In February I went to my first ever BK Swapper event. My jams, jellies and caramel sauce traded well for a bounty of goods but what I remember most was the tomato jam. Sweet, sticky, with a bit of heat to round things out, it made ketchup seem so bland and basic. It took a few months for me to open the jar, but once I did it was gone in a matter of weeks. Never have I gone through a condiment so quickly. It went on everything from burgers to toast to grilled chicken. I’ve never been good with names or faces so I had no idea who made this delicious jam. I searched the BK Swappers Facebook page for clues but nothing. With much despair, I realized if I ever wanted to enjoy this yummy jam again, I’d need to make it myself.
I wasn’t looking forward to the lengthy process. As a general rule, I try to stay away from things that need to be watched or babysit for hours. When I attempted apple and cranberry butters last fall, I used my crockpot making the process a bit less cumbersome, but still pretty long. Tomato jam must cook down for hours (4-5 to be exact) until it reduces by at least 3/4s and becomes a sticky gooey mess. On top of that, you have to be responsible enough to stir the jam every 15-20 minutes to make sure it doesn’t scorch the bottom of your pot. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.
It was a bit of a predicament. After putting up about 40 pounds of tomatoes in sauce and chopped forms, I wasn’t too excited to tackle the jam, but I had no options. My friend in Baltimore had no intentions of making any due to the poor crops down there this year and the fact that she’s pregnant (apparently you’re supposed to take it easy). In fact, she wanted me to make some for her! Although in trade she did promise some corn salsa, something I missed out on this year due to New York’s iffy harvest. If I wanted tomato jam (and corn salsa) I was on my own.
As usual Food in Jars was one of my first sources. Marisa’s tomato jam seemed to fit the bill, with a little less sugar, and little more spice and ground ginger instead of fresh (I was feeling lazy). I was pretty excited to read the cook time was 1 1/2 to 2 hours; much less excited when it took me closer to 5 hours. Maybe because I doubled it? Either way, in the end it was worth it for 7 jars of heaven. I was so inspired I even went on to make a balsamic version, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.
Spicy Tomato Jam (Adapted from Food in Jars) Makes 7 cups
- 10 lbs tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
- 5 c sugar
- 1 c fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
Combine all, bring to a boil. Simmer and let reduce by at least half, stirring regularly to prevent the pot from scalding. Puree the mixture a little with an immersion blender; you still want it to be a bit chunky. Continue simmering until it reduces by half again and becomes a sticky jammy mess.
When jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove pot from heat and ladle into hot, sterile half-pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.