Once someone learns I love to cook, they often ask me, “what’s your favorite thing to make?”. My answer for the past few years has consistently been this tomato jam. It’s versatile, incredibly delicious, and fills my home with all kinds of wonderful smells. From Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking.
Prep Time: 30 min | Cook Time: 2 hrs | Serves: 4
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c minced fresh ginger (a 3×1″ piece)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced* (if you can find heirloom tomatoes, snag those!)
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup honey (local, if you have it)
*To peel fresh tomatoes, core them and put them in a pot with 2 quarts of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove when you see the skin start to split, cool under running water and peel with your hands. Halve and gently squeeze to remove seeds into a bowl.
**If you’re feeling fun, simmer that bowl of removed seeds and juices in separate small pan until all the liquid has evaporated. You’ll end up with simple and sweet tomato sauce that you can use in all kinds of creative ways.
Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring a few times. Seeds should be brown, not blackened, and very fragrant. Grind seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.
Put the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan (or pot, if doubling the recipe) over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes, or until the ginger loses its woody appearance and darkens slightly. Add the vinegar and cinnamon sticks and reduce volume by half.
Add the tomatoes, brown sugar, cumin, cloves, and cayenne. reduce the heat to very low and cook slowly for about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, or until all the tomato juices have evaporated. If you’re doubling the recipe, this could be over two hours. Season with salt and pepper. Note: If you taste the jam at this point, don’t panic about the spice level. This will mellow out quite a bit once you add the honey.
Add the honey and stir until the jam is shiny and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon sticks, and let cool. The jam will keep up to 1 week under refrigeration.
Serving suggestions: There are so many ways you can use this! Serve it over grilled chicken or lightly seasoned pork tenderloin. Use it as a spread or topping for bruschetta. I’ve even used it as a steak marinade where I pureed some of the jam with lemon juice and shallots then topped off the cooked steak with additional jam and cilantro (a serving suggestion from the same Mediterranean cook book).
- Sometimes, I’ll add a touch of lemon zest for extra depth of flavor.
- When I have it on hand, I’ll use piloncillo (a type of unrefined sugar frequently used in Mexican cooking) in the place of brown sugar. Piloncillo’s rich flavor compliment the other ingredients well.
- The original chef notes that canned Italian tomatoes can be an acceptable substitute when tomatoes are out of season, but I haven’t tried this.