Tomato Preserves recipe


DSCN6526 preserves done

Until I met my husband, I’d never heard of tomato preserves. Were they savory? Were they sweet? What did a person do with them?

They’re sweet; Nebraskans eat them on pancakes.

In fact, I learned, it is not possible to enjoy pancakes without them. To that end, when he moved to California, his mother sent along two pints of tomato preserves for the pancakes she assumed (correctly) that he would be making for himself.

Indeed, when I met him he was making his own pancakes and was resupplied every few months with tomato preserves from Nebraska. It was clear that although he would eat pancakes without them, it was not optimal, and probably not even civilized.

I got this recipe – the recipe – from his mother, who got it from his grandmother, who used her mother’s recipe. I gave it to our daughter.

I have brought the measurements up to date, and also converted them to weights (as opposed to volume) to make the process a little more straightforward. And just so you’ll know, the recipe really does take three hours; you can’t cheat on the time.

My annotations are included in italics.


tomato collageReady, set…  one hour… two hours… three hours.

Grandma’s Tomato Preserves

makes about 10 pints

  • 6 quarts (10 pounds) chopped peeled, but not seeded tomatoes.

Cook down and drain off the juice – about 5 pints of juice. This is done before the sugar is added.


  • 10 cups of sugar (4 pounds, 6 ounces – or 2 kilograms)
  • 2 t. whole cloves
  • 1 t. ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 lemons – remove the peel and pith, then remove the seeds and puree the whole lemons in a blender and stir them into the chopped tomatoes. This adds a little pectin to the preserves – they’re very loose – and helps retain a bright, red color.
  • Vanilla bean husks – if you save the husks after you’ve scraped out vanilla beans for other recipes, this is a good use for them. Stir the husks into the tomato mixture after the sugar is added, and cook them with the preserves. Pull them out before you ladle the finished preserves into jars.
  • The marmalade route – this is completely unsanctioned. Use a vegetable peeler to peel two oranges, two lemons or two tangerines, then slice the peel crosswise into tiny – 1/16-inch – strips. Remove the pith and seeds from the remaining fruit, and thoroughly grind the remaining whole fruit in a blender. Add the ground fruit and strips of peel to the tomato mixture at the beginning of the cooking process, and cook as directed.

Cook on low stirring often for approximately 3-1/2 hrs.

Pour into sterilized jars and process as directed. Use this link to the Ball/Kerr canning website for detailed processing instructions.


Georges’ “Peach Wonderful”

DSCN2637 pie on plate

This is such a great peach pie recipe. It has the real no-foolin’ flavor of a fresh peach pie that you just can’t fake. It’s custard-y, but has no eggs. It’s not tricky. And you can make it with just four or five cups of fresh peaches.

I got the recipe, the so-called “Peach Wonderful,” from my friend, Georges Spunt, who grew up wealthy in the International Settlement of 1930’s Shanghai. I met him when we both worked for the same company in San Francisco where his office was a crossroads for wit and gossip, oddballs of every stripe and bored employees. There, he held court with stories of life in Shanghai, including but not limited to social encounters with Mussolini’s son-in-law, Anna Pavlova, Douglas Fairbanks, and boatloads of  “…impoverished nobility, real and spurious.”

Georges was the author of two cookbooks – the hilarious and elegantly written Memoirs and Menus (“…the bordellos of Shanghai were run by madams of impeccable taste and judgment.”) and The Step-by-Step Chinese Cookbook – as well as  A Place in Time, a wonderful memoir about growing up in Shanghai in the years before World War II. He may or may not have developed this recipe himself, but in any case had annotated it over the years to reflect his own evolving tastes and preferences. It is reproduced here exactly as it he gave it to me. My cook’s notes follow in italics; don’t ignore them.

Georges Spunt’s books are available online through

Georges’ Peach Wonderful
one 9-inch single crust peach pie

  • 2/3-cup sugar
  • 1/3–cup flour
  • 4 to 5 cups sliced fresh peaches (only fresh will do)
  • one drop only almond extract
  • one unbaked 9-inch pie crust
  1. Mix all ingredients together*
  2. Pour 1/2-pint heavy cream over all
  3. BAKE in a 350F oven until done, 30-40 minutes
  4. CHILL

*Cook’s notes:

pie collage

  • Slice the peaches into two tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
  • Stir the peaches and the sugar/flour mixture plus two teaspoons of cornstarch together in a large, microwaveable bowl until smooth and completely combined; then stir in one cup of heavy cream.
  • Microwave the mixture, stirring at 2-minute intervals until it begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. This may also be done in a pan on a stove top. Without this step, the baking time is not long enough to properly thicken the custard and cook the peaches.
  • Pour into a pie shell – you may add a streusel topping at your discretion – and bake as directed.
  • This pie continues to thicken as it cools; you won’t be able to slice it until it is completely chilled, about two hours.
  • pie collage 2