Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomato Orange Marmalade

My addiction to canning began 7 years ago with this recipe, all that I love about canning is present in tomato orange marmalade.  It is a product that is inaccessible if you do not make it yourself, one that looks beautiful cooling on your counters for weeks longer then necessary, an enjoyable almost meditative cooking process and of course a flavor that is well worth all the time you invest in it.  The flavor is one that provides a bright sweet flavor to a long winter of stored root vegetables.  I was recently asked what compelled me to make this recipe when I first saw, tomato is not well known as a sweet preserve and many would not even try it.  Honestly I do not remember, it may have been my love of tomatoes, or the way I was imagining it would taste in my head or just an adventurous streak.  Although we should remember that tomatoes are a fruit, so really it should be less of a mental leap then making a tasty dessert with rhubarb, which is a vegetable.

I ended up making Tomato Orange Marmalade in my No Added Pectin Jam Making Workshop last Saturday and I think it is safe to say it surprised all the participants.  Everyone immediately fell in love with it.  One attendee said, "This is my new favorite thing."  A sentiment I fully understand as it is a spread that is just the right side of sweet to be perfect spread on toast or filling a French crepe, but would also be happy paired with chevre.  The tomatoes serve to balance the citrus and temper the bitterness that is usually so prevalent in marmalade.  In the end I think everyone was happy that I called it in to pinch hit for the seedless raspberry jam I originally had planned.

Raspberry jam seemed perfect to teach now as the season was just beginning, giving the participants plenty of time to make it on their own before the season was over.  However I failed to think through the nature of farming and availability.  I was happily remembering picking fall raspberries in the height of the season, when you can take less then thirty minutes to fill a flat with berries.  However this is the start of the fall raspberry season and the picking is frustrating at best.  So in the end I had enough local raspberries to make a batch in my workshop but not enough to swap in and out various steps like a Food Network Star.

In case I have not sufficiently piqued your interest to try this marmalade recipe perhaps my eight year old's undying love for it can persuade you.  This has been Sebastian's favorite since he was 3, the year I ran out mid winter and unable to imagine his diet without it found out a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes would work in the recipe.  Every time Sebastian introduces someone to it and they fall in love it makes his day.  He loves knowing that other people have discovered one of his favorite culinary joys.  If you do try this please let me know in the comments, I know he will love to read them.

Tomato Orange Marmalade
Adapted from Gourmet 2003

It is important that you use the best quality tomatoes you can for this recipe.  You can use any color of tomato you want, a mix is especially striking.  Don't use paste tomatoes as they do not have enough liquid in them.  If need be in winter you can make a batch using 1 quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes.  However supermarket tomato look alikes will not work.  A friend tried that once and when I asked how it was she replied, "Well... I ate it."  Which meant no one else would.

3 pounds peeled, cored and chopped ripe heirloom tomatoes, including juices (the weight is after peeling, coring and chopping, including the weight of any juices)
3 cups sugar
2 organic juice oranges, washed
1 organic lemon, washed
1/8 tsp salt

Place peeled, chopped tomatoes and their juices in a 5 to 6 qt or larger, wide pot, (the ingredients will all fit in a smaller pot but you need to leave space so they will not bubble over, ideally it should be at least 9 1/2 inches wide to encourage rapid evaporation).  Slice oranges and lemons as thinly as possible, including peel and pith.  I slice mine on my mandolin using the thinest insert and then remove all the seeds and slice the rounds into 4 pieces (and the pieces that are only peel I julienne, you can also quarter the fruit and then slice it as thinly as possible with a knife.

Place the lemon and orange slices in the pan with the tomatoes, checking again for any citrus pits you missed, in the pot with the tomato.  Add the sugar and salt and place over moderate heat while stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Turn the heat to high and continue to cook until the setting point is reached.*

Using a canning funnel ladle hot marmalade into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Run a bubble wand or small knife around the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles.  Use a damp paper towel to clean the surface of the rims, place a clean lid on top, add the rings and tighten as tightly as you can with your hands.  Place the filled jars in a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes is up remove the lid, turn off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes before removing the jars to cool on a towel or receiving blanket.

*How to test the setting point of jam:
This recipe is a great one to learn how to make preserves without added pectin as it gives you a visual cue when to begin testing.  At first the ingredients all look like separate items, tomatoes, juice and citrus slices.  I never begin to test this recipe until the ingredients take on a cohesive look, like they are all one product and most of the liquid is evaporated.  When making jam do not expect it to look like jam when it is still hot, hot jam is still a liquid unless you have moved beyond the gel stage and gotten to the cement stage.

Once it begins to look cohesive begin testing, for this recipe I rely almost exclusively on the cold plate test.  I place 2 saucers in the freezer and when I want to test the set I place a dollop on the plate, remove the marmalade from the heat, and place the plate in the fridge.  After a few minutes check the plate, the marmalade should remain in a mound that does not run if it is done, if you run your finger through it it should leave a line.  If you want a firmer set it should wrinkle before your finger if you push the mound, I personally prefer a softer set then that with this one.

If you do not trust your set testing abilities do the cold plate test and when you think it is set take the pot off the heat, place it in the fridge and test the set the next morning.  If it is set heat it back up to boiling before ladling into hot jars and canning (the product must be hot to safely can it).


  1. Interesting recipe - I'm still warming to sweet tomato recipes, but I have more than enough heirlooms to give it a try.

  2. I can't wait to finally give this a try. You are a terribly generous cook to share this signature recipe.

  3. Oh, Baby! Here it is, end of summer. The LAST of the tomatoes, and I am canning my first, and last batch. Woe is me that I did not try this recipe earlier... It is super-fantastic and incredibly easy! I may hide this small batch (6 small jelly jars) in my bedside table for my own snacking when the kids are sleeping!

  4. Must I use a water bath or can I simply go the inversion route with this one?

    1. It is advisable to use a water bath canner to process all jams and fruit spreads. There is no risk of botulism with high acid fruit spreads, but sealing by the inversion method does not heat the jam to a high enough temperature to eliminate all the things that might cause the jam to spoil or mold.

      You may still choose to seal this by the inversion method, but you are risking it going bad and wasting your work. If you really don't want to use the water bath you can freeze it or take the risk of of spoilage that comes with inversion.

  5. Shirley Dewe ZundellMonday, August 20, 2012

    For Sebastian: Hi Sebastian: Thanks to you I tried the Tomato-Orange Jam recipe. When I heard the name Tomato-Orange Jam, it didn't sound that appealing, but when your Mom said that it was your favorite, I decided to try it. It's great and I love it! I made it with half Sungold cherry tomatoes from my garden (not peeled) and half regular store-bought tomatoes. It was so good. Now, I have two batches ready to make tonight with half Sungolds and half regular tomatoes from my garden. I'll be ready with Christmas gifts! So, without you Sebastian I wouldn't have tried this recipe. A big thank you to you. And your Mom also!

  6. Thanks for the great class last Saturday! I went to the Farmer's Market today and stocked up on tomatoes. Everything was going great until I let my dog out and came in to the slight smell of "burnt"... and the bottom of my pan had dark colored scrapings... I take it that this batch is not worth keeping? By the way... tell your son, this is delicious! All my coworkers thought it sounded crazy until I brought it to work with cheese and crackers! yum!

  7. Thanks for the great class last Saturday! After a trip to the Farmers' Market today, I started my first batch. Everything was going good until I briefly let my dog out and came back in to the slight smell of "burnt" and dark scrapings at the bottom of my pot. I take it this batch is useless? Bummer! By the way, tell your son how great this is! My coworkers thought I was crazy until I brought it to work with cheese and crackers... YUM!

  8. I gave my husband a "blind taste test" when he came home. He said yours was sweeter but that he would totally eat both. I told him what happened and he said it didn't taste burnt. (I trust him, he's a cook). Maybe I'll save this batch for home and start another for gifts. I'd just hate to waste all those tomatoes... what do you think? Thanks! Sorry, I'm a rookie! -Melissa (misfitknit@gmail.com)