Every year about this time, fruit ripens all around me. I’m a longtime jam and butter maker: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, fig, apple, pear, among others. It’s a basic concoction of fruit and sugar and sometimes a splash of lemon juice.
It’s always delicious, but it’s pretty much fruit and sweet. Last summer, though, a friend gave me a jar of raspberry-balsamic jam. I loved the piquant tang behind the fruit, and I realized the creative possibilities that I had not even begun to explore. So when the pears came in with the fall, instead of straight-up pear jam, I added some fresh grated ginger to the bubbling fruit, and voilá! Pear-ginger jam.
My friend Beth from New England came to visit that October. Beth has one of the most adventurous palates of anyone I have ever known (and one of these days I’m going to get her to write a guest blog post on some of her ice cream creations, which are amazing), and she is a discerning cheese lover. So I requested that she bring some cheese from her beloved cheese shop, and for several days she and I wolfed down cheese with giant dollops of the pear-ginger jam, the perfect complement. I sent her home with a big jar, which, she reported, didn’t last long.
With that success in mind, when the strawberries came in in May, I did some research and came up with a recipe for strawberry lavender jam. Fusing these flavors take a little longer because you actually have to allow the strawberries and lavender to macerate together in sugar for hours—24, in my case. You layer the lavender on top of the strawberries and pour sugar on top, then chill. They look like they’ve been sitting in snow—really quite lovely. Then you add some more lavender to the pot when you boil the fruit and sugar, and remove all the stems before processing in jars in a hot water bath. My kitchen was incredibly fragrant, and the resulting jam is nuanced and delicious.
Now the blackberries are coming in, and I got brave and made up a flavor combination on my own. A fan of cardamom paired with other fruits, I added a teaspoon of this unique Indian space to nine cups of blackberries and six cups of sugar. It’s a delicate, complex fragrance at the moment, while it’s boiling away on the stove, and I can’t wait to sample the result.
I’m interested to know what other interesting fusions have successfully wound up in jams, jellies, and preserves. Readers, please share your experiments and recipes!