Recipe – Hot chilli & tomato jam

by Lala

I got the idea to make a tomato jam for the first time, from a fellow PhD candidate at our faculty’s launch event / cocktail function in February. I had a whole lot of huge, volunteer tomatoes in the hugelkultur bed and many habaneros and fish peppers. We weren’t able to eat the tomatoes fast enough before they spoil (unlike supermarket tomatoes that last forever, these ones need to be eaten within a week or so). I had also newly developed a taste for habaneros. Although I have been growing them for two seasons, I was never their biggest fan.


Something happened to my taste buds and nose that has made me a habanero fan of note. I finally detect that fruity, citrus element people go on about. Before, I would compare habaneros to a chemical smell and taste. Perhaps the improved soil of the hugelkultur bed (which is the only major difference in culture between the two summers) has also improved the peppers’ flavours.

I’ve made two versions of this jam. A SUPER HOT and a HOT one. Both have been given the thumbs up by friends and family, but during our braai (BBQ) on Saturday, the SUPER HOT Chilli Tomato jam is the one that was most popular and eventually eaten all up (although there was only half a small jar to start with, because I have been eating it too). My recipe is very simple and can be easily adapted to your taste. I looked at the basic recipes online to get a jam consistency, and then I added the spices, herbs and chillies that I like and had at hand.

TIP: To make a SUPER HOT version, use the chillies with all the seeds and connective tissue included. For the mild one, use less chillies and remove the seeds and tissue.


1 large onion
20 ml cooking oil of choice (I used sunflower)
4 cups of chopped, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped chillies for the superhot (it depends on the varieties & your heat tolerance)
1 cup brown sugar (white is ok, but I found the brown adds a more complex flavour)
1/2 cup vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 cup wine (use white for a lighter colour jam & red for a deeper colour)
Salt, pepper, and herbs(basil, garlic chives, coriander etc) to taste
Containers: Glass jars with screw on lids

1. Chop the onion and fry in the oil, in a large pan. Every recipe I’ve seen for this type of jam says to use a deep saucepan & simmer all ingredients for an hour or more. I used my large Nutristahl frying pan & the 30cm Le Creuset buffet pan. I find that these pans cut down on the time it takes to evaporate the liquid and get to a jam state – 30 minutes usually or 45 is the tomatoes are particularly watery.
2. When the onion is almost translucent, add your chillies and stand back a bit so you don’t get knocked out by the fumes. I find the fumes are way less when chillies are fried as opposed to boiled (like I did when I made a habanero crabapple & pineapple jelly).
3. Fry them until slightly soft and then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Then add the wine, vinegar and sugar. These are the ingredients that will start to thicken the mixture up. Keep simmering for another 10 to 15 minutes, as it reduces.
5. You can now taste it and decide it you’re like to add more chopped chillies (I did, because I felt the cooked ones had lost their kick) and more sugar to get the jam to congeal more.
6. While you are at the final stage of cooking, boil some water to sterlize the glass jars. In a kitchen sink or a large pot, pour the boiling water all the way to the brim of your jars and pour some on the inside of the lid too.
7. The jam should be at thick, spreading consistency after 30 or 45 minutes. Empty the hot water from the jars and tip the lids over. Pour HOT jam into HOT jars. Never allow the jam or the jars to cool when making preserves. You want to seal everything at high heat before germs can settle.

8. Leave a space at the top of the jars – don’t overfill. Then screw the lids on very tight. At this stage you can put them in the fridge if you plan to eat them right away. If you are storing them for months or giving as gifts, then you need to “process” the jars filled with jam by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes until you hear the lids make a soft “pop” indicating a true seal.

That’s it! You’ve just made Chilli Tomato jam. This is perfect served on crackers or rice cakes with some cheese. Go ahead and play with the spices and chilli varieties to make your own special reserve.

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