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Grandma Garska’s Tomato Jam

Sweet and with a hint of baking spices, this old fashioned tomato jelly is a unique spread for breads and pastries. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll know why it’s been a favorite in our family for generations!

canned tomato jelly

Grandma Garska’s Tomato Jelly

Growing up, my favorite jelly was something my Grandma made and called “Tomato Jam.” It was a gorgeous orangish-red color, sweet (but not too sweet), and spiced with fragrant cinnamon and cloves.

This year, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes in my garden, so I decided to try my hand at making Grandma’s recipe for the first time. She passed away earlier this year, so it seemed especially fitting and a special way to remember her.

The only problem…I didn’t have the recipe!

I reached out to my Aunt Susy and Aunt Peggy, who live in our hometown and spent every day with Grandma. They were able to help me track down a tomato jelly recipe that was as close as possible to what we knew and loved.

Smelling that sweet, spicy jam as it cooked on my stovetop brought back so many memories! And when I finally got to sample it, I was immediately transported to my childhood. The tomato jelly tasted exactly how I remembered it!

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you! I hope you love it as much as I do!

Related: Try this sweet tomato jam on our homemade dinner rolls!

What is the Difference between Tomato Jelly and Tomato Jam?

I don’t know if there is an “official” distinction, but when I did some Googling, the term “Tomato Jam” turned up mostly savory recipes, while “Tomato Jelly” gave me results that looked more like our family recipe.

Our family always called our sweet spread “tomato jam,” so I use both terms here.

tomato jelly on bread

Tomato Jelly Ingredients

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  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes — Scaled, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind — grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 packet liquid pectin

How to Scald Tomatoes for Peeling

The first step in making tomato jelly, salsa, or anything of the like is to scald the tomatoes. This is a process in which you score the bottom of the tomato, dunk them in boiling water, then place them into a bath of ice water.

Doing so loosens the skin of the tomatoes, making them much easier to peel.

Here’s a closer look at that process:

  1. Cut an “x” shape in the bottom of each tomato (opposite end from the stem).
  2. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. If you notice that the skin starts to peel back from where you scored the fruit, even if the 30 seconds is not up, remove immediately.
  3. Move tomatoes to an ice bath for 5 minutes. The skin will start to wrinkle up and pull back on its own.
  4. Gently peel skin away from tomato flesh. Discard skins or add to your compost.

step by step photo collage showing how to scald and peel fresh tomatoes

How to Make Tomato Jelly

Wash your tomatoes. Scald and peel as shown above.

When all tomatoes are peeled, chop and place into a large saucepan.

cooking chopped tomatoes in saucepan

Heat until simmering, stirring regularly to avoid scorching or sticking. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Measure out 3 cups of your cooked tomatoes to another large saucepan. Add lemon rind and spices.

Add pectin and sugar to your cooked tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a rolling boil. Allow the jam to boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat.

cooking tomatoes to make jam

Skim off the foam and pour into your prepared canning jars. Be sure to leave 1/4 inch headspace in your jars.

I canned using a water bath method — click here to see a tutorial for canning pickles (which is the same basic canning technique I use for jams).

canned tomato jelly

Can You Double this Jam Recipe?

It is generally recommended NOT to double jam and jelly recipes. The reason being that when you’re cooking the jam, there is less surface area and more volume, which necessitates longer cooking time. The final result is less likely to be properly set.

However, I actually did double this recipe. Shhh…don’t tell! It actually worked ok for me! The jelly did look a little watery in the jars in my pantry. However, any jars that I opened and moved to the fridge firmed up perfectly.

How Long Does Canned Jam Last?

Properly canned jams and jellies can last for 12-18 months, unopened. Store them in cool place, away from light or heat sources. Your pantry should be fine. Once opened you’ll need to keep the jars in the fridge.

If you open a jar or jelly and notice any weird smells, signs of mold or fermentation — trash it! It’s not worth the risk.

Related: Try my sweet and spicy Jalapeño Pepper Jelly recipe too!

Tomato Jelly Recipe (Printable Copy)

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tomato jam in jar

Sweet Tomato Jelly Recipe

Stacey
Sweet and with a hint of baking spices, this old fashioned tomato jelly is a unique spread for breads and pastries.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Water Bath Processing 10 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 50
Calories 72 kcal

Equipment

  • 2 Large Saucepans
  • Water bath canning equipment
  • large mixing bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes scalded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 packet liquid pectin

Instructions
 

To Prepared the Tomatoes

  • Cut an "x" shape in the bottom of each tomato (opposite end from the stem).
    scoring bottom of tomato
  • Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.
    scalding tomatoes in boiling water
  • Move tomatoes to an ice bath for 5 minutes.
    tomatoes in ice bath
  • Gently peel skin away from tomato flesh. Discard skins.
    peeling tomatoes after scalding

To Make Tomato Jam

  • When all tomatoes are peeled, chop and place into a large saucepan.
    cooking chopped tomatoes in saucepan
  • Heat until simmering, stirring regularly. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Measure out 3 cups of the cooked tomatoes and place in another large saucepan. Add lemon rind and spices.
  • Add pectin and sugar to your cooked tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring so sugar dissolves. Allow the jam to boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat.
  • Skim off the foam and pour into your prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace in your jars.
    cooking tomatoes to make jam
  • Process with water bath canning method.

Water Bath Canning Method

  • Sterilize canning jars by submerging in boiling water. You can leave the jars in the water to keep warm until your jelly is ready to can.
  • Once jars are filled, use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims clean.
  • Place lids on top and twist screw rings until you just start to hit resistance. You want the lids to stay on during canning, but air needs to be able to escape.
  • Submerge jars in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
  • Use canning tongs to remove jars from water and place them on a kitchen towel on the counter. You don't want to set the jars directly on a hard, cold surface.
  • Allow to cool. You should hear the "pop" of the jars sealing over the next few minutes.
  • Allow jars to stay in place overnight, then tighten the rings the rest of the way and store.
  • Any jars that did not seal should be kept in the fridge and used first.

Notes

Note: Nutrition information is a rough estimate only; actual values will vary based on the exact ingredients used and amount of recipe prepared.

Nutrition

Calories: 72kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 23mgFiber: 1gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 75IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 2mgIron: 1mg
Keyword jam, jelly, tomato
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Pin our Tomato Jam Recipe on Pinterest:

tomato jam in jar and on bread

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