04 October 2013

Tomato Jam or Marmellata di Pomodori

Recently I made a couple of batches of Tomato jam or what I like to call Marmellata di Pomodori with the various tomatoes I had languishing around waiting to be put to good use. I started making this last year when my interest was piqued by a Splendid Table podcast about a man that hosted a party that he called Pomodorata, in which all the courses of the meal included tomatoes. You can hear that episode here. If you are not familiar with NPR’s “The Splendid Table” radio show, then I highly recommend you take the time to discover it. The show always has plenty of interesting topics, loads of recipes and ideas with the indomitable Lyn Rossetto Kasper moderating and is an incredible source of information and inspiration. I download the podcasts and enjoy listening to them whilst doing the dishes, cleaning rooms or weeding stubborn garden patches. Several people asked me to post a recipe and so I am obliging, although I would say that this a good outline of a recipe, but it can be adjusted to your taste and the flavor fulness of the tomatoes. Do, however, make sure to try this with some of the great tasting tomatoes on the market before they disappear for another year!
Cuore di bui and roma Italian tomato varieties

Anyway, it seems to me that this jam is not unlike an adult version of ketchup, in that it is versatile enough to be used in a number of ways. I love that it is sweet and spicy and adds a flavor punch that frankly ketchup never did for me. I’ve always chosen brown mustard over ketchup whenever that debate arises. This gorgeous rosey red jam is a great accompaniment to roast meats or vegetables, jazzes up sandwiches, great with soft cheeses, like goat, fresh ricotta or the classic American standby, cottage cheese or stirred into dips for veggies and chips.  I think you’ll find a lot of places that a little dab will do it for adding some zest to your lunch time or aperitivo offerings. It has been a popular condiment that disappears quickly. That is why I made sure to make a couple of batches. Hopefully you’ll still find some tomatoes in your patch or at your farmers market to make the effort worth is. They say you can also use a good quality canned tomato as well if you missed the abundance of tomatoes this season.
This recipe is a blended and tweaked version of Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s Sweet and Piquant Tomato Jam and Food in Jars Honey-Sweetened Tomato Jam. I have made it slightly different every time I make it as it depends on what I have on hand and how the spirit moves me. I give you the option of honey or sugar to sweeten the jam, depending on your preference. Just make sure to taste the jam at the end of the cooking time and adjust the salt or lemon juice to make sure the flavor pops out. I cut back on the sugar and honey and decided that it really does need that amount to make the flavors sing, so don’t skimp. I also crushed the tomatoes one time and chopped them into chunks another time. I found if I cut them into chunks them, that I needed to blend the jam a bit at the end as the tomatoes didn’t really break down enough for my taste. I think a combination of crushing through squeezing them in my hand and some diced up would be a good balance. I found that my deep sided saute pan did a good job of cooking down a bit faster than using my usual large deep jam pan. I found that when cooking the jam down till the mix was thick and had lost most of the water, had large bubbles and a deep shiny luscious red color, it was just about right.  I then would taste the mix and add the lemon and adjust any of the seasoning to get it where I thought it needed to be. It will vary depending on the flavor of your tomatoes and how juicy or not they are as to how long the process takes, but I can assure you, you will be rewarded with a beguiling treat.
Jam at the finish line

Tomato Jam / Marmellata di Pomodori

Makes about 5-7 half pints


2kg (around 4½ pounds) mix of flavorful tomatoes, washed and cored
I used a mix of what I had pachino, a couple of cuore di bue and a few grape tomatoes for one batch and another with roma variety instead of the cuore di bue
380-400g (2 c) sugar or 850g (2½c) honey, I used chestnut because it is what I had on hand
2-4 long red hot peppers fresh because that is what I had on hand, chopped into medium pieces
or 1-2 tsp hot chili pepper flakes
4 whole allspice, because that is what I had on hand
1 tsp ground allspice
4 whole cloves
½ tsp cloves
fresh ginger optional, but  if you want a little more zip, maybe in place of the chili flakes
1 tsp or so  salt or to taste
2 lemons their zest and juice or limes if you are fortunate to have them


Crush and chop your tomatoes up into a large deep sided skillet or saucepan. I don’t peel or seed them.
Cover with a lid and bring the mix to a rolling boil.
Lower the heat and let the mixture cook. Remove the lid after a short while so the water evaporates and the sauce begins to thicken.
Mix in the sweetener of choice, pepper pieces or flakes, spices, the zest of the citrus and a bit of salt, (you can always add more later if you feel it needs it)
Reserve the lemon juice to add just at the end.
Continue cooking on a lower heat, stirring frequently and make sure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
Once the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has sufficiently thickened you should notice that the bubbles are rather large than when it first starts to boil. The color will be a deep red and shiny.
Taste and add the lemon juice a little at a time, although it will most like need all of the juice. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Once cool it may need adjusting. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and will freezes as well.
I however treated it as a jam and pour it into hot sterilized jars, covered them with lids and sealed  them in a water bath for 15 minutes. I have not had any problems with them keeping for months like jam, but with tomatoes, you always need to be careful. You would be wise to check the jars periodically to make sure the lids are still sealed and refrigerate any that you might not be sure if they are properly sealed. If you find that they have not been well sealed or have a funny smell or color, do not use them. I have not had any problems at all, but just want to make sure that you do not take any chances especially if you are not a seasoned canner. There should be no problem with freezing them or using it up right away as I am sure you will find many ways of enjoying it, probably with friends.  

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