5 min read

Stone Soup #18: In a Jam - Tomato Jam

Tomater? I hardly know 'er!

Stone Soup is an ongoing quarantine feature in which I come up with a recipe that uses the impossible thing in your cupboard, without making you go to the store or wasting any of your ingredients. Last time, we made a variety of frozen desserts.

Ann says:

So I had thought I'd been able to manage the quarantine, until now:

Local producers have been having a hard time with their product, given the current restrictions. So in an effort to help, I thought it'd be a great idea to buy a whooping 30 pounds of tomatoes (I went ahead and googled them, they are specifically "Red Beefsteak Tomato" variety).

It didn't sound like a terrible idea. I made salad! The weather is warm so I made gazpacho! I even went ahead and made a fancy tomato gallette! I was running out of ideas so I made red sauce (loosely based on your own recipe, went full crazy and even added saffron)! But I've hit a wall. I still have ~10 pounds left and I don't know what else can I do now. Help!

When I first saw the prompt “30 pounds of tomatoes,” I was like no problem. You can make soups and tarts and sauces for days! But then I saw that Ann had already made a soup… and a tart… and sauce.

Well, fuck.

But then I remembered that you can use tomatoes to make something unbelievably simple, breathtakingly delicious, and marvelously versatile. Set your palate to tomato, Ann, and let’s make some

Tomato Jam

Stop, don’t go, hear me out!! I promise tomato jam is a thing, and I promise that if you like tomatoes, you’ll fucking love it. No, it doesn’t taste like ketchup or pasta sauce. It’s kind of its own thing. You can make it more sweet or more savory, but no matter what you do, you’re going to wind up with an intense tomato-flavor that you’ll want to spread onto bread, pair with goat cheese or meat or fruit, use on sandwiches, or just rabidly consume with your hands because no one is around to see the state of your id.

Okay, here goes. Tomato Jam. Let’s try it out.

Step One: Make them a-peel-ing. Since these are beefsteak tomatoes, they’ll have thick, tough skins. You don’t want those in your jam, so peel them. This is easier than you fear:

  • Fill up a big pot with water and bring it to a boil. Fill up a big bowl with icewater and set it aside.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut an X in the bottom of each tomato.
  • Drop your X-matos into the boiling water for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and drop them into the icebath.
  • Shazam, the peels will slide right off! You are like unto a golden god.

If you’re working with roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or some other kind of wee tiny snacking ‘mato, the skins are probably thin and tender, so you can skip this step.

Step Two: Get in the chopper. Chop everything up. For bigger tomatoes, remove the cores. Lots of people will tell you to remove the seeds, too, which I’ve literally never had the patience to do. I probably shouldn’t tell you not to bother, but who am I to guide you down the path of righteousness? Follow your conscience. Nobody will know what you choose.

Anyway. Discard your peels and your cores, and then use a sharp object to turn your tomatoes into 1” tomato-pieces. This recipe is for 5 cups worth of tomato pieces, but it should scale up or down just fine.

Step Three: Gather your ingredients. Okay, here’s where you have some choices to make. Since Ann has a zillion tomatoes to go through, I’m going to recommend that she makes a few separate batches of jam with different flavor profiles. Here’s what you can add to your tomato jam besides tomatoes:

  • Sweet tomato jam: Oil, salt, pepper; cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg; the juice of 1 orange + 1 tbsp orange zest; ginger (preferably fresh grated, but dried is okay too); .75C brown sugar; .25C apple cider vinegar
  • Savory tomato jam: Oil, salt, pepper; 6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated/chopped fine; half a red onion, diced small; fresh rosemary OR fresh sage, chopped small; olive oil, several good glugs.
  • Fancy tomato jam: Oil, salt, pepper; 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated/chopped fine; .25C balsamic vinegar; .25C good red wine; 1 tbsp lemon zest; fennel seeds, black pepper
  • Spicy tomato jam: Oil, salt, pepper; half a red onion, diced small; 6 cloves fresh garlic, whole; fresh rosemary, chopped up small; paprika; red pepper flakes.*
    *This is going to simmer for a long time, so you can expect those red pepper flakes to infuse a decent amount of warmth into the jam. That said, if you like things spicier or if you want a more complex flavor from the pepper situation, do whatever suits you best. I personally really like the mellow smokiness of ancho chiles, which you can buy dried for cheap. If you want a spicy tomato jam, maybe use fresh habaneros or scotch bonnets. If you want a SPICY tomato jam, consider the ghost pepper. If you don’t fear death, get your hands on some prik kee noo suan peppers (those are the fucking terrifying ones that are in Thai food).

You can do things other than these combinations! Go where your palate (and pantry) send you. Tomatoes have enough sugar and pectin that you can make jam from them all by themselves if you really want to, with just a little oil, salt and pepper. But like… why would you do that? Your brain is a bored animal and you have the opportunity to deliver it some enrichment. Embrace flavor.

Step Four: Pot time. Put all your ingredients into a big heavy cooking vessel and stir to combine. You can use a dutch oven or casserole dish and put your goop into a 325°F oven, or you can leave it in a big pot on the stove over low heat. Either way, you want low heat for a long time. Stir occasionally, preferably with a silicone spatula that will let you scrape the sides and bottom of your cooking vessel, for about 2.5-3 hours. You’ll know it’s done when you can scoop it away from the bottom of the pan and it doesn’t immediately flood back in to fill the space.

That’s it! You did it, you made tomato jam! It’ll keep in the fridge for, like, a week and a half, and it’ll freeze up just fine.

Now, seriously, you can use this on like… everything. Pull out the phyllo cups that have been in your freezer forever, bake them up, and fill them with sweet tomato jam and brie. Pile up a piece of toasted baguette with fancy tomato jam and anchovy slices. Cook a jammy egg and serve it on top of hashbrowns with spicy tomato jam spooned over the top. Fill the crater left behind by an avocado pit with savory tomato jam, then eat the whole thing with a spoon. You are a force of nature. No tomato can defeat you.

Update! Over the summer I started using this as a way to preserve the endless tomatoes from my garden and it is phenomenal. I made that jam with just tomatoes oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. The result is an incredibly bright summery flavor that I'm enjoying now, in The Gloom Months. Try it if you have too many tomatoes in your garden!

Just the recipe:

Tomato Jam

  • Peel, core, and chop up some big ol’ tomatoes (ideally you’ll wind up with 5 cups of tomato bits). If you’re using smaller tomatoes, don’t worry about peeling and coring.
  • Put the tomatoes into a big pot with oil, salt, pepper, and Some Ingredients that make your tongue and/or nose go “nice”.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2.5-3 hours, until it’s jam.