“JeJe” tomato jam…

Long time ago my mom’s friend gave me some tomato jam, and let me tell you that “JeJe” sweet and savory tomato jam will change your life… I had a dream about her and her jam, so I call Boulbon (south of France) where she spend the summer at my mother’s house and ask “JeJe” how to make it….I couldn’t wait to get my hands on several pounds of tomato seconds and find the time to try it! This is the magical time when vegetable harvests are in full swing down on the flats, but the last few days was chilly enough up at my place in Los Gatos that spending hours cooking jam and canning it feels cozy rather than oppressively hot. This is a heavenly, delightful jam that you will want to both covet for yourself and share with your friends and family and probably even strangers.

glorious tomatoes
onions, green apples, sugar, brown sugar, cider vinegar, tomatoes, lemon, spices, salt

I first started jamming/canning earlier this summer (since June), I am I big fan of seconds. I swung by High Ground Organic in Watsonville, CA last week to see what tomatoes I could get from their farm stand. I walked away with 15 pounds of tomato seconds – some bruised, most imperfect, all of them fantastically sweet, ripe, and wonderful. $1.75 a pound for luscious, organic tomatoes? Did I mention that I went back to purchase another 45 pounds? Yep, I did that.

all chopped up

I used four varieties of organic tomatoes because I had them lounging about on my counter: dry-farmed tomatoes (purposefully deprived of water to concentrate the flavor and improve texture), sun gold cherry tomatoes, one big green heirloom, and my lovely tomatoes from Watsonville. Go with what you can get your hands on, but preferably something in season, sweet, and fresh.

chopped, diced, and ready
all in
and mixed

I doubled the recipe and brought it to a boil in one large stock pot, but then divvied it up between two large stock pots so it wouldn’t take forever and a day to reduce it to a jam. My mom’s friend “JeJe” simmers her tomato jam down in a 2-quart pot, but I like the idea of a large stock pot providing the largest possible surface area to let moisture escape in the form of steam. This just means I spend less time simmering it down. It took me about two and a half hours of occasional stirring (to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan) until it became a beautiful, almost jewel-colored jam.

bring to a boil
final jam consistency

It tastes intensely of tomato, but sweet with some tartness and a hint of warmth from the spices. It is fantastic on creamy brie and crackers (or bread). There are many other tomato jam recipes out there (I have my eyes on several), but this was the one I’ve been wanting to make for 5 years. I just had to wait until I learned how to can so I could make enough to put up in jars and share. Oh also, DO NOT peel or core your tomatoes, as they contribute to the texture and flavor. This is good news, it means less work!

JeJe”Tomato Jam :

3 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used 4 varieties)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 lemon, juice of
1/2 cup tart green apple, finely diced

Make the jam: Place all of the ingredients in a large stock pot or 2-quart pot (I prefer the large stock pot as the increased surface area helps to reduce the jam faster). Bring everything to a boil then reduce to an active simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pot. Cook until the tomatoes have reduced down to a jam (it should be sticky). This will take anywhere from 2-3 hours. Store the jam in sterilized glass jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or can them in a hot water canning bath for 15 minutes (35 minutes for 8500 ft. above sea level) following the process below.

Notes: I have made this recipe using both Weck and Ball jars.

Canning the jam: Ready the boiling water bath and the clean (washed with soap and water) jars you plan to use for canning. Check your jars and lids for nicks or cracks – don’t use them if they have any because it could jeopardize creating a good seal. If using standard Ball or similar style jars, it helps to put them in the pot you plan to use for canning and fill them (and the pot) with water, then bring to a boil. Keep the jars at a simmer (180°F) until they are ready to use. Place the lids in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them and set to a simmer over low heat (high heat can compromise the gummy seal material). If using Weck jars, you only need to sterilize your jars and glass lids if they will be processed for less than 10 minutes. Place the rubber rings in a small saucepan of water and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes then leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them. Fill your prepared jars with jam, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.

Use a cloth to wipe the rims clean and apply the lids and rings of the Ball-style jars to fingertip tight (just tightened with fingertips – not super tight). If using Weck jars, place the rubber rings on the glass lids and set them on the jars. Secure the lids with two canning clamps for each jar – 180° from each other (across from each other). Set the jars in your canning bath (either on a jar rack or a makeshift cooling rack – just be sure they are not set directly on the bottom of the pot) and check that there is at least 1-2 inches of water above the lids of the jars – if not, add more water. Once the pot has returned to a boil, process for 15 minutes if you are at an altitude of sea-level to 1,000 feet above sea level (asl). For 1,001 to 3,000 feet asl, add another 5 minutes to the 15 minute processing time. For 3,001 to 6,000 feet asl, add 10 minutes to the 15 minute processing time. For 6,001 to 8,000 feet asl, add another 15 minutes to the 15 minute processing time. And finally, for 8,001 to 10,000 feet asl (that’s me!) add an additional 20 minutes to the 15 minute processing time for a total of 35 minutes.

When the jams are done processing, remove them from the canning bath and place them on a towel-lined countertop to let them cool. Don’t mess with them! For the metal lids, you may hear the “ping” of the seals forming as the center of the lid gets sucked down. There will be no pinging of the Weck lids, but you may notice the tongue of the rubber band pointing down (this is good). Let the jars cool for 24 hours. Remove the bands or clamps and lift the jar an inch or so off your work surface (carefully – in case the seal is bad and breaks) by the lid. If the seal is good, it should hold. If a seal fails, you can always reprocess the jam in a clean jar with new lid (Ball) or new gasket (Weck)! Also, any jar with a bad seal can be stored in the refrigerator. Store the jars in a cool, dark location for up to a year (take the clamps and rings off).

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