Have you ever made (or eaten) tomato jam? Before this summer, I’d never made it before, but I had tried a jar of a commercially-made version, and it was fantastic. Unfortunately it was also $12 for a small jar, so buying it regularly wasn’t going to happen. With a little googling, I discovered that it’s actually really easy to make yourself.
This summer I made a couple of batches with store-bought tomatoes, then I had tons of tomatoes from my garden, so I used a bunch of those to make another big batch. I used two different recipes: the New York Times’ quick, refrigerator jam version, and a canned version from Food in Jars (The recipe is online, but as a first-time canner, I recommend the Food in Jars book, which is cheaper from Powells.) The two recipes are nearly the same, though I like the New York Times version slightly more, I think because it has more depth of flavor, with more spices. But you could easily adjust the spices of the canned version, which is what I’ll do next time. And I want to try this quick version, too.
Steven and I became mildly addicted to this stuff, and then we ran out. And I was afraid that without fresh summer tomatoes, I would have to wait a year to make more. Which also meant waiting until next summer to share it here on the blog. As an experiment, a couple of weeks ago I bought some ripe-looking Roma tomatoes and made up a batch. Yep, still just as good. So while in-season summer tomatoes are best, if you can find some reasonable Romas at your local grocery store, you can still make this. And you should. Because it’s surprisingly versatile.
You can eat it on crackers, alone or with cheese, which is how we do most of the time. It’s perfect as part of a cheese and cracker appetizer plate, or as a hostess gift. Steven eats it with tortilla chips, like salsa. My sister said it was good on a breakfast egg sandwich, and I’ve had it on an English muffin with fake sausage and cheese. But the absolute best use I’ve found so far is on fancy grilled cheese. A quick overview of how we make our grilled cheese follows the recipe.
(recipe from here)
1 ½ pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.
Get some nice bakery bread (I used ciabatta), and cut some slices. Butter them on the outside, and slather with tomato jam on the inside. Add slices of mozzarella or cheddar cheese and whole basil leaves (I used some cinnamon basil from my garden, but I suspect they don’t sell that in stores). Spread some leftover ricotta in there, if you happen to have it. Heat in a skillet over medium heat until the bread is browned and crisp and the cheese is melted.
Add tomato soup, and enjoy.