October 7, 2005
preserves not for preservation
I love all sorts of fruits out there (okay, most of them), but I was never a big fan of them when cooked, especially jams. Other than marmalades, which are the only fruit conserve that I have constantly and positively liked, I would never really be tempted to grab one of those typically large jars of jam on the store shelves, let along making one myself.
Recently, I have been playing around cooking different kinds of fruits (such as roasting them and baking them into cakes) and actually enjoying them a lot. I now even think of making a jam - or something like it. I realize that making a jam is a good solution when you have a bunch of fresh fruits that are becoming overripe and you need to use them up quick. That said, I don't want to give my fruits an overdose of sugar, so my compromise is to make low-sugar or even sugar-free quick jams.
First thing that I made in this recent series of my jam making experiences was a spiced peach jam. I had one large yellow peach that was almost about to be spoiled, and I remembered this one recipe (in Japanese) for spiced peach jam that I had found a long time before.
With this recipe, you cook chunks of peach with a little honey and juice of lemon as well as spices (she uses vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves) only until the cooking juice is reduced and thick. It doesn't call for sugar or long cooking time, and you don't need to sterilze a storage jar, because the jam has to be consumed within a couple of days, anyways. So this is something you should make in a small portion and to enjoy the natural flavor and sweetness of a fruit, rather than for the purpose of preserving it.
For my jam, I spiced it up with a vanilla bean and cardamom pods. I think cardamom added a clean and refreshing feature to the ripe and sweet cooked peach.
As I was happy with my peach jam, I tried on other fruits at hand using the same method (cooking with honey and lemon juice, plus some extra flavors). I took a couple of ripe figs and paired them with rosemary.
The combination of fig and rosemary is something I am so addicted to these days, and it was great in a form of jam, too. It was delicious alone on toast, but I served it with some cheese..
I tried mascarpone and gorgonzola, both of which have been known to go well with figs (actually, figs have a high affinity to many kinds of cheese...). Although I love figs with mascarpone, here I think the blue cheese was a winner of the day; the concentrated sweetness of the fruits needed an equally powerful partner to go, perhaps.
I also tried a mango jam on another occasion, using lime and ginger and served on slices of good cheese croissant and cheddar. Here the saltiness of the cheeses provided a nice contrast to the sweetness of mango, making a nice, light snack.
It is only in the last couple of years or so that I have started looking on the bright side of jams (thanks to some good jams out there, such as ones by Christine Ferber and June Taylor), and being able to enjoy genuine goodness of fruits and/or unusual combinations of fruits with spices/herbs in them. The more new kinds I see, the more I am tempted to try... now, how I wish they are available in a smaller portion so that I can sample more kinds; after all, jams aren't something I would want to eat everyday, and if/when I get a regular-sized jar of jam, I'd find it a bit too much for me to finish all up. I wonder if I am the only one who's saying such a thing?
posted by chika at: 10/07/2005 05:07:00 AM