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Guest Blog: Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars

Our first guest blog ever on The Joy Kitchen is by Marisa McClellan, who blogs at and who recently published a book by the same name. After following her blog for quite some time, then purchasing and using her book, I can safely say that Marisa's enthusiasm for and skill with all things canned and preserved is downright inspirational. The recipe below for tomato jam is no exception.

In the springtime, I approach food preservation with great care. I fuss over my jams, giving plenty of thought to size of my fruit dice and the length of time I allow for maceration. My pickles are packed into jars with great precision and accuracy. That time of year, I’m delighted to be anticipating the coming abundance.

Come August, my elevated aspirations are gone. I can to get it done, to get those bits of summer into their respective jars before the season is gone and I’m left with the potatoes, storage squash and kale of winter. And so my many acts of preservation become a bit frenzied and as easy as I can make them.

Because tomatoes only appear in volumes appropriate for preserving towards the end of summer, I always feel slightly fevered when prepping them for canning. The bulk of the tomatoes I do are simply peeled and packed into jars whole. I always save a few out for slow roasting and I try to make at least two batches of tomato jam every season.

Of all the things I make each year, the one I’d miss the most is that tomato jam. It’s not a recipe I invented. I didn’t find it sifting through one of my many preserving books. This version of tomato jam came into my life through my friend Amy. She’s an avid preserver and is one of the best home cooks I know. One year, she gave me a half pint of this jam and a week later, after I’d scraped every last drop from the jar, I went back to her to beg for the recipe. Thankfully, she was willing to share.

What makes this jam so terrific is that it tastes like high-class ketchup. The flavor profile is familiar, but better than any squirt bottle of Heinz I’ve ever encountered. I slather it on turkey burgers and dip wedges of oven-roasted sweet potatoes into it. You can serve it with a cheese platter, or just plop a jar on the picnic table to go with hot dogs. It’s versatile and delicious. In my book, you can’t ask much more of a preserve than that.

Amy's Tomato Jam
Makes 3 pints

5 pounds tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup bottled lime juice
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the jam, stirring regularly, until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. Toward the end of cooking, be vigilant about stirring, as it burns easily when it’s nearly finished. When it is done, it should look glossy and it shouldn’t be at all runny. This will take between 11/2 and 2 hours.

Once the jam is cooking, the vital work is done. This jam keeps for ages in the refrigerator, so you can funnel it into jars, let it cool and then pop it in the back of the fridge. However, if fridge space is precious, it can also be canned in a boiling water bath canner for shelf stability. Here’s how that’s done.

When the jam is nearly done, prepare a boiling water bath and three pint jars (you can also use a combination of pint and half pint jars if you prefer). Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.

When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Preserved in this manner, unopened jars of tomato jam will last up to two years. Kept in the fridge, it will keep for at least 6 months.


Cecily's picture

I made tomato jam last summer and it was so delicious. This recipe sounds pretty close to what I did, but I did not use red pepper flakes. Must try this recipe this year. For those who have never had tomato jam, it is worth making as it is an excellent alternative to berry jams.
meg's picture

We love tomato jam. It's awesome on sandwiches, with grilled meat, or on a cheese plate. You should also check out the Golden Cherry Tomato and Ginger Jam on our site. It's different but equally delicious!
Cathy's picture

I had the hardest time getting my tomato jam to cook down recently – I’m guessing too much moisture in the tomatoes had something to do with it, but I also realize I may have not had the heat up high enough on the stove. I ended up making it in the crock pot, which took longer, but definitely made for an easier time of it.
Michelle M Giroux's picture

How long does it take aso. In a crockpot?m
Stephena D Held's picture

Other fruit jams I have made in a crockpot are cooked on low overnight.
john's picture

We do not recommend using a crockpot for jam-making. It will not concentrate your tomato jam in an effective, tasty way. Though it might be a pain to stand there and stir, the results will be much better. If it really is too much, I would recommend cutting them into quarters and roasting on baking sheets in a 300F oven for a few hours instead--the moisture will evaporate much better than in the moist confines of a slow cooker.
Jane Jernigan's picture

This jam is amazing! I've never had or made tomato jam before so I didn't know what to expect but this stuff is absolutely delicious! I've had it with cheese and crackers, on a bacon sandwich, and last night I tossed some pasta in olive oil, garlic, & fresh tomatoes, so I added a spoonful of this and it was the best pasta dish ever! This recipe is a keeper! My four jars won't last long, so I'll be making more. I'm thankful I found the recipe at the height of tomato season. Thank you! One more thing, it's very pretty in jars and would make great gifts!
meg's picture

Yes! It is SO good! We make some every summer. We've been playing around with different spices, and just about any way you make it, it's amazing. Glad you're enjoying it!
Grammy T's picture

Can I double this recipe?
meg's picture

Technically, you probably shouldn't. In all likelihood, it would be fine, but it might alter the acidity.
Hillary 's picture

What kind of tomatoes and how about many would 5lbs be of the kind you recommend? Thank you!! Can't wait to try!
meg's picture

Just pick any flavorful, ripe tomato that you like. I think Roma tomatoes are really great because they're meatier and have a good flavor, but as long as the tomato tastes good, the jam will be excellent! As far as how many tomatoes are in 5 pounds, it will depend on the size of the tomatoes. Try to find a scale to weigh them. In a pinch, even a bathroom scale could work.
Anders Svensson's picture

This jam is looking so yummy and tasty. This is the best recipe to take with bread or sandwiches. I really enjoy this great recipe.
Malin Andersson's picture

I like Amy Tomato Jam recipe. I love to cook this recipe for my grandmother. She will be surprised definitely.
Zeph's picture

First time trying any kind of tomato jam. Had to omit ginger because I don't use it often enough to have it on hand, and I substituted 'Pickling Spice' for the cloves. It's still simmering, but it already tastes wonderful, and all the sweet cinnamon is making the house smell like apple pie. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Dot Desouzaguedes's picture

I love this easy recipe. A friend turned me on to tomato jam a few years ago. When I asked for more she said, "You can make your own!" She was right. Next time I'll reduce sugar and kick up the heat. The sweeter first batch may be put to use on thumbprint cookies or an ice cream sundae. And Greek yogurt!
Kim A's picture

Do you need to peel the tomatoes first?
john's picture

Lvas's picture

I love this jam! I've made it twice this year so far once with the 5lbs. and a second time as a double batch with 10lbs. of tomatoes. The double batch took longer to reduce down but it was still awesome. This one is a keeper!
Pauline's picture

If I am reading this correctly, you said the tomato jam does not have to be put into a water bath. So I can just scoop the hot jam into clean jars and put into the refrigerator? How long will it last for done this way? And how long will it last after it's been opened?
john's picture

Yes--you can choose to either can the jars in a water bath or simply ladle into clean jars and refrigerate up to 6 months. Since the jars are not sealed, it will keep 6 months regardless of whether they've been opened.
Brenda 's picture

I found this recipe a couple of years again and decided to try. WOW! I love it and just finished 3 batches for winter. It's great on any sandwich, think grilled cheese, and wonderful with cream cheese and crackers.
john's picture

Glad you like it Brenda!
Lynnie's picture

Hello there! Can i use 12 oz jelly jars? If so, how long to process in water bath canning? Thanks!
john's picture

Hi Lynnie. The processing time should be the same (the Ball jelly jars are the same diameter as the 8-ounce jars called for, so the heat will penetrate similarly).
Michele's picture

I just made this. It came out great. I added a half teaspoon of ground cumin, for a little smokiness.
john's picture

Yum! We just made a batch too, but this time we smoked the tomatoes first. Smoky tomato jam is the best.
Ruth's picture

Great sounding recipe and comments. I plan to try it. Question though, I have already processed several batches of tomatoes by cubing and portioning into pint freezer containers then freezing. May I take these out and use them for for the tomato jam recipe?
john's picture

Eve Martin's picture

I substitited brown sugar for white sugar and used jalapeno peppers instead of regular hot pepper flakes. The result was a richer, deeper taste than when I made it with white sugar and I just happened to have jalapenoes on hand. Next time I will try adding a splash or Maple Syrup. Love this recipe!
meg's picture

Thanks, Eve! Just saw this. For future reference, it's really not a good idea to substitute fresh peppers for dried pepper flakes, as it can affect the pH of the final mixture, making it unsafe to can. I'm sure you didn't add enough peppers to make the preserves dangerous, but be very careful when modifying canning recipes. In general, it is okay to substitute brown sugar for white sugar, but do not substitute maple syrup for sugar--maple syrup has a pH above 4.6, which is considered unsafe for water bath canning. If your tomatoes are acidic enough, it's probably okay, but tomatoes are borderline to begin with. Not to alarm you, but I want everyone to have delicious, safe canning adventures. Thanks for trying the recipe and commenting!
NCR's picture

I followed the recipe, however, it was runny as syrup even after 3 hours of simmering & stirring. My family doesn't like chunky jam, so I used an immersion blender to make it smooth. Could that be the problem? The flavor was very good. I canned the mixture, hoping it would thicken with time. It didn't work. Advice, please!
meg's picture

Hmm...that's very odd. I've never had that problem before. I guess it's possible that blending it caused that to happen, but in theory you would have been boiling off water for 3 hours, so as long as you added the amount of sugar called for in the recipe it should have thickened. The only real option is to try boiling it down even more, but I've never cooked tomato jam for more than an hour without it thickening sufficiently. The size of the pan you cook the jam in can also affect how quickly it reaches the gelling point (tall, narrow pan = longer cooking time; wide, shallow pan = shorter cooking time). And then sometimes fruit can have more water in it and require longer boiling, but I'm honestly not sure what's going on in this case. Sorry I can't be more helpful!
Audrey's picture

I cooked my jam for 90 minutes and then had to go out. Ok to put in the fridge and resume later?
john's picture

Yes, and be sure to bring it back to a boil before canning it.
Vern's picture

I drain the tomatoes first and boil down the juice part way then add everything else to the pot. Works great and cuts down on cooking time.
Holly Karpinski's picture

I have made this recipe a few times, and we LOVE it. Can it be processed in pint jars? If so what is the WB time? We use it so fast the half pint jars empty too quick. Thank you and have a nice day.
john's picture

Glad you like it so much Holly! I know it sounds weird, but pint jars can be processed for the same amount of time as half-pint jars in this instance. Happy canning!
Holly Karpinski's picture

Thanks so much I have a batch on the stove right now and will happily fill some pint jars...
Jo Badenhop's picture

Can I use Sure Jell for this jam??
john's picture

There is no need Jo. The result is thick enough to not need liquid pectin.

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Combine in a medium bowl:
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            Handful cherry tomatoes