My mom, knowing me as well as she does, gave me a copy of a Better Homes and Gardens special publication that’s all about canning. There are a ton of interesting recipes for homemade jams, jellies and preserved vegetable: strawberry-ginger ale jam, balsamic strawberry and pink peppercorn jam, vidalia onion and maple conserve. One of the many recipes that caught my eye was one for tomato-basil jam. So I dragged out a new set of Ball Elite canning jars and my fourth burner pot (thanks, honey!) which, as featured on Food In Jars, is the perfect canning pot—and had at it.
This recipe for tomato jam uses low-sugar pectin, and it’s just the right balance of sweet and savory. You can definitely taste full tomato flavor, and there’s just enough sugar to bring out the tomatoes’ natural sweetness. A bit of lemon juice and fresh basil really enhance this jam. I’ve made tomato preserves before, but this recipe is much, much better.
What to do with tomato jam? Spread it on toast when you’re having a bacon and egg breakfast-for-dinner. It would be ridiculously good on a grilled cheese or turkey (or grilled turkey and cheese!) sandwich. Perfect as an accompaniment to a cheese board. Great schmeared on grilled pork or chicken. Wonderful on warm focaccia.
Interested in learning more about home canning? The nice folks from Ball have a great intro to canning guide. Review that before proceeding with this recipe if you’ve never canned before.
makes 5 half-pint jars
2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled (you can use slightly bruised ones; they’re usually cheaper at farmers’ markets)
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp. finely snipped fresh basil
3 cups sugar
one 1.75-ounce package pectin for low-sugar recipes (see Note)
Begin by preparing your jars, bands and lids according to the Ball Guide recommendations, keeping them very hot while you make the jam. Bring water to the boil in your canning pot and keep it hot.
Seed, core and finely chop the tomatoes; measure 3 1/2 cup and place in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1o minutes. Remove pot from heat; measure 3 1/3 cups of tomatoes and return to the pot. (I found this step a bit odd until I realized that the tomatoes had cooked down and that I needed to add more to measure 3 1/3 cups.) Stir in lemon juice and basil.
Meanwhile, measure 3 cups of sugar into a bowl; take 1/4 cup of that and, in a smaller bowl, whisk that together with the powdered pectin. Return the tomato/lemon/basil mixture to a full boil, stirring regularly, and add the sugar/pectin mix. Bring back to a boil, and add the remaining 2 3/4 cups of sugar; again, back to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off any foam with a metal spoon.
Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims, place lids and adjust bands so they’re tight but not too tight. Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and let cool. See here for complete instructions on home canning (trust me, you don’t wanna screw around with this stuff … you know … botulism and all that).
Note: In my previous efforts at making homemade jam this summer, I used Sure-Jell’s low-sugar pectin. For the tomato jam, I used Ball’s version. I’m not sure if the switch made the difference, but the tomato jam has a firmer set than the fruit jams (peach, blueberry and strawberry) that I made.