Jam Sessions

This week I hosted a tea social. But tea wasn’t the main event really, it was the two hundred plus buttermilk biscuits I served with eight different types of homemade jams. Was it eight? Let me count…

jam-sessions-with-labels.jpg

Okay, it was ten. But I made some of those before this, so it’s easy to lose count.

There’s a lot going on, and you don’t want to read ten jam recipes. Go Google the names and get equivalents. First, the top three:

  1. Orange Thyme
  2. Ginger Raspberry
  3. Shiitake Marmalade

Personally, Strawberry Balsamic is my favorite, and I got at least one vote for most of the flavors. Let me break down a few things I learned from making all these awesome recipes.

Cherry * Jam

To find new and interesting flavors, my go-to trick is to search the Internet. But Google doesn’t keep neatly indexed lists of variants of cherry jam. So I let auto-complete do the hard work for me. I looked at the top results for “cherry a jam”, then “cherry b jam”, and so on until I had a nice list of flavors to infuse into cherry jam: espresso, plum, almond, ginger, jalapeño, cinnamon, and chocolate. Of course, chocolate always wins out. But now I have an endless supply of ideas for flavor combinations that will keep me busy for years of jam projects to come.

Think outside the Jar

You might have scratched your head at some of the flavors on my spread. Warm milk jam is like a very sweet, creamy custard. Shiitake marmalade isn’t sweet, but its umami flavor is out of this world. And habanero pepper jelly is a surprising combination of sweet and spicy that is perfect with a slice of cheese. What got into me to place these alongside a spread of comparatively ordinary jams? Experimentation. You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve tried it. I had no idea how most of these would turn out. Who knows? mixing two disparate flavors just might create your new favorite thing.

Jam = Fruit + Sugar + Time

A good jam doesn’t have to be complicated. I prefer thick, chunky jams, so none of my recipes used pectin. Yes, I use extra flavors and acids. But the process is simple: let the fruit boil down in its own juices. It takes time, but it doesn’t take a lot of brain power or active kitchen time. Once you find a fruit to sugar ratio, just understand that more sugar will decrease cook time, and try to build an intuition about how thick “thick enough” is. Once you have that, it’s time to jam!

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