When I was kid I remember eating something called Green Tomato Jam. I only remember having it once and it was at my Great Grandmother’s house in West Virginia. I was very young and I don’t remember much, but I remember that I loved it and have thought about it often every fall. This jam is a wonderful way to use up all your green tomatoes at the end of the growing season. Green tomatoes combined with lemons and sugar, this jam has a wonderful citrusy, tangy sweet flavor with a hint of tomato in the background. Today I’m going to show you, step by step, how to make this awesome jam.
To begin, you will need some basic canning equipment:
A Large Water-Bath Canner
A jar lifter-not required, but it does make things a lot easier (you can use tongs if you don't have a lifter, just be very careful)
A canning funnel - also not required, but again makes things a lot easier and less messy
Wash everything in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. This includes the jars, lids, rings, funnel, tongs, canner, everything. Once you have your equipment clean you need your ingredients. For this recipe, you will need:
8.5 Pounds Green Tomatoes
8 Whole Lemons
A large piece of fresh ginger (mine came out of my garden which is why it looks like that)
5 Pounds Sugar
Wash your lemons and tomatoes. Now a word about the tomatoes. You want GREEN tomatoes, ideally with no hint of blush. Some blushed tomatoes are alright as long as there aren’t too many. Do not use tomatoes that have obviously started to ripen. Here are some examples of ideal tomatoes and not so ideal but usable tomatoes.
These are ideal green tomatoes. No sign of ripening at all and the fruit is very hard.
These tomatoes are usable but not ideal. They are mostly green but have a slight blush on them which means they have begun the ripening process. They are also less firm.
Here an ideal, perfectly green tomato is cut and a tomato with a slight blush is cut. You can see the green tomato is white all the way through and there is very little, if any, juice. The blushed tomato is turning red inside and there is quite a bit more juice.
Ok, back to the jam 🙂
Core your tomatoes and rough chop into about 1 inch pieces. Cut the lemon in half lengthwise, then each half in half lengthwise. Slice the lemon quarters into 1/4 inch pieces (triangles). Peel and grate your ginger. Layer all this in a very large bowl with the sugar, beginning with fruit and ending with sugar.
To core tomatoes, cut around the stem and then pop the core out.
A cored tomato
Layer the fruit with the sugar
Once everything is in the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel if you’re not into plastic. Put it in the fridge overnight.
Cover and put it in the fridge overnight
The next morning, take it out and dump it into a large stockpot. Normally, you shouldn’t cook tomatoes in anything made of aluminum because the acid in the tomatoes reacts badly to the metal causing bitterness. However, since these tomatoes are green the acid has not yet developed and if all you have is a big aluminum pot (like me), don’t worry it’s fine.
Heat over medium heat till it comes to a full boil, stirring occasionally. The sugar draws out a LOT of liquid so you don’t have to worry too much about scorching and you don’t have to stir constantly. Just keep an eye on it. It will take several hours of boiling before the proper consistency is achieved.
Put in your pot and heat over Medium High heat to a full boil
Keep boiling and stirring and you will eventually start to see the level in the pot drop as the liquid reduces. When the color starts to deepen, start heating your canner, heat your oven to 215 degrees (F) and boil some water to pour over your lids. When the oven has reached temperature, put your jars in to sterilize (thanks to Bev for showing me I could do this instead of boiling them). Put your lids and rings in a pan and pour boiling water over them and cover with a plate to keep them hot.
It will start to change color as it reduces
It took me 4 hours and 15 minutes to reach the “done” point. You want a deep, rich caramel color to the syrup. It will also start to thicken up a bit and the fruit will turn translucent. Once the color starts to deepen you need to stir more often and watch more closely.
This is the color you need to look for. You can see it's reduced about 50%. The syrup is nice and thick and the fruit is translucent.
Once you’ve reached that deep, dark caramel color, take the pot off the heat and over to your work space (counter, table, etc.) Take a jar out of the oven, put your funnel in and fill the jar to within 3/4 inch of the rim.
Fill your hot jar with the hot syrupy fruit mixture. Be very careful and avoid splashing the hot syrup, it will give you a nasty burn.
Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel (even if you don’t think you got anything on it). Doing this ensures a good seal. Take a hot lid out of the pan and put it on and screw on a ring till just finger tight. Be careful not to over-tighten or your jars may not seal properly.
Make sure the water in your canner is boiling and carefully put your jars in the pot. I must note that it is VERY important that your jars not sit directly on the bottom of the pot. They can crack if they sit right on the bottom. I use a canning basket now, but I didn’t have one for years and used extra jar rings for my jars to sit on. Just put them in the canner before you start to heat it up.
Process for 15 minutes.
Make sure the water in your canner covers your jars by at least 1 inch. Put the lid on the pot and process in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Remove the canner from the heat and carefully remove the jars from the canner, one at a time, to a folded towel on a table or counter. If your kitchen is especially drafty or you run a ceiling fan in the kitchen, drape a light towel over the jars while they are cooling so they will cool at an even rate. Let the jars cool for 24 hours. Do not move, tilt, shake or open the jars during this time. This is very important.
This made just over 6 pints!
A note about filling the jars. If you find that you don’t have enough to completely fill a jar, you have 2 choices.
Partially filled jar
You can process it with the rest of the jars or you can not process at all. Either way, a partly filled jar (even a processed one) must be kept in the fridge. Too much head space in a jar prevents a good vacuum from forming, so even though the lid may “ping” there could still be air trapped in the jar. It’s safest to store jars like this in the fridge and eat them up quickly. I chose not to process this one.
There you have it! I’m glad I could share this old recipe and I hope someone out there will make it and let me know how they like it.
Till Next Time 😀