Grilled cheese upgrade: Make tomato your jam

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If you’re like me, you want to keep on tasting summer for at least another couple of weeks. I am especially reluctant to say goodbye to the many shades of homegrown tomatoes I’ve been stuffing myself silly with for the past two months.

Luckily, I still have quite a bit of fruit on my vines (a benefit of planting late this year). While I plan on making much of it into sauce, I’m also turning some of these juicy orbs into a jam. Tomato jam requires just a handful of ingredients and minimal effort, and it is as easy as making applesauce. All you need are ripe tomatoes, some warm spices, a sharp knife, a heavy sauce pot and patience for a few hours as the jam cooks.

Most recipes call for using plum or Roma tomatoes, but I used a combination of yellow, purple and red heirlooms, with a few cherry tomatoes thrown in for good measure. Feel free to play around with the spices — grated ginger and red pepper flakes add some heat while vinegar counterbalances the sweetness. You also could add cloves, paprika, coriander or allspice.

This recipe makes two 8-ounce jars of jam that will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator or for months if processed in a hot-water bath.

The jam can be spread on toast or biscuits, spooned on top of eggs or cheese, or used as a condiment for meat. But it’s especially good slathered inside a crispy grilled cheese sandwich, with more on the side for dipping.

Homemade tomato jam is easy to make, and it dresses up everything from eggs to biscuits to grilled cheese sandwiches. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)


PG tested

For jam

  • 3 pounds tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow or red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch or two of red pepper flakes, or 1 hot chile pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For sandwiches

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided
  • 4 slices good bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 slices cheese, such as Muenster, Swiss or cheddar

Make jam: Place tomatoes and other ingredients into a large saucepan over medium heat.

Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened to a jam-like consistency, 2 1/2-3 hours. Transfer to sterilized glass jars and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

For long-term storage, use a hot-water canning bath for 15 minutes.

Make sandwiches: Spread 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise over the top side of each slice of bread.

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. After it melts, place the slice of bread, mayo side down, in the pan. Top with 2 slices of cheese and a generous dollop of tomato jam; spread jam to cover. Top with a second slice of bread, mayo side up.

Cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 4 minutes, then flip. Gently press down on sandwich for even browning and to help melt cheese. Cook until second side is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Remove from heat, and repeat with remaining slices of bread and cheese.

Serve immediately, with chips or a green salad.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

— Gretchen McKay