Hitting the jackpot

In best part of a year of blogging, there have been successes, semi-successes and the occasional “why bother,” like the biting but blah pickled asparagus or the overly vinegary gooseberry chutney that definitely did not repay the hours it took to top and tail the fruit and then the endless simmering down.

But I think last week’s tomato-basil jam is the first knock-your-socks off amazing product I’ve made to date (which makes it all the sadder that we’ve only got a single jar and we’re an inch down that already). It has a rich sweetness with an undertone of concentrated tomato, along with a gentle bite and a deep brick-red color. And I used Roma tomatoes rather than the heirloom ones the recipe recommended, so just think how much nicer it would have been with the ones from the garden, which have a taste all of their own. We served it with venison pate from St Lawrence Market. Next time I’m inhaling it with chunks of a dry, spicy Manchego cheese.

Here, with grateful thanks to a blog called Leena Eats is the recipe. Leena says she adapted it from a book that I actually own, Gourmet Preserves Chez Madeleine by Madeleine Bullwinkel — I picked it up at a second hand bookstore in rural Vermont. But I can’t find the book anywhere. Did I loan it to someone and forget about it? And if so, can I have it back please?

Tomato basil jam
3 pounds of ripe, locally grown organic heirloom tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes)
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice from two lemons
1 bunch of basil leaves, separated from the stems (I used lemon basil, because that’s what I had in the garden)
Balsamic vinegar to taste

*Peel the tomatoes and seed them over a sieve to catch the juice, and then chop them coarsely. That should get you a generous 4 cups of chopped up tomato.
*Put the tomato and juices into a large nonreactive pot, cover and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and simmer the liquid for 30 minutes or until it is reduced to 2 1/2-3 cups and no longer has excess moisture. (I never quite figured out what 2-1/2 cups was in a large preserving saucepan, so I just let it boil down until it looked pretty squidgy.)
*While the tomatoes are cooking, puree half of the basil leaves with half of the lemon juice. Cut the rest of the basil into very thin strips.
*Add the lemon zest and non-basil lemon juice to the tomato mixture, and add the sugar, a bit at a time, bringing back to the boil before you add each installment. Cook for 10 minutes until the jam thickens.
*Remove from heat and add the lemon-basil juice. Taste for sweet and sour balance and add lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to get a nice balance of sweet and sour.
* Add more lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar (about 2 tbsp) to help balance the sweetness, and test again.
*Add the basil, stir and bottle in hot, clean, sterilized jars.

You can water bath this one to sterilize it, but why bother? It only makes two 250ml jars. Trust me. They won’t last long enough for anything nasty to grow.

Rating: 5 (out of 5). I can’t think of anything that detracts from this one.



  1. Wow, incredible that a fairly straightforward recipe yielded the jackpot chutney! It’s similar to the tomato sauce I make for the kids (minus the sugar) – they love the tang that the balsamic vinegar adds, and sometimes the stray anchovy that I throw in too. Can’t wait to try it out as a full-blown chutney though – once my kitchen’s ready 🙂

  2. This is definitely a jam/chutney rather than a sauce, because you actually get the texture from the tomato pulp. I suspect an anchovy or two would be an interesting addition here as well, although I would be wary of water bathing it and trying to keep it anywhere except in the fridge. I had it again in my sandwiches today, and it was just as yummy then. I might make more.

    How long until the kitchen is done?

  3. It sounds good! Kind of like my favorite tomato chutney. And yes, my can-o-rama report is coming soon. I haven’t yet dared to count the number of jars…

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