Spiced Tomato Jam

It’s a public holiday today in London – but my visions of a warm day at the beach or in the country were knocked on the head by the lashing rain that appeared this morning! Making the most of an unexpected day in the house, I’ve finished sorting through three years worth of administration and vacuumed and generally tidied the house. I know – very rock’n’roll! Then the moment came to reverse all the good work in the kitchen by embarking on a spontaneous culinary exploit.

So, forgetting the rain, today was also the start of what might be tentatively called “festive baking” as I’m making something that I’m looking forward to eating at Christmas – a sharp-but-sweet spicy tomato jam that is a great addition to a cheeseboard. It also means I can use some of our garden produce and enjoy them later in the year – our tomatoes were better this year than we managed last year (2014 yielded just three tomatoes!), but I’ve also got some big plans for next year to really get the most out of our garden. It might be small, but I’m determined to use it to grow useful things out there!


This is actually somewhere between a sweet jam and a chutney – it sets and is made with a lot of sugar (like jam), and while it has spices, salt and vinegar that you’d expect in a chutney, it doesn’t have onions or sultanas. It is in turns fruity, sharp, tangy and savoury, with little bursts of flavour from the spices I used. It is absolutely delicious with strong cheddar on oatcakes or crackers, and a little goes a long way.

I made this using cherry tomatoes – partly the result of a glut that we’ve got in the garden at the moment, but you could just as easily do this with bigger tomatoes, red, yellow or even green. I cut half of the cherry tomatoes in two, and trimmed the rest into quarters so that there is some variation in size in the finished jam. If you’re using bigger toms, then you’ll need to chop them into smaller pieces, unless you’re the kind of person that enjoys really chunky jam! I also let the tomatoes cook down in a bit of water so that they break down a bit before adding the sugar. If you add the sugar with the tomatoes at the start of cooking, it can stop them breaking down and leave you with large lumps. This doesn’t affect the flavour, and I think is really just a matter of aesthetics.


A word of warning – this recipe does not make a lot of jam, but that is not really an issue as you only need a little as it is packed with flavour. As it is easy to make, you can play around with different versions – I like nigella and cumin seeds, but you can also try aniseed or ginger and chilli. Using different colours of tomatoes also looks pretty – yellow tomatoes will keep their golden hue, while red tomatoes will produce anything from a deep orange to a ruby colour. I’ve ended up with one small jar that I can eat over the next couple of weeks, plus a large jar that I can keep in a cupboard for the December festivities. Now…let’s see what cheese I’ve got in the fridge to test out this batch?

To make spicy tomato jam (makes 2-3 small pots):

• 600g cherry tomatoes
• 100ml water
• 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 4 whole cloves
• pinch freshly-ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 75g soft brown sugar
• 100g white sugar
• 2 teaspoons pectin powder
• 60ml white wine vinegar
• juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rinse the tomatoes and cut into a mixture of halves and quarters, removing the stalk part from each. Place in a saucepan with the water and cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer gentle for around 20 minutes.

2. In the meantime, dry toast the nigella and cumin seeds – put them in a saucepan and warm over a medium heat until they smell fragrant. Once done, pour them onto a cold plate.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) to the tomatoes. Mix and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, the boil until the setting point is reached(*) before decanting the jam into prepared sterilised jam jars(**).

(*) How to check for a set? Chill a saucer in the fridge. Put a little jam on the cool plate, and return to the fridge for a minute. Push with your finger – if the jam visibly “wrinkles” when you push it, the jam is done. If it stays liquid, then cook longer and check again after a few minutes.

(**) How to sterilise jam jars? Wash in hot, soapy water, and then rinse very well – do not dry them. Now place up-side down on the shelf of a cold oven, and heat to 100°C / 210°F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven using gloves, allow to cool slightly (they should still be warm) and fill with the hot jam. You can leave the jars in the oven with the heat turned off until you need them, as this keeps the glass warm, and warm glass is much less likely to crack when you add warm jam (science, eh?). Remember to sterilise the lids by washing in hot, soapy water, then rinsing well and then boiling them in a pot of hot water for a few minutes.


Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Savoury

25 responses to “Spiced Tomato Jam

  1. Pingback: Spiced Tomato Jam | City To Country Magazine

  2. Shannon

    I’m not much of a canner- do the jars need boiling with the jam in or do they seal down by themselves, or is it refrigerator jam? Perfect timing as I’ve made nearly every tomato recipe I can think of with our million tomatoes from the garden this year!

    • Hi Shannon – I don’t do the canning approach with the boiling water as I’m lazy and I’ve got a fear that the bottles will shatter! I wash the jars and lids with lots of hot, soapy water, rinse them well, then dry them in a hot oven. The hot jam then goes into them and it seems to self-seal (two or three hours after filling the jars, you hear them go “pop” as they seal themselves).

      If you want to try another tomato recipe, have you made roasted tomato soup? Chop the toms, toss in oil, thyme and salt, chuck in a couple of cloves of garlic and roast until they are soft and just starting to brown at the edges. Then put the lot in the blender and pass through a sieve and season as needed – it’s DELICIOUS!

      • Shannon

        That sounds great too! I’m going to do both of those today- perfect rainy day for such things. Just picked another 3 baskets of tomatoes yesterday!

        • Shannon

          Just made my first batch today, and it neither set nor did the jars seal, but the taste more than makes up for whatever I did wrong! It’s so delicious it won’t last long in the fridge. I will try another batch!

          • Hi Shannon – sorry to hear that it didn’t set – did you use pectin when you made it? I think tomatoes are low in pectin, so they need some help to set. If it is very runny, just boil it again to make it thicker if you want – or keep it soft and just spoon it onto whatever you’re eating 😉

  3. mindfulmunchingnutrition

    This looks stellar! 🙂

  4. This looks great and I love the spices you used!

  5. Lucky you to have your own tomatoes! After last year’s disastrous non-yield we didn’t even bother planting any. The jam looks delicious, btw – perhaps we’ll try it next year. Depending on the tomatoes …

    • Thanks! Yes, last year we got just three rather flavourless toms, but this year – success! And they are so delicious, love having plates of sliced tomato with oil and a sprinkle of salt. Have also been eating for breakfast as we had them in Seville – toasted bread with EVOO, sliced tomato and some sea salt, so delicious in the morning.

      Our house has one of those odd little side returns, but it does get quite a bit of sunshine, so I’m thinking of putting in a little mini-greenhouse to maximise our crop next year and to keep out birds and cats. I love those moggies, but they do tend to go for the plants just before the crop is ready….grrrrr…

      • We have the same problems. In addition, our tomatoes always manage to ripen just as we go away on holidays, which has been making us very popular with the neighbours 😉
        I love those Spanish tomato breads!

  6. burntbutterbakery

    There’s nothing better than spending a gloomy, rainy day in the kitchen! This jam looks great, I love the sound of cumin and nigella seeds.

  7. Your spicy tomato jam sounds delicious, something for me to try out come summer. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  8. This looks and sounds amazing. It would make a fantastic addition to a homemade hamper or gift set too – I’m considering making one for my mum’s birthday at the end of the month so I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  9. michal

    this looks great! i am definitely going to try it! http://meatlessmain.com

  10. Ooh, that Bank Holiday was TERRIBLE. I actually went outside. At least you put the day to excellent use!

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