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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jam-of-the-Month Club: obtain your membership and get set to jam

All summer long and well into the fall, I've been making jam. It started with a baking challenge for the Daring Baker's and was further fueled by my friend Karin's voracious interest in learning how to make jam. Then, I got this crazy idea for a jam-of-the-month club/pin-up girl calendar-style blog post, and it took on a life of its own. I was determined to create 12 jams/butters/chutneys with the seasonal fruits locally available to me. Obsessed with flavor pairings and photo shoots, it's been a rewarding, creative outlet to say the least. Of course, I "dressed" each jar with ruffles and ribbons befitting of its contents.

Living in Michigan, I am fortunate to have in my community great local farms and orchards that grow a wide variety of berries and other fruits. Compared to our long, cold winters, however, the growing season always seems so short. Along the way to achieving my goal, my efforts took on new meaning: I began to realize as each new fruit came into season that I was preserving a portion of the harvest in anticipation of the winter to come. Popping open a fresh jar on a dull, gray winter’s morning to spread on toast or spoon into oatmeal should do just the trick to brighten my spirits, encouraging memories of summer. Also, as the giving season approaches, I can't think of a better present to bestow on loved ones. But, being who I am, beyond the typical uses of jams or preserves or butters, I like to get a bit more inventive. A lot of potential is sealed away in those little glass jars! Here is what I've done so far... Ready to meet the "girls"?

Oh, I should note that all of these jams were made with very little sugar with recipes improvised to taste (most weren't written down). While it may compromise shelf stability (sugar is a great preservative), I couldn't bear to drown such lovely, naturally sweet fruits in a sucrose bath. The following are an honest and pure representation of the flavors of their namesake.

Alright. Let's jam!

Strawberry-Ginger-Lemonade Jam
This is the jam that started it all this summer. It was created as a filling for a Bakewell Tartserved at my friend Dara's I-handed-in-my-tenure-package celebration. I called it lemonade because it was quite heavy on the tart end of the lemon to sugar ratio. As you'll start to notice, crystalized ginger finds it way into many things that I make.

Raspberry-Peach Preserves
There seemed to be an abundance of raspberries available this year. With a cooler than normal summer, the raspberry season just never seemed to quit. These came from the Ypsilanti Farmers Market, just when peaches were first ripening.

Black Raspberry Preserves
At first, I mistook these as black berries. Silly me. Black raspberries have such a deep, gorgeous color and flavor to match! Unfortunately, I waited to long past the growing season to photograph them and ended up using red berries for the shoot.

Apricot-Amaretto Jam
These apricots came from Lesser Farms. From a tip about the freshly picked fruit, I drove through a rain storm one evening to purchase these. Apricots were on the tart side this year, but I still didn't want to add a lot of sugar to the jam. Instead I flavored it with amaretto, because I had this jam in mind for use in the Apricot-Almond Shortbread Bars my family most requests for me to make for their birthdays.

Blueberry-Lavender Jam
This jam has a slight lavender herbal quality, but the sweet blueberry flavor completely predominates. Karin picked the berries, and then we headed over to our friend Tracy's house to make the jam and meet her new born daughter. I was so proud to be apart of this little girl's first jam making experience!

Blueberry Marmalade
Karin picked a lot of blueberries that day! Enough to make a batch of bright, citrusy marmalade. With generous slices of lemons and oranges, this is absolutely delicious spread on toast.

Justify FullPeach Jam
My neighbor Stefanie and her daughters joined Tracy, Karin and me to make this batch. All these able hands to peel, pit and chop peaches made quick work of the two pecks of dripping-ly ripe peaches I'd purchased for an incredibly good price at my wednesday morning farmers market. I decided to keep the flavor of this jam pure and simple, knowing eventually I would turn it into a vanilla bean-gingered sauce for crepes made while guest chef-ing for SELMA, a local foods community breakfast joint at which I volunteer.

Vanilla Bean-Flecked Pear Butter
The provenance of the pears for this butter was "deep" local. They came from a tree in the field behind my house and were a source of much joy (free pears) and strife (achieving the perfect moment of ripeness). I picked the pears, and then fretted for a weeks about getting them all to ripen around the same time. Pears are climacteric--they ripen off the tree. I'm sure you've heard someone bemoan the pear ripening process before. Even Emerson noted the futility:

There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nonetheless, on the day I deemed most to be ripe enough, I made this butter. Pears were cored and chopped and then cooked in white wine until soft and then passed through a food mill and into the pan to simmer with orange slices, cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans. Probably the most time-consuming to make compared to the other jams and also the most worth-the-effort in terms of flavor. I decided charging $100/jar for this one would be appropriate compensation of my efforts.

Vanilla Bean Black Tea Plum Butter
This butter was created for a side blogging project for my friends at Arbor Teas. Infused with a black tea blended with real vanilla beans, the flavor of the tea really comes forward and pairs nicely with the sweet-tart Sweet Vision Plums. The jewel-like hue of this butter is really stunning. It makes an excellent dipping sauce for spring rolls.

Concord Grape-Macoun Apple-Quince Chutney
This chutney was inspired by a trip to the farmer's market, as I wasn't entirely decided on what fruits I would use before I arrived. I wanted to make something befitting (and of course seasonal) of the vols-au-vent pastry and braised pork shoulder I made for the Daring Baker'schallenge. The Macoun apples were particularly tasty, and I was very lucky to come by them as their availability this year was brief. Onions and fresh ginger root are also in this chutney to give it a more savory edge.

Maple-Gingered Apple Sauce
On a tip (tweet) from The Farmer's Marketer, I headed out to Lutz Orchard (again in the rain) to pick up a few pecks of heirloom apples. Mr. Lutz is such a charming fellow. I told him my intentions for his apples, and he excitedly handed me two quince, saying lots of people like to use them in jams. The quince were perfectly ripe and unblemished. I used them to make a cardamom and cinnamon-laced, flaky double-crusted, apple-quince pie. The apple sauce was made with Wolf River and Snow Apples, two antique varieties of sweet baking apples, and sweetened with pure maple syrup and crystalized ginger.

Brandied Heirloom Apple Preserves with Cardamom and Ginger
A mixture of Rhode Island Greenings and Northern Spy, also purchased from Lutz Orchard, were finely diced for these preserves. Black Star Farms pear brandy, cardamom and ginger add a bit a elegance. I used the preserves to embellish a homemade flaky cracker topped with Regal Raisin, a soft, triple creJustify Fullam cow's milk cheese. Made in Burgundy, this sweet, dense cheese is covered with raisins soaked in Marc de Bourgogne (a grape distillate). It tastes very similar to (but even better than) a New York-style cheesecake. Pure decadence!

So how might you obtain membership to my jam club to recieve a jar of your very own?

Consider attending the Slow Food Huron Valley Local Harvest Cook-off on Sunday, November 8th from 3-5 PM at the Chelsea Fairgrounds Community Building. Folks who make a monetary donation to Food Gatherers will be entered into a raffle drawing to win a jar of jam.

Cook-off Details:

Old Pine Farm and Tantré Farm have helped organize a fun and delicious Slow Food community potluck and recipe swap. There will be music, prizes and local chefs on hand to judge our best Local Harvest dishes. You could go home a blue ribbon winner by putting together a dish with as many local ingredients as possible in the following categories:

- Soup/stew

- Meat main dish

- Vegetarian main dish

- Vegetable side dish/salad

- Dessert/bread

Bring: your dish to pass, your own place settings, and 30 copies of your recipe to swap. This is also an opportunity to benefit Food Gatherers - so please consider bringing nutritious non-perishable food or a check for Food Gatherers (which will be eligible for a Michigan Tax Credit and entry into the jam raffle).


Anonymous said...

Love the "girlie poses" :) My mom and I used to have a subscription to Playgirl (yes, really) and I'll tell you--no nude guy ever looked so good :)

Olivia said...

Patti, that is such a fabulous compliment. Thank you!

Shayne said...

I so can't wait to be back in Michigan to make these kinds of things. I guess I can try mango jam and lime marmalade here. it all looks great...mmmm ginger

Patti you and your mom are nuts, love it

Kathryn said...

Olivia, I got the Vanilla Bean Pear Butter at the Slow Foods Potluck, and I just want to say THANK YOU! Your jams were all so beautiful it was really hard to decide, and I have been slowly enjoying it, trying to make it last. Opening up that beautiful little jar adds a bit of happiness to my day! :)

Olivia said...

Aw, Kathryn, Thank you!!! This really made my day when I read your comment! I'm so happy that you are enjoying the pear butter! Quite honestly, that has been the favorite of everyone who has tasted the jams I made this summer. So a wise decision on your part to pick that one. =)

Anonymous said...

WOW! You have an amazing talent & I can't wait to see a shipment "button" near your pictures so I can taste some of these amazing creations!!!

Jen@ blooming tea said...

Wow, love the featured jams above, so deliciously looking jams.