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.


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