Small-batch Spiced Tomato Jam

spiced tomato jam 1200

2013 has not been a good year for tomatoes in Michigan. First it was wet and cold, and then way too hot, and now, in September, we seem headed for an early frost. Our tomato season has been the shortest one I can recall. Even in a scant year, I put up tomatoes. We held our Big Tomato Crush last weekend. I wanted to try out a new form of tomato preserves: a spiced tomato jam.

I adapted Marisa McClellan’s recipe for tomato jam published in her terrific book Food in Jars. This is a true jam: it uses the skin and the seeds, too! Because there’s no blanching and peeling, it goes together quickly and easily. It has already become a favorite with family and friends.

This jam is amazing. It’s better than ketchup. This is not a simple sweet condiment; it’s deeply spicy and tomatoey, and has a little kick at the end. Fabulous on meatloaf, or anywhere you might use ketchup, it’s also a natural match with soft runny cheeses.

I’ve adapted, over time, to making smaller batches of really good stuff. This spiced tomato jam is one I’ve cut back on: I don’t need 4 pints of this! I’ve cut way back, and now will get 4 jelly jars or 8 tiny 4-oz jars, which is just about perfect for a year of use and gifts.

spiced tomato jam 1200

Small-batch Spiced Tomato Jam

Course: Jams and Jellies, Condiment
Cuisine: American
Keyword: jam, tomatoes, tomato, spice
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Processing time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Deeply spicy and tomatoey with a little kick at the end. This is perfect on meatloaf or anywhere you might use ketchup.
Print Recipe


  • lbs tomatoes
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • tsp freshly grated ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • tsp sea salt
  • tsp red pepper flakes


  • Core the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Put them, with all the other ingredients, in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer the jam, stirring regularly, until the tomato appears fully cooked and begins to break down.
  • Meanwhile, prepare one more jar than you’ll think you need. The jars do not have to be sterile, but they do need to be sparkling clean. I like to take clean jars right out of the dishwasher. Wash the lids in warm sudsy water, then rinse and set aside with the bands. Put a saucer or small plate in your freezer to chill (this will be for testing doneness.) Have an extra small jar, or custard cup, clean and ready for any excess.
  • Back to the cooking pot of tomatoes! By now, they will be fully cooked, and beginning to break down. Blitz with an immersion blender, getting it as smooth as possible.
  • Continue cooking the smooth tomato jam until it’s thick and gloppy. I test for doneness by putting a spoonful on a saucer, and chilling it in the refrigerator for 2 minutes. After that time, if I can drag my finger through the jam, and leave a clear track that doesn’t fill in again, it’s ready.
  • When the jam is ready, remove the pot from the heat. Ladle jam into prepared jars. Wipe the jar rims, apply lids and bands, then process for 20 minutes in a steam canner or boiling water bath.
    This spiced tomato jam is denser than most jams and jellies, and therefore requires a longer processing time. The time is the same for both 4-oz and 8-oz jars.
  • Cool jars, label, and store in a dark cool place.



  1. Pingback: Recipes for the Waning Garden

  2. Susan H

    I made this today and like several others I never managed to pass a wrinkle test, but once it had reduced by half and was nice and thick I decided to go ahead and can it. It’s in the water bath now and I can attest that the bits left in the pan tasted AMAZING! Cannot wait to try this with so many things! I’m thinking it might be a fun, different twist on a BLT, to make it with this jam instead of a tomato in wintertime. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • I also use what I call a ‘big fat blob’ test: put a blob of the cooking jam on a cold saucer or plate. Chill it for 1 or 2 minutes, then poke the blob. Can you drag your finger through it and have the streak in the middle remain empty? If so, it is thick enough. If the blob re-forms and covers up the plate where your finger made the streak, it’s not thick enough.

  3. Todd Blakely

    Making a second batch because the first was so amazing. This stuff is worth the work and the wait. A test of patience and self control( hope I don’t eat it all to fast ). Thanks

    • I’m so glad you liked it! This stuff is magical at my house: try it with meatloaf for a sublime sandwich or with a cheese plate.

  4. for those that cannot get this to gel – try using a candy thermometer (or better yet, an instant read thermometer) and cooking until it reaches 220 degrees F. I use this method with non-pectin jams and jellies and it works out every time. The ingredients cook down by about 1/3 and it can take 20 plus minutes to achieve this temperature.

  5. Suzi Foster

    How long should I process jars in a hot water bath? Some recipes say 10 minutes, some 20 or 30. Not sure how to figure out how long at sea level. Thank you

    • As the recipe says above, process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Most jams in 8-oz jars get processed at 10 minutes, but tomato jam is denser, so it needs more time.

  6. Diane Beil

    I’m so sorry that I got your name incorrect. Please forgive me. Have a beautiful day.

  7. Diane Beil

    Sherry, I made this yesterday. I cooked the mixture for about three hours, it was reduced by at least half, it failed the wrinkle test several times…even though it didn’t “jam”, it most definitely was a good use of time because the outcome (although not jam-like in consistency) is absolute DELICIOUSNESS! Thanks for a wonderful recipe. I would venture to say that using a more meaty tomato, i.e. Roma, would have created a jam. Whatever…it is a bit of heaven on earth. Thanks again 😀

  8. Fiona Harding

    1. I used 5 lbs of rain-split cherry tomatoes.
    2. It took hours to cook down
    3. It made 6 8oz jars, as indicated. There was even a little leftover for immediate use
    4. It tastes amazing. My son tasted it and declared: “I will put this on everything”.

  9. nickiab

    Looks so good – I’m going to give it a try and if its as good as it sounds, it’s Xmas pressies

  10. nickiab

    This sounds amazing! I’m going to make it

    • If it’s sealed in a waterbath, and kept at moderate temperatures in a dark cupboard, it will last at least a year. Your friends will adore your presents.

  11. how many cups of tomatoes per batch? 10

    • I started with 5 lbs of tomatoes, and ended up with 13 4-oz jars of the jam plus part of another 4-oz jar. I did not measure the chopped tomatoes in cups.

  12. How long can it be stored for? Thanks.

    • If sealed in a waterbath, jars may be kept for up to a year, in a dark cupboard. Avoid storage at high temperatures (over 80 degrees F) or low temperatures (don’t let them freeze).

    • After following the directions perfectly, it simmered for 3 hours and never reached the “wrinkle” stage . It also reduced itself in volume by 2/3 so even if it ever “wrinkled” I might have gotten 4 jars out of it. I finally gave up on the whole thing – what a colossal waste of time, energy, and ingredients.

    • I am sorry you had a bad experience. Not having seen the batch, I can’t comment about what may have gone wrong. I’ve had only good results.

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I’m Maurita Plouff, and I write about cooking and preserving the local harvest in Southeast Michigan. Any recipe you find here is something I have cooked myself, and enjoyed, and think you might like too. I invite you to try the recipes, and leave comments.

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