tomato jam

September 14, 2015
tomato jam

Could there be anything more beautiful than the last days of summer? When the days are still warm,  the sky a vivid blue, the nights cool and crisp, the air dry, the bugs flown, the harvest moon, and the garden ripe with the last of its bounty. Alfred Lord Tennyson said that a young man’s thoughts turn to love in spring but give me the final perfect, glorious days of summer every time.

Last week  I spent an afternoon with the head gardener exploring the gardens at Bellevue House – a national historic site of Canada – once the home of our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. This walled garden and its adjacent orchard is maintained as it would have been during the 1800s when Sir John A. lived there. The ample lawn is cut with a scythe. No pesticides are used anywhere on the property – this is a completely organic garden. The apple orchard contains only heritage varieties. The vegetable and flower gardens are planted with the same plants that would have been used by the Victorians.

Despite the fact that Bellevue House is within Kingston’s city limits – it is a lush, green, and quiet oasis. A place where time has been deliberately stopped. There is little so compellingly restorative as an afternoon in a beautiful garden, in perfect weather.

sunlit orchard

sunlit orchard

ripe apples o

ripening apples

tools of the trade

tools of the trade

walled garden at Bellevue House

the walled garden

head gardener Bellevue House

the head gardener in the orchard

bloody butcher corn

bloody butcher corn – a favourite for making cornmeal


cardoon – a HUGE dramatic leafy green – only the stalks are eaten

garden Bellevue House

vivid greens

long island cheese (2)

long island cheese – a winter squash


hops – used to make beer and also a potent antibacterial

Bellevue House


I left the garden complete with my very own long island cheese. I can hardly wait to cut it open and use it – saving the seeds to grow a crop next year. For now, I’m admiring its beauty – the most gorgeous pumpkin I’ve ever seen. Settlers prized these winter squash for their flavour and also because they stored well during the long, harsh winters. The seeds are rare, but like many heritage species, are making a comeback as we start to recognize the value of the heirloom varieties.

long island cheese

In my own garden, I’m harvesting the last of the arugula, tomatoes, and herbs. I had a spectacular late crop of tomatoes and decided to try Mark Bittman’s tomato jam recipe. I figure if it’s good enough for the NY Times, it’s good enough for me. I’m not even going to write out the recipe because essentially, I just used Bittman’s recipe verbatim – even though I doubled the quantities.

tomato jam 007

I have to say, I didn’t love this tomato jam at first. The smell while cooking it is slightly acrid and it put me off. I also found it a bit too sweet but I’m always nervous about cutting back on the sugar when making preserves. In hindsight, I think the flavours take a few days to meld. I bottled the jam in small sealer jars and stored them in the refrigerator. I’ve been serving it since and it has really grown on me. It’s like a thick, spicy tomato ketchup – a super concentrated dose of tomatoes and all the lypocene goodness that goes with that. I find that it’s incredibly great served with brunch of egg and sausage, or on a charcuterie platter, or along with some great old cheddar and really good bread. How could you go wrong really? And it’s so wonderful to use up the last of the summer bounty.

tomato jam 2

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  • Reply Tasty Eats Ronit Penso September 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Sounds interesting! I sometimes make an all-sweet tomato jam (usually using cherry tomatoes), and serve it on top of ice cream.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Oh – so interesting. I feel like this somewhere between a traditional jam and a spicy chutney.

  • Reply Cynthia Reyes September 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the interesting tour of Sir John A.’s garden. Assuming it was his and his wife’s, no? I wonder if he would have had time to garden. Maybe he would have drunk less liquor. I am not going to try your tomato jam, only because our tomatoes this year are so sweet that we eat them up quickly.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Unfortunately, soon after he moved into Bellevue House, his infant son died and soon after that, his wife died too. She had been very ill. The son’s death was listed as convulsions. It was a very sad time and it was after this that his drinking problem became so pronounced.

      • Reply Cynthia Reyes September 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm

        Did his second wife – Susan Agnes, the Jamaican one — did she live there too?

        • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

          Susan Agnes came along quite a while later – and no – she never lived in Kingston. He married her just before Confederation and by then, Ottawa was the capital.

          • Cynthia Reyes September 15, 2015 at 4:48 am

            Ah, yes. Thank you.

          • Lindy Mechefske September 15, 2015 at 10:30 am

            Pleasure Cynthia – love that our interests overlap.

  • Reply Kitsch n flavours September 14, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    That garden looks amazing. And I’m loving that they use a scythe to mow the lawn. I bet it felt and looked far more natural. I’ve just read about cardoons on Wiki as I used to grow them. But only as decoration (even though I knew you could eat their stems). I didn’t realise they’re widely used throughout the Med countries.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      I had never even heard of cardoons before Johnny – so you’re well up on me. They hill the bottom of the stalks with straw and then harvest them – cut off all the leaf – and boil the stalk down. Apparently it is unbelievably delicious.

      • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm

        Oh and yes – the scythed lawn is quite beautiful. It really does and look and feel as though you’ve stepped back into a bygone era when we weren’t destroying the earth at quite such a frantic pace.

  • Reply tinywhitecottage September 14, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Must’ve been a wonderful visit Lindy. A spectacular garden indeed! I’m 40 or so pages in and must say I am thoroughly enjoying your book! I’m getting to know Sir John A. MacDonald through your depiction and I’m very intrigued (and entertained) with his interesting life and persona. A fabulous read! I have loads of tomatoes and have been giving them away to the neighbors! I think I’ll bust out a few of these jams so we can enjoy a little later. Actually, if you can believe it, I ate a whole sheet of roasted marzano tomatoes the other night all by myself! They are a bit smaller than, say a plum tomato. I ate 13 of them in one sitting! I’m a little “over it” with tomatoes at the moment…but, I’m sure I’ll be craving them in a couple of months when the vines have been cleared out for the winter. I’ll head over and take a look at Mark Bittman’s recipe. Lovely post!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Absolutely amazing that you’re reading about a Canadian PM Seana – I’m so impressed. And thank you. Seriously. It means a huge amount to me. He was a remarkable character.

      I am also over the tomatoes!! I cannot even be bothered to check the plants to see if there are any that need harvesting. My arugula has gone to seed. Ditto the cilantro. And the lettuce is a mass of flowers at this point. Next year, I’m growing more garlic and also those gorgeous long island cheese pumpkins so that I have a fall crop to look forward to.

      • Reply tinywhitecottage September 14, 2015 at 11:23 pm

        I’m the same! The tomatoes are splitting as I sit here typing! I’m really enjoying your writing Lindy. Especially enjoy how the end of each chapter features a recipe…an amusingly written one at that! I imagine myself going into the kitchen and putting a Johnnie Cake together! 🙂

        • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

          Ah Seana – our parallel universes. So interesting! How I love hearing from you – always! And reading you! As for the book – wait to you get to the cranberry pie recipe – or the mango chutney that contains NO mangoes!

  • Reply Laura mechefske September 14, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Yum yum yum. What a surprising twist on jam – I have been enjoying this with fried egg sandwiches and lazy Sunday mornings. A great combination!

    Thank you for adding so much flavor to my world!

    Xo laura

  • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 14, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Aw. Best. Daughter. Ever. Wait – that’s wrong. One. Of. The. Two. Best. Daughters. Ever. LOL. xoxox

  • Reply Lynz Real Cooking September 15, 2015 at 8:48 am

    This is very interesting! love the pictures!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 15, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Thank you. Just traveled over to your blog and followed. Wonderful to meet you!

  • Reply Gary Michael Dault September 15, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Gary Michael Dault

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 15, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Gary – I’m thrilled to hear from you here – thank you! I will be in touch SOON – promise.

  • Reply Amanda | What's Cooking September 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

    What a beautiful post. And a gorgeous property. I love the way you describe the greens and the corn. I love that they keep the grounds using a scythe. What a beautiful squash. As for the jam it looks beautiful and probably tasted amazing. When I made jelly I struggled with the same issue of it being too sweet but fear of what might happen if you cut the sugar. I’ll give this a whirl. Do you started your garden? I need one. Even off it’s on the illegal fire escape.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 15, 2015 at 10:37 am

      The garden actually took me back in time – so incredibly restoring. And yes – that squash – such a thing of beauty. I did start a garden Amanda. I moved in last September and the first thing I did was plant garlic. It’s a small but productive little spot – herbs, rhubarb (I love perennials), lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, arugula, and next year – long island cheese! I wonder if you can grow those down your fire escape?! Ah life in NYC!
      Thank you so much for stopping by – I really do LOVE hearing from you. xoxo

  • Reply Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl September 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Gosh I love everything about this post and your adventure. Also tomato jam is totally…my jam! I love your recipe and must try it with our big tomato harvest this year!

  • Reply Mary Frances September 17, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Wow! Tomato jam is a great idea during the last few days of Summer. Btw, the garden looks beautiful!!

  • Reply chef mimi September 23, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Such a pretty post, along with beautiful photos. That jam looks good. I made one version last summer – I’ll have to check how the recipes differ. It was seriously good with cheese, and I also added some to a grilled fontina sandwich!!!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Mimi – that sounds so good – the grilled fontina sandwich with tomato jam. Apparently tomato jam is very old fashioned but I’d never heard of it until I saw it in the NY Times. I’m sometimes late getting to the party!

      • Reply chef mimi September 23, 2015 at 4:30 pm

        well me, too, obviously!

  • Reply milkandbun September 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I try a tomato jam long time, looks so yummy! and I love your photos, Lindy!!!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske September 25, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks Mila – really appreciate that because I’m not much of a photographer at all. I keep saying I will take a course and get a better camera! Someday…. 😉

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