I don’t know about you, but for me Summer is NEVER long enough. Oh, the sunshine and weather is great, but I like the cooler temperatures, too. No, for me, it’s about those things that you can’t get any other way, like REAL tomatoes! There’s an intense joy about going out and picking (or purchase, if you can’t grow your own) a sun-warmed tomato fresh off the vine.
But, as we know, summer doesn’t last forever. But you CAN preserve some of that essence of the season in a jam!
My inspiration came two years ago, right after I came home from a 5-month season running “Alaskan Song” up in Southeast Alaska. I had stopped at the farmer’s market and discovered these amazing over-ripe heirloom tomatoes. I had an abundance of basil, too, compliments of a local neighbor and I just thought…”why can’t I make a JAM with this?” Why ever not?
So, I approached the project just like any other experiment. Start with what you know. Jam requires fruits (yes, a tomato is a fruit) at their prime, sugar, and often supplemental pectin. I wanted to amplify the tomato aspect of the jam so adding basil was a natural. I often make a peach-basil jam that is out of this world. I gave version 1.0 a test and it turned out SO good, I made a second version, this time spiced up with some red pepper flakes and some minced garlic. Also freaking outrageous! Both versions appear in the recipe below: just add/leave out garlic and/or red peppers if you prefer a milder and sweeter version.
I didn’t want the garlic to be overpowering so added it part way into the cooking process. Similar, too, with the pepper flakes. BUT, since I wanted a really fresh “pop” of basil, it went in at the very end, once the heat was turned off just before I started ladling the mixture into the jars.
Now, how to use: well, I love playing with the Caprese flavors even more. It’s awesome as a topping for crostini, spread with a little fresh Mozzarella and adding a spoonful of the jam, with a garnish of a little more basil chiffonade and fresh cracked black pepper. In this picture, I substituted Brie for the Mozz and served it with sturdy crackers. Got some pre-made phyllo cups? Super — goat cheese and tomato jam. I also love embellishing a turkey sandwich with Havarti and a smear of jam to “stand in” for a ripe slice of the fresh tomato itself. If you like a post-Thanksgiving Turkey and Cranberry Sauce sandwich then you’ll fall in love with this combo!
Tomato Basil Jam
- 2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 1 1.75oz package, powdered fruit pectin for lower-sugar recipes
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, snipped or chiffonaded
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes, (optional, and to taste)
- Core, seed and finely chopped tomatoes. Measure 3 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes and add to a large (6-8qt) heavy bottomed stainless steel, enamel or non-stick pot. Bring tomatoes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer tomatoes, covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, you should have 3 1/3 cup of cooked tomatoes. Return tomatoes to the pot, stir in lemon juice.
- In a small, separate bowl, combine fruit pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Stir into the tomato mixture. Add garlic and pepper flakes to pot, if using. Bring tomato mixture to a full roiling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the remaining sugar and return to a full roiling boil. Continue to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add snipped basil and stir to incorporate.
- Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Wipe jar rims before topping with lids and rings.
- Process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove jars from water bath and cool before using.