August 22, 2012

tomato jam (and country ham)

I have a vivid, fond memory of walking out to my Opa’s garden in the summer as he checked on his crops.  He grew plump, bite-size cherry tomatoes and I loved picking them from the vine and popping them right into my mouth.  I can close my eyes today and still taste that sun-warmed, juicy tomato with a hint of dirt.  “Nothing like a Jersey tomato,” he’d say.  “They’re the best.”
New Jersey tomatoes are indeed fantastic.  It is the Garden State, after all.  But really, a local, homegrown tomato from anywhere is just fine with me.  I’ve spent many a summer in Tennessee, and the red, orange, yellow, and green beauties from these local crops are simply delicious.

Hands down, the cherry tomato is my favorite.  A larger tomato can’t burst with flavor in that way.  When the heirloom cherry tomatoes start showing up at the markets, I’m a happy girl.  Sometimes I’m overzealous in my plans for them, and I’ll end up with a pint of cherry tomatoes looking a bit sad and wrinkled.  However, this is when they’re perfect for the simplest, happy little recipe: tomato jam. 

It calls for just four ingredients and about 30 minutes of prep/cook time.  It’s a slow, lazy recipe that’s perfect for slathering on bread for sandwiches, topping over meatloaf or burgers, or chilling and adding to pasta salad. 

Tomato jam
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tbs honey
1 tsp coarse or flake salt
1 tsp dried thyme

Chop tomatoes into thirds or fourths, depending on size, leaving seeds & juice intact.  Place tomatoes in a sauté pan over medium heat, cooking until juices begin to release – about five minutes.  Reduce heat to low; add honey, salt, and thyme.  Cook on low until tomato mixture reduces and thickens, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

I revisited this recipe when this year’s Tomato Art Fest recipe contest called for ‘best sandwich.’  Last year’s competition stung a bit (read: I didn't win), but I was inspired by the sandwich category and bounty of local ingredients.  And thus, the “Tennessee Ham & Jam” sandwich was born.

Humble brag time: yours truly won 2nd place for that entry.  What’s more, one of the judges asked for the recipe, and it also was featured in the Tennessean.  I’m still beaming.

Tennessee Ham & Jam
Country ham ‘salad’/tomato honey thyme jam/fresh romaine, tomato, onion/crusty bread
makes two sandwiches
½ lb country ham (about two large slices)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz goat cheese, softened
1 tbs half & half
½ tsp honey

Crusty Italian bread – four pieces
romaine lettuce – two large leaves
sliced fresh tomato
shaved red onion, if desired
prepared tomato jam

Ham ‘salad:’ Heat a skillet over high temperature.  Add the ham and sear on each side until nicely browned.  Deglaze with balsamic vinegar until absorbed into the meat.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Dice ham; set aside.

In a bowl, whip goat cheese, half & half, and honey until smooth.  Mix in ham until thoroughly blended.  Chill until ready for use.
To assemble sandwich, toast four pieces of Italian bread.  Place a layer of ham salad on two of the slices; spread tomato jam on the other two slices.  Place lettuce, tomato & onion atop ham salad and top with the bread/jam.  Cut and serve immediately.

This recipe was inspired by a childhood favorite - ham salad - blended with the use of overripe tomatoes that needed to be repurposed.  Local ingredients were used in this recipe:  Noble Springs Dairy, The Hamerycountry ham, local tomatoes and lettuce, local honey, Silke’s bread.


  1. This looks fantastic! I can see why you won 2nd place. I don't think I've ever had ham salad, which is odd. Looks like I've found a great recipe to start with. Congrats on your win!

  2. Congratulations again! And funny, my (Tennessee) grandfather also grew cherry tomatoes. It's a really special memory for me, picking and eating those tomatoes straight from the vine growing alongside his house.

  3. Much deserved congrats to you! Can't wait to make this tomato jam...and plan to try the "ham salad" as well. Wish I had one right now.....

  4. I have a jar of Laura Wilson's tomato jam that I hoard like gold.

    I'm glad to see you got ahold of some of the Hamery that I recommended. Where did you find it?

    I bought a package of their Tenneshooto at Lazzaroli's this week. that stuff is incredible!

  5. congrats on the win---I saw your recipe in the Tennessean--and I think it would be the perfect use for my last cup of Jen Barrie's honey.