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Photo (public domain) from Wikipedia, melba toast, goat cheese, and tomato preserves

I have 60 tomato plants out this year in three varieties – Big Boy, Better Boy, and Atkinson – so unless the horn worms find them or in spite of regular watering the drought and blistering sun render them incapable of setting fruit I should have enough to preserve.  We enjoy home-made soups and stews so a good portion of them will be canned or frozen, perhaps I’ll try my luck with the dehydrator, and then preserves could be made from any remaining fruit.  I envision a toasted bagel and cream cheese topped with tomato preserves and if I’m feeling particularly decadent some crispy bacon on the side.


The earliest published receipt this author found for tomato preserves was the mid-1840’s, but mixtures under different names were published much earlier.  The Oct. 31, 1828 issue of the “New England Farmer” contained a receipt entitled “Towit of Tomatas”.  The housewife was to take a pint of tomatoes and a pound of fine sugar and reduce them in the same way as any other jam [cooked until thickened], then add the juice of a lemon.  “This makes a very good to wit.”

Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia Housewife” contained a form of the preserves called Tomato Sweet Marmalade in 1836.


Half of the author’s garden, some of the tomato plants in front (before staking)

Randolph’s Tomato Marmalade was made from stemmed green tomatoes stewed and rubbed through a sieve, and the pulp combined with pepper, salt, pounded cloves, and garlic.  It was stewed thick, “keeps well”, and was considered an excellent seasoning.  Her sweet tomato marmalade instructed the housewife to add loaf sugar to the tomato pulp and stew until it was a stiff jelly.  It isn’t clear if the salt, pepper, and garlic were used in the sweet version.

“Tomatoes Preserve.—Mr. Editor—The tomato is favorably mentioned in your last number:  it is a valuable vegetable.  But I do not recollect, that in the variety of uses to which it has been applied, your paper assigns it any place among the different species of preserves.  As we are deprived this season of that pride of the fruit of Georgia, the peach, it may be of service to housekeepers to know that the tomato forms a most admirable substitute for the peach as a preserve.  The flavor is almost precisely the same—it looks as well, and is altogether an excellent article for the tea table.

Directions:–Take good ripe tomatoes—peel them and preserve them with good brown or loaf sugar.  If not peeled they burst, and do not retain the consistency so much desired by housekeepers, though they are very good without peeling.  I give you this, at this time, that the industry of the fair hands about your flourishing town may profit by it, before Jack Frost shall cut off their hope from this new source of table ornament and luxury.  “The Gennessee Farmer”, Aug. 1834, as quoted from the “Southern Planter”.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Preserve:  Take six pounds fruit, five pounds sugar, a bag containing two large tablespoons of ground ginger, and cook till quite thick.  Allow one lemon, sliced, to every quart can of preserve.  It can be cooked with the tomato or sliced into the can as it is being filled.  – “Good Housekeeping”.  August, 1904.


Date and original source unknown.  Clippings found online at the Milwaukee Public Library digital collection of historic recipes.

Tomato Preserve.  8 qts ripe tomatoes (after peeled and sliced), 4 qts sugar, 3 lemons sliced very fine; boil down tomatoes and lemons before adding the sugar.  – “The Warren Cook Book.  1920.

Historic Recipe File, Milwaukee Public Library

Green Tomato Preserve.  To one pound of fruit use three-quarters of a pound of granulated sugar.  Allow one sliced lemon to two pounds of fruit, first tasting the white of the lemon to be sure it is not bitter.  If bitter [as most are], use the yellow rind [zest], grated, or shaved thin, and the juice.  Put the sugar on with just water enough to melt it, add the tomato and lemon, and cook gently until the tomato is tender and transparent.  Cut the tomatoes around in halves, and then quarter the halves.  This shape is preferable to slices.  This will keep without sealing, but it is better to put it in small jars, as it is so rich that only a little is wanted at a time.  – “The American Kitchen Magazine”.  Sept. 1898.

Tomato Preserve.  4 lbs. green tomatoes, sliced, 2 lemons, 2 ½ lbs. sugar, 3 or 4 small pieces gingerroot [sic].  Cook until rich preserve.  – “Woman’s Club of San Matco”.  1909.

About the only thing that has changed in these receipts in recent years is the process of putting them up.  Directions:  After boiling  a spice bag containing 1 Tablespoon mixed pickle spice and a 1 ½ inch piece of ginger, sliced, with 4 cups sugar, 2 medium lemons, seeded and sliced, and ¾ cup water for 15 minutes, add 6 cups peeled tomatoes (quartered or sliced if large), boil until the tomatoes are transparent.  Let set in a cool place from 12 to 18 hours.  Heat jars in hot water and heat water for processing the jars.  Transfer cooked tomatoes and lemon slices to a glass or stainless steel bowl and set aside using a slotted spoon.  Discard spice bag.  Bring syrup to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add reserved tomatoes and lemons.  Bring back to a boil and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and skim off foam.  Ladle hot preserves into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Wipe the rim clean.  Place the tops on the jars until fingertip tight and process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  Remove jars and cool.

As always, Blissful Meals yall, from thehistoricfoodie, Vickie Brady.  thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com©