Sunday, August 5, 2007

Why Not Jam?

You've just whipped up a big batch of buttermilk biscuits and as you peel back the flaky, buttery layers, you wonder, "what could you possibly want to put on a biscuit this good to make it taste better than it already does?" Amy says, "Nothing!". However, I would argue there are three things: 1) more butter, 2) a deep fried pork chop, or 3) jam. Butter is clearly the easy way out and deep fried porkchop is probably only applicable if you ever find yourself worrying that your cholesterol level is just too low, gosh-darn it. But jam... oh sweet sweet jam.

Let's be clear from the start. I'm not talking about that crap in a jar Smuckers tries to peddle you with images of lazy country afternoons with grandpa on the farm, but with flavors that suggest instead lazy afternoons in the stainless-steel fruit processing vat. I'm not even talking about fancy jam that is created by Trappist monks who chose celibacy so that they might instead screw you over with the prices of their product. No, I'm talking about homemade jam. Just like the kind my mom used to make (and still does).

Making jam seems like a scary task. Images of endlessly boiling glass jars and fears of botulism might scare away otherwise adventurous jam makers. However, two words my friends: freezer jam. The process is simple: mash up some fruit, stir in a bunch of sugar, add some fruit pectin dissolved in boiling water, stir, and then store in the freezer until you are ready to eat. I'm glossing over the specifics, which can be found on the easy-to-manage recipes inside the box of fruit pectin, but the take home message is that in under 30 minutes, with no more cooking than boiling a cup of water for a minute, you can make a year's supply of jam that is cheaper than what you'd buy in the store and tastes infinitely better.

Still you might ask, "Why bother?" I'll tell you why... freezer jam is so damn good that you will often say "Screw the biscuits" and just eat it with a spoon. Literally, the two main ingredients are fruit and sugar. Bonus points if the fruit is either peaches and/or raspberries. What's not to understand?

A few tips if you decide to the jam route:

  1. Make peach jam. Seriously, it is incredible and not something you can typically find in the grocery store even if you wanted to. Peach-raspberry is also good.

  2. By small (~ 1 cup) plastic containers to freeze the jam in. Sure, it's cheaper to buy larger containers, but I've found that 1 cup is a reasonable size to work your way through between the time you defrost and the time you spoon that last bit of jam onto a PB&J sandwich.

  3. The recipe will often ask you to stir until all the sugar is dissolved and give an approximate time. It's a good idea to actually taste the jam at this point and make sure all the sugar is dissolved.

I just finished making my yearly supply of peach and peach-raspberry for the year. Here's hoping it lasts through December.