. Ladle into hot canning jars with new lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  4. Makes approximately 2 pints.


13 comments to Preserving Summer — Tomato Jam

  • Another great looking recipe – i have never come across tomato jam – perfect way to preserve a load of tomatos from this years crop. We regularly use a tomato sauce maker for making tomato sauce from the tomatos, very lazy but it would work well with this recipe. Thanks

  • With all the tomatoes I have, this will be a perfect way to use them before they spoil. Haven’t used tomato jam for a while, thanks for the post.

  • What a great post–funny and full of little gems. And now I’m curious about tomato jam, which I had never given a thought before.

  • stacey

    hi i cant wait to give this recipe a go, could you add grated fresh ginger? just a thought

  • michele

    is the amount of sugar correct for this?? 4.5 pounds??

  • michele

    Thanks Kate, I just added another 4.5 pounds of sugar. I have doubled the recipe.

  • Marilyn

    Lost my recipe for tomato jam and yours is the closest I’ve found.. Just made a batch using less than half of the sugar and it still seems too sweet, but then I don’t use sugar like I used to so maybe my palate is off.. Thanks very much for your recipes.. I have subscribed to your facebook page.. MJ

  • Norma

    Hello I am looking at your recipe for Tomatoe Preserves. I am wanting to know can you use a sugar sub. for it instead of real sugar ,like Splenda Blend? I am a type 2 diabetic and I loved these while growing up as a kid and I would love to make some for myself and my family .
    Please respond to my e-mail and let me know please .Thank You .
    A Preserve Junky(lol)
    put in Subject line Tomatoe Preserve . will not check spam folder .

    • Kate

      I’m not an expert, but I have never seen a successful jam recipe that doesn’t use sugar, as it’s basically a sugar syrup. I imagine there are some recipes for a sugar free jam that use added pectin, and I suspect you could adapt one of them to make a tomato jam. This link may be a good starting point:

  • Tammy

    Hi – how long does it need to boil before it thickens? I have been boiling for quite some time and it is still thin. Thanks

    • Kate

      Hi Tammy – it takes quite some time – probably at least 30 minutes, sometimes more like 60 or more. A bigger batch will take longer to thicken. Are you keeping some cold water to test the stage or using a thermometer? Remember, it will thicken more as it cools, but it should be forming bubbles that have some whomp to them.

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