Grilled Cheese with Homemade Tomato Jam

tomato jam

I am sitting here at my computer screen, imagining you, at the office or on your iPhone or skimming through your Reader, asking myself what I can possibly say to accurately communicate to you the importance of today’s recipe, and I’m thinking about the reality that you are probably doing ten other things right now, that while you are deciding whether or not to keep reading or click away, you’ve also got a Word doc up; your email inbox, open; if your kids aren’t crying, they’re about to. You and I both know that just because it’s Friday, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a to-do list, physical or not, on your mind for today, and you’re trying to remember things and wanting to go get jobs done, so when you click here for a second and I ask for your attention, even with a photo like this top one, I know it’s not an easy sell. I know what I’m up against. But listen, please hear me on this one if you’ve never heard me before and will never hear me again:

You want to hear about this tomato jam.

Once more, in all caps, the way my mom types me emails:


tomatoes and Herbivoracious

Now that we’ve got that settled, let me explain. Because in response to the 30 new Twitter updates you’ve missed just in reading the beginning of this post, in defense of the time you’re spending here that could be spent in any number of other places, I am offering you something totally worth the trade off. This is not like when the cable company said your bill would go down or when the dentist said the filling would be no big deal—this stuff is the genuine article, the real thing, the kind of pearls that will actually feel gritty when you rub them along the edge of your front teeth.

tomatoes in a bag

This tomato jam is July. It’s outdoor picnics while the sun sets. You could think of it like the bottled version of long summer nights and roads lined by cornfields, as spoonfuls of Saturday morning farmer’s markets and months of no school, when the weeks stretch out before you, late morning after late morning, and you go to the pool and the lake and your friends’ houses and everything smells like cut grass and hot asphalt and your neighbor’s rows of flowers.

tomatoes tomatoes

And look, you don’t have to believe me, but to say that this tomato jam will change your life is no exaggeration, not after you watch what happens to a pound and a half of freshly boiled, peeled, sweet tomatoes (tomatoes you picked up from a roadside stand if possible, for $2 a pound) when they’re combined with onions and basil and honey and spices and left to simmer the long, slow simmer that releases their juices and breaks up their shapes and turns them into what is roughly the equivalent of tomato gold.

Pure gold.

tomato jam

This is the tomato jam I’ve dreamed of making ever since I opened Michael Natkin’s new “Herbivoracious” cookbook, which arrived at our doorstep a few months ago. It’s the tomato jam worth spending your fresh garden tomatoes on, the tomato jam to watch transform on your stovetop and find yourself remembering what it is to be amazed.

tomato jam + grilled cheese

You can slather it on roasted portabello mushrooms, fresh off the grill; put it on your morning toast, alongside your eggs; sandwich it with raw mozzarella and fresh basil on buttered sourdough, sauteing them into a grilled cheese that tastes like July evenings outside Spacca Napoli in Chicago.

In other words, like avocados and like summer and like love, this tomato jam is something to celebrate—for its ability to surprise you, for its pure magic, for its rare and uncanny ability to not only make good on its promises but, to be better than you dreamed. Make it; try it ; it will be worth your time.

Some housekeeping: Food Loves Writing underwent a little makeover this week, so if you haven’t clicked through in a while, now would be a great time. We’re still working on some changes, but for now, there’s a revised header, a new sidebar, some new organization —and feedback is welcome, so let us know what you think or if you have any questions!

Tomato Jam
Adapted from Herbivoracous by Michael Natkin*
Makes about one cup

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and diced**
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
A few dashes of cayenne pepper
A few dashes of freshly ground black pepper

Combine the tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, basil, honey and salt in a saucepan. Add a couple dashes of cayenne pepper and black pepper. Bring to a simmer (Michael notes that you don’t need to worry about adding water as the tomatoes will produce plenty of liquid as they cook). Once simmering, adjust the heat on the stove to keep the tomatoes simmering until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy, about an hour or two. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like. Serve at room temperature. Can be refrigerated up to three days.

Grilled Cheese
For the pizza-like grilled cheese this jam can make, butter one side each of two pieces of sourdough bread, layering the opposite side of one with mozzarella and basil; and spread tomato jam on the inside of the second piece of bread. Heat a pan over medium heat and place the mozzarella-basil slice of bread, butter-side-down, on the pan. Top with jam-covered slice, jam-side-down. Cook until browned and cheese is melting; flip to other side.

*Disclosure: We received a review copy of “Herbivoracious,” which is featured in this post.

**As noted in the comments below, here is the (fast! easy!) method we used to prep the tomatoes:

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, wash tomatoes, core out the stem part and with a paring knife, make an X on the other end. Place tomatoes in boiling water. Leave for about eight seconds, no kidding. Scoop out with a slotted spoon. Let cool. The skin comes right off. More kitchen magic!

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn,, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens,, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World,, Babble,, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

53 thoughts on “Grilled Cheese with Homemade Tomato Jam

  1. I’ve been saving a tomato jam recipe I clipped maybe 15 years ago and *still* haven’t made it–you have now convinced me to try this recipe!! It looks luscious and perfect for summer meals. And I am thrilled that it contains no added sugar!! Thanks so much Shanna! 🙂

  2. The site revisions are lookin’ lovely! As is this jam. I’ve seen recipes before for tomato jam, and though I’ve been thoroughly compelled, I have not followed through and made any — I cannot tell you what has kept me away. Perhaps this is the summer! xo

  3. Oh man – this looks like something that I would LOVE. I currently have 14 (!) tomato plants that are ‘children’ of the volunteer tomato plants that grew in our yard last summer. Hopefully I’ll make some of this tomato jam with my own tomatos later this summer 🙂

  4. you have me sold! we have not seen any good tomatoes at our fave farmer’s stall, crossing fingers that tomorrow’s csa stash will have some.

  5. Everything comes later here in the uk, but I’m glad the tomatoes are here hooray. This looks just gorgeous. And in a grilled cheese sandwich, a winner! Tomato gold’s a nice way of describing it. I must give this a go.

    • Viktoria, I have always felt the same way and, for that exact reason, I have always left the skins on my tomatoes when I make homemade sauce (contrary to what everyone says!). However, the method I used here, where you bring water to a boil, core the tomatoes and cut little x’s in the bottoms; plop them in water for eight seconds; take out and let them cool; and then the skin comes right off — it’s crazy easy and took maybe 10 minutes total, I kid you not. It’s honestly transformed my view of the process.

  6. Everything else can wait their turn, tomato jam comes first!!! I was going to make your carrot risotto this week, but we’re going camping and I’m thinking making this tomato jam for our sandwiches would be so cool!!! You’re putting me in an impossible situation to have to choose between the risotto and the jam! Thank you for that 🙂 Always loving those tough choices… Great new look on the blog too.

  7. It’s winter here in Australia right now and this post makes me long for summer – there is no better smell than freshly cut grass on a summer morning. And one of my favourite sandwiches is sharp cheddar, butter lettuce, thickly sliced tomato and tomato jam. Yum! I’m bookmarking this for when the tomato season arrives. P.s. the new site is beautiful.

  8. I have wondered about making tomato jam. Would it be worth the time spent or will it languish in the frig? Your compelling post has convinced me to give it a go this summer! Now all I need is tomato season!

  9. Shanna, One, Love the update. Two, I’ve just stopped everything and I want to make this jam. I am, however, driving to Nashville so it will have to wait until I return ; )

  10. Tomato jam is by far my favorite, then comes sour cherry. But I never made one with basil or spices. Perfect to try since just tomatoes and sugar gets a bit too sweet sometimes. But first I have to make the carrot risotto. I´m getting there. I like your new page a lot.

  11. I have a large garden and an overflow of tomatoes, so I frequently can my abundance. This looks so amazing and so fresh, I’m just wondering if the heat of the canning process would change that fresh “feel” too much. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Christine! Thanks for your question! This isn’t a traditional canning recipe; it’s more like a cooking down, and because of this, the tomatoes don’t taste like they do raw, but they do taste real and tomato-y, for lack of a better term. : ) I hope that answers your question!

      • Thank you! Since the recipe is for a single jar, I think I’ll double it and try both. I can imagine that if it’s as good as it sounds, I’ll be craving some “summer” in the winter! BTW, I also live in TN (East) but I saw you in the Publix mailer! Loved it – congratulations!

        • You are the second person to tell me about the Publix piece, and I still haven’t seen it, ha! Hope my copy arrives soon—thanks for the shout-out!

      • Andy, This isn’t a traditional canning recipe like a lot of jams; it’s more of a cooking down. Since I haven’t tried turning it into a heated canning version, I can’t say.

  12. I made this the other day, and we had it on grilled cheese exactly as you described here. The next day, we had it again. We were ooo’ing and aahhh’ing each time. I am going to try it as the sauce for a pizza tonight, topped with veggies and fresh mozzarella.

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I’ve often wondered if I would like tomato jam and the answer is no, I don’t like it, I LOVE it!

    • So good to hear that! And Tim and I were actually wondering how it would be on pizza so I’d love to hear feedback after you try it!

  13. Our tomato plants are really producing this year – this jam is currently simmering on the stove and the whole house smells divine. Can’t believe how easy and foolproof the peeling went – submerged in boiling water for :08 and skins slid right off! Who knew that if you followed directions from people who know what they’re doing – it works! Thanks!

  14. Just wondering if you have tried it with canned tomatoes. Granted fresh is always best, but I am so craving this right now, but can’t get to the store 🙂
    Just wondering. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Denise – It’s so good, I’d give it a shot even with canned tomatoes. Have made this recipe three times – using lots more basil than called for (I have a TON of basil growing!) – and it’s wonderful. Especially on a grilled veggie burger!

    • Thanks for giving that feedback, Lindley! @Denise – I haven’t tried canned, so I don’t know, but if you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  16. I just tried some tomato jam at the farmer’s market yesterday, it was delicious, and I bought a 4 oz jar for $6!!! yikes. I know I could make it myself, and your recipe closely matches the ingredients on the jar I bought… so will be making some soon. Your blog and your writing are lovely. Have you ever heard Greg Brown sing “Canned Goods”? you would love it… check it out on i-tunes.

    • Tomato jam is an easy thing to fall in love with, so I understand why you still bought the bottle! Hope this version can come close for you! : )

  17. This summer’s must make recipe! The second batch I made was five times the recipe, thanks to our incredible Lancaster County PA soil and the crop of tomatoes it produced. I played with the recipe a tiny bit by adding some smoked paprika, good in any recipe It gives it a nice dimension. Now for those sandwiches, I went with homemade goat cheese. Heaven.

  18. I cannot thank you enough for this recipe. Seriously. It is the best dang thing I’ve made & tasted in a long long time. I used fresh from my garden tomatoes & basil and i wanted to eat the entire batch in one sitting. I am a Tomato Jam Junkie. This is my crack. I WILL be doubling, tripling, quadrupling the batch this weekend because I want all of my other friends to discover my Tomato Jam Nirvana. Grow on summer tomatoes – grow on…

  19. This reminds me of a tomato jam my grandma use to make; I just wish our tomatoes had the same flavor as the ones they grew in Maryland. After I make my peach jam today, I’m on to tomato!

    • Suzanne, I can’t say it with the authority of someone who has frozen it, but I would imagine it will work fine. Let us know how it goes!

  20. I’m wondering if anyone has actually tried canning this or is more of an expert on canning safety. I’m looking for a recipe I can can but know that ph and sugar content matters for water-bath canning. Thanks!

  21. Best. Tomato. Jam. EVER. Thank you so much!!

    The peeling process is not as tedious as it may sound. Once you scald the skins, they easily peel off in 2, maybe 3 pulls per tomato 🙂 In the time it took me to dice the onion, juice the lemon and julienne some basil, the tomatoes were cool enough to handle. I also used a food processor for dicing them (just a couple pulses) – the texture is a little less chunky than after dicing by hand – but saves time and preserves mental wellness 😉 Flavour is out of this world!

    Excellent recipe!

  22. This looks great but can you can it to keep longer ? I love making stuff to give as gifts and this would be great for that ,,,,

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