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Have you ever wished that you could bottle up a moment and save it, maybe to divvy out a few drops at a time, to experience the sheer pleasure of a certain season or period in your life over and over again?
Trust me when I say that no matter how busy you are right now, you need to drop everything and pause for a minute to let me tell you about this recipe.
This tomato jam is the essence of summer.
It’s outdoor picnics enjoyed while the sun sets in the distance. It’s the bottled version of long summer nights, and roads lined with cornfields.
It’s spoonfuls of Saturday morning farmers markets and months of vacation from school, when the weeks stretch out before you, never rising until late morning when the temperature is just beginning to creep upwards as an indicator of the steamy afternoon to come.
It’s a reminder of visits to the pool and the lake and your friends’ houses, when everything smells like cut grass and hot asphalt, with just a hint of the sweet aroma of your neighbor’s rows upon rows of flowers wafting by on a warm breeze.
And look, you don’t have to believe me – yet. But to say that this tomato jam will change your life is no exaggeration.
It’s a unique variation to your typical summery varieties of jams, like peach or strawberry basil.
But when you try it at home and see for yourself what happens to a pound and a half of freshly picked, blanched, and peeled sweet tomatoes (ones that you plucked from your own garden, or picked up from a roadside stand) you will start to believe in the magic of this recipe.
When they’re combined with onions, basil, honey, and spices, and left to simmer low and slow, releasing their juices and breaking down and turning into something else entirely, you will know that alchemy is real, because you will have created a substance that is roughly the equivalent of tomato gold.
Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes
This is the tomato jam I’ve dreamed of making ever since I first opened Michael Natkin’s “Herbivoracious” cookbook, which is available on Amazon. It’s the tomato jam that’s worth using your precious fresh garden tomatoes to make, or the most perfect specimens from the market. It’s the tomato jam that you will watch transforming into something downright incredible on your stovetop, and you will find yourself remembering what it is to truly be amazed.
You can spread it on portobello mushrooms, fresh off the grill; slather it on your morning toast, alongside your eggs; sandwich it with fresh mozzarella and basil on buttered sourdough, to make a grilled cheese that tastes like the summer evenings that I remember spending at Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and that will remind you of your own cherished summer moments.
In other words, like avocados, like love, like summer itself, this tomato jam is something to celebrate – for its ability to surprise you, for its pure delicious magic, for its rare and uncanny ability to not only make good on its promises, but to be better than you ever dreamed it could be.
Make it, try it, and share it with your loved ones; it will be worth your time. This is a deceptively simple recipe that will bring you joy, and allow you to experience the simple pleasures of summer at every meal.Print
Homemade Tomato Jam
- Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
Keep the flavor of summer alive with homemade sweet and savory tomato jam. This condiment will become a favorite at every meal.
- 3 lbs ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup finely diced white onion
- 2 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, and blanch the tomatoes a few at a time, until the peels loosen (about 1 minute). Transfer immediately to an ice bath to cool, and peel carefully. Remove the cores and dice.
- Place the diced tomatoes in a large saucepan with the rest of the ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the temperature to medium, keeping a slow simmer going.
- Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed, until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and transfer to another container to cool.
- Serve at room temperature, or store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days.
Adapted from Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 90 minutes
- Category: Jam
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Condiments
Keywords: tomato jam, tomato, basil, summer
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Wash all of the produce well, and measure out your honey and spices.
Juice the lemon, and remove any seeds if necessary.
Get out a sturdy cutting board and your favorite chef’s knife. Dice the onion and set it aside. Fighting to stop those tears? Check out our tips.
Remove the stems from the basil and discard (or save them for use in a homemade vegetable stock). Chop the leaves and set them aside.
Step 2 – Blanch and Peel Tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cut a shallow X in the peel of the blossom end of each tomato (opposite the stem). Fill a large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath, and set it aside.
Add the tomatoes in batches to the boiling water. Once the skin begins to separate, wrinkling and splitting in some places after about 45 seconds to 1 minute, remove from the water using a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath.
Allow the water to return to a boil between batches if necessary, and repeat the process until all of the tomatoes have been blanched.
When they are cooled enough to handle, carefully peel, core, and dice the tomatoes, and place them in a large saucepan or small stockpot.
Step 3 – Cook
To make the jam, add the lemon juice, onion, basil, honey, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to the pot. Stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium. Keep the mixture simmering until it is thick and syrupy, stirring occasionally. This will take about 1-2 hours (it took 1 1/2 hours for me).
Do not allow the mixture to boil or stick to the bottom of the pan while it is cooking. You don’t want your jam to burn.
Step 4 – Cool and Store
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the jam come to room temperature before storing in an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Why Does Homemade Taste So Much Better?
Sometimes, when I look at certain recipes, I have a slight hesitation.
Here’s what goes through my head: “Is it really worth spending the time to make this from scratch when I could just look for it at the store?”
Then I remember, the answer to this question is always yes. There’s a reason that everyone keeps saying homemade always tastes better – because it is 100% true.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can maximize the flavors of the summer garden without using any processed of chemically altered ingredients, so you know that it is fresh. Not to mention, making this tomato jam is a total breeze.
The only major time investment you have to make is while you’re waiting for it to cook down over the stove. But this gives you plenty of time to do other things, and you don’t have to hover!
Clean the kitchen, read a few chapters of a good book, chill with a glass of wine… think of this as an opportunity to get something done that you might not otherwise, or to just sit back, relax, and enjoy those delicious aromas that are wafting over from the stove.
Trust me when I say, once you taste it, you’ll be ecstatic that you decided to make it from scratch.
Tell us what you would use this jam for first in the comments below, and be sure to give the recipe a five-star rating if you loved it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 22, 2012. Last updated: February 25, 2023 at 12:52 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
39 thoughts on “Made From Scratch: A Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam Recipe That’ll Change Your Summer”
Wow, Shannon! I’m so delighted to see you post this recipe. It is one of my favorites from the book as well. Your pictures are stunning, and I love all of your ideas about where to use the jam as well. I haven’t made it in awhile but clearly it is time to bring it back!
The Portuguese – style tomato jam is really simple.
Tomatoes, sugar, the peel of a lemon, sticks of cinnamon, and cloves (optional).
Been looking for a traditional tomato jam recipe, finally found one. My mammow used to make all her homemade jams and jellies, from recipes handed down to her. Wish I had some of them. But yes, many including my son whom I taught at an early age cans just about everything. I told him, you just never know when you may need it, always plan AHEAD. Thank you for sharing.
You got that right, Patricia! Thanks for sharing your story with us, and enjoy the jam.
Can I can this so it will last longer? And if so how?
How much do you add of these spices? It sounds like a wonderful addition.
FINALLY! The tomato jam recipe I’ve been searching for! Not too sweet or over seasoned, letting the tomato flavor shine. You’ve even suggested a use or two I hadn’t thought of. Thank you!
P.S. Going on buttery grilled fish TONIGHT.
Yum, sounds fantastic!
can you can this recipe?
This recipe has not been tested for shelf-stable canning. Proceed with caution- you’d need to be able to insure that the acidity is high enough for canning.
Can this be canned.
This particular recipe has not been formulated for canning, and an additional acidic ingredient such as lemon juice would likely need to be added to get the correct pH level for food safety.
I’m not incredibly familiar with canning but how much more lemon would need to be added so that I can water bath can these?
This recipe wasn’t designed for canning, and unfortunately I’m not able to make any specific recommendations about how much lemon juice should be added for safe water bath canning. You’re right that tomatoes must be acidified in order to can them safely, but the acid content that a tomato naturally contains depends in part on the type that you’re using. Many canners recommend using bottled fresh lemon juice added right to the jars rather than fresh juice to guarantee that the citrus will be as acidic as you need it to be for food safety.
Could u make larger batches and can it?
Could this recipe be frozen?
Yes, this is a great idea to increase its shelf life!
What do I do if it doesn’t get thick?
Cooking it longer should help!
Do you think I can use canned tomatoes? It’s winter here in Ohio and I would like to make this for a Superbowl party.
You absolutely can, but keep in mind that the final texture and flavor will be a bit different. Depending on how much liquid was added to the tomatoes, the jam may take longer to reduce, or you may want to leave a bit of the canning liquid out. And you may want to reduce the quantity of honey slightly as well.
Enjoy the party!
Thank you Allison! I am going to try it! 🙂
Surely this would last longer than 3 days in the refrigerator (???)
sounds like a good recipe, but not worth the work for only 3 days in the fridge. How is this saving the taste of the summer? I make tomato preserves, only two ingredients, tomatoes and sugar and can that and put it in a water bath. No lemon juice or pectin required. Lasts at least 18 months on the shelf.
An experienced canner like yourself shouldn’t have any problems canning a recipe like this one for shelf storage! Just be sure to test the pH level, since tomatoes aren’t always acidic enough to be canned safely in boiling water for long term storage on their own.
Water bath canning is best for high-acid foods, while pressure canning is recommended to safely can lower acid foods since pressure canning equipment reaches a temperature of 240°F. Lower-acid ingredients like tomatoes can also be acidified with lemon juice or citric acid to bring their pH level down to 4.6 or lower, the level that is recommended for safe food preservation for water bath canning. And it’s important to remember that water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations as well!
For long-term storage without the need for any canning equipment, this jam can be stored in the freezer.
Keep in mind, this only makes 2 cups of jam. I expect it would be pretty easy to use 1 cup on making grilled cheese sandwiches for a family. The other cup could be frozen until you’re ready to use it. I think if I made this in a larger quantity, I’d freeze it in 1 cup quantities in small freezer safe jars or containers.
Can I use fresh cherry tomatoes for this? I assume I would not peel them?
Yes, absolutely! Peeling is not necessary, but you could still blanch and peel them if you want the finished jam to have a smoother texture.
Can I “process” this jam for storage on the pantry shelf?
This recipe was designed for refrigerator storage rather than shelf-stable canning, and acidity levels of different types of tomatoes can vary. Water bath canning is fine for produce with a pH of 4.6 or lower, but a pressure canner should be used for foods with a higher pH that are less acidic, and you may need to adjust acid levels with lemon juice or something similar.
Shannon could you test this wonderful recipe for canning? It is the best tasting recipe. I would love to use my summer tomatoes for gifts at Christmas.
I bet this jam would be yummy poured over a block of softened cream cheese to spread on crackers!
Yes, absolutely! Yum!
Wow! This tastes amazing as is! I have it simmering on the stove top now and can’t wait! I had some juicy costoluto tomatoes from my garden so if it’s too juicy, I’ll add in some arrowroot powder to thicken, as I just got some today to thicken up a fermented hot sauce I made! I also love savoury flavours, so I added in a pinch of trader joes Umami and its really good!
Have you ever tried to preserve this through canning?
I just made your jam and oh my it is just fantastic! It does have that wonderful taste of summer! Thank you!
So glad you liked it, Terri!
Can this be put in a slow cooker?