Make Homemade Tomato Jam

Edited by Monika, Rebecca M., Graeme, Lynn and 4 others

Tomato paste.jpg

It is fun to make and great to have different toppings to put on your sandwiches. Now, aside from the ready-made ones you can get at the grocery store, you can make all sorts of different condiments in your own kitchen. You'll find that most homemade jams are both better for you and definitely taste better than store-bought ones. One of these delicious products you can make is tomato jam. Affordable and economical, tomato jam, also called tomato preserves, can be used as a topping for burgers and hot dogs, or as a dip for your potato or tortilla chips. All you have to decide whether you'll make it spicy or mild.


  1. 1
    6 cups tomatoes (or roughly 6-8 lbs
    of tomatoes) This will make about 10 half-pints (eight ounce jars) of tomato jam.
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  2. 2
    1 box of powdered no-sugar-needed pectin (if you are using sugar, use regular pectin; the sugarless pectin gives a better and more consistent set)
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  3. 3
    4 1/2 cups sugar
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  4. 4
    1 1/2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
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  5. 5
    1/4 cup lemon juice
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  6. 6
    Optional spices
    1/2 teaspoon of each - ground allspice, ground cloves, ground cinnamon
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Equipment Needed

  1. 1
    10-12 half-pint canning jars - these can usually be found in major grocery stores, and include the lids and rings; a dozen costs around $8
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  2. 2
    10-12 lids - thin, flat, round, metal lids with a binder on the inside that seals the jar; since these can be used only once, you may need to have a few extras on hand
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  3. 3
    10-12 metal rings - used to secure the lids on the jars, and can be used a number of times
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  4. 4
    1 canner or very large stock pot or Dutch oven for water bath canning - this is a big pot used for the water bath required to can low-acid fruits such as tomatoes; if you don't have one, you can get one or a canner for about $30 from most large grocery or kitchenware stores
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  5. 5
    1 jar lifter - used to grab hold of the hot jars when removing them from the water bath
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  6. 6
    1 lid lifter or a pair of tongs - the lid lifter has a magnet that grabs and holds the lids when you take them out of the boiling water used to sterilize them; tongs can also work and you probably already have some; lid lifters usually cost about $2 at grocery or kitchenware stores
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  7. 7
    1 jar funnel - a very useful tool to have since it keeps you from spilling your jam all over the counter when trying to put it into the jars; you can find these at grocery, house ware and some hardware stores for about $3
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  8. 8
    1 very large cooking pot, ladles and spoons
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Select the right tomatoes

Grow and/or pick your own tomatoes to get the best ones. Never use bruised, mushy, or spoiled tomatoes.

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Since there are so many different varieties - Beefsteak, Roma, Lemon Boy, Better Boy, etc. - you could try a mixture of all of these or stick with just Roma tomatoes. Romas are called paste tomatoes because of their consistency when cooked, and they are usually thicker, with meatier walls and less water, so these are probably the best tomatoes to use for tomato jam.

Remove the skins.

Put the tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for about 30-45 seconds.

Tomato skin.jpg

With a slotted spoon, gently remove the tomato from the boiling water and quickly plunge it into ice water. The boiling water will make the skins split and the ice water will allow you to slide the skins off the tomatoes easily. If left on, you'd have to pick the skins out of the finished product or they'd make your tomato jam very chewy. In other words, not very nice!

Remove the seeds and water.

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If using Roma tomatoes, you can skip this step, however other tomatoes such as Better Boy, Big Boy, cherry tomatoes, Gardener's Delight, etc., all contain lots of water. So you have to squeeze the excess water out of each tomato into a separate non-metallic container. First, cut them in half, then, using a spoon or your finger, remove the seeds. Another method is to cut each tomato in half across the middle rather than from top to bottom, and then shake the seeds out. The juice will come out at the same time.

Drain and chop the tomatoes.

Put the squeezed tomatoes into a colander while you finish squeezing the rest of the tomatoes. This will allow more water to drain off. Then roughly chop the tomatoes into approximately half inch pieces.

  • Option: Rather than squeezing the tomatoes, you could pass them through a screen, sieve, or cheesecloth, and then save the liquid you squeeze out to drink as fresh tomato juice or use it in cooking.

Sterilize the jars and lids.

The jars and lids must be sterilized to get rid of any bacteria on either and to avoid spoilage. Use your dishwater to sterilize the jars, but the lids need to be put into a pot or baking pan on the stove with hot water in it, then bring the heat up to 180 degrees F for at least 5-10 minutes. Keep the pan on simmer so the water stays hot once the lids have been sterilized.

Put the chopped tomatoes in a large pot and slowly bring the mixture to a simmer

Tomato chop.jpg

Stirring constantly to prevent burning and sticking, add the lemon rind, and spices - allspice, cloves and cinnamon, if using.

Add the pectin and lemon juice, bring to the boil.

Measure the sugar and set it aside.

Tomato paste.jpg

Mix together the lemon juice and the powdered pectin, then add to the tomatoes and stir well. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. If you want a firmer texture, you can add about a fifth (20 percent) of a package more pectin.

Add sugar as soon as the tomatoes have reached a rolling boil

Add 4 ½ cups sugar as soon as the mixture reaches a rolling boil. Keep stirring and bring the mixture back to a boil that cannot be stirred down. Set your timer or watch the clock and boil for one minute while you continue stirring.

Test the set or "gel"

Put a metal spoon in ice water to get it really cold. Use the spoon and take about half a spoonful out of the jam pot, let it cool to room temperature and run your finger down the middle of the jam.

Tomato jell.jpg

If it leaves a line in the jam, it is thick enough and the jam is ready to be put into jars. However, if it's not thick enough, stir in a bit more pectin - about one quarter to one half of another package - and boil for another minute, then test again.

Note: Three ingredients are necessary to make jams and jellies set - sugar, pectin and acidity. The pectin that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables varies. It also depends on the fruit and its ripeness, as under-ripe fruit contains more pectin. There must be a balance of sugar, pectin, and acidity, plus one minute of boiling to make the three come together.

Fill the jars and put on lid and rings

Fill the jars up to 1/4 inch from the top, run a clean paper towel around the top of the jar to ensure it is clean so you'll get a good seal.

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Then place the hot lid on the jar and screw on the metal ring and hand-tighten.

Boil (process) the filled jars in the water bath

Put the jars in the bottom of the water bath or pot and pour in water to a depth of least two inches. Boil the jars for about five minutes.

Tomato process.png

Altitude makes a difference in boiling time, so if you are using half-pint jars and your kitchen is at an altitude of 1 to 1,000 ft. above sea level, boil for five minutes, if your altitude is 1,001 to 6,000 ft. above sea level, boil for 10 minutes, and if your altitude is 6,000+ ft. above sea level, boil for 15 minutes.

That's it - you're done!

Lift the jars out of the water bath and let them cool completely in a draft-free spot. Take care to avoid bumping the jars or having them touch each other. When the jars are completely cold (this usually takes 6-8 hours), check that they are properly sealed - the lid should have been sucked down and will not move when pressed in the middle. If it clicks up and down when pressed with your finger, it's not properly sealed. At this point, either refrigerate it and use that jar as soon as possible or put the contents in a new sterilized jar, put on a new lid and re-process by putting it in the water bath again and boiling for the appropriate time.

Store in a cool, dark place and use within one year. If any jars show signs of leaking or discoloration of the contents, do not use - throw the contents away.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


Article Info

Categories : Jams & Jellies

Recent edits by: Alma, Eng, mahalia jovita b. bugasto

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