Spice Up Your Jam!

Every summer and autumn, around the peak of the berry season, I come down with a serious case of preservation. I picture shelf after shelf packed up with homemade jams, jellies and preserves; neatly labelled cute little jars, bright red jams and deep purple ones, all lined up for the long winter. So irresistibly pretty and alluring.

Unfortunately, like most people, I don’t have a proper, cool place for storage, so my shelves stacked with the best of the season’s berries and fruits remain an unfulfilled dream. Luckily, I have a large freezer (or actually two) where my berries end up. I buy strawberries and raspberries from local farmer and blueberries and lingonberries are just waiting to be picked in the forest, while black and redcurrant and gooseberries grow in my garden. A selection of berries is available in the freezer section of your grocer’s as well, so don’t worry if you can’t fit a big freezer into your home. I end up making my jams using these frozen berries; a jar or two at a time, so I always have some in my fridge. Fresh fruit is available all year round.

Old favourites and unexpected combinations

Jam making. It’s easy. Basically you cook your chosen ingredients with sugar and store it in clean jars (sterilise the jars by washing them and letting them stand in the oven at 125°C for 15 minutes. Boil the lids. You can also boil smaller jars. Fill them up while they’re hot. Use your favourite berry to make your favourite flavour or combine them. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries make a hell of a combination. In addition to berries, don’t forget apple, peach, apricot, cherry, orange and lime preserves. You can make jam out of practically any kind of fruit, berry or vegetable your taste buds fancy. Ever tried carrot and gooseberry jam? Well, you ought to. It’s perfect on morning toast.

Regardless of your chosen fruit, sugar, of course, is what makes jam jam. It gives texture and enhances the flavours, giving that unmistakable sweetness which is the whole point of jam. (Although, for a healthier, low-sugar version, you can drastically cut back on the amount of sugar by using chia seeds to thicken your jam. This method is good for jams that are eaten fresh within a few days, because chia seeds are not a preservative.) But do experiment with different spices to create unusual combinations and find your own signature jam.

Spices, herbs and spirits

Have a look at your spice rack. Cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves and ginger can all take your jam to the next level. Or add a pinch of chilli. My only advice is to keep it simple; just one or two spices in one flavour. Or what the heck! Be a braver cook than I am and go all in. Just make a small batch first…

Lavender is lovely with blueberries and basil is perfect with strawberries. Try rosemary, coriander, mint, fennel or tarragon, the possibilities are endless. Make an exclusive jam for that special morning and flavour it with rose pedals. Or make the jam FROM rose pedals.
A splash of rum, brandy and whiskey could also be your secret ingredient.

Now enjoy!

Toast with jam and a cup of tea. So English, so delicious! I know you love your jam on crackers or a stack of pancakes. That birthday cake will also be really special with flavourful homemade jam.

However, jams are not just for sweet things. A cheese platter wouldn’t be complete without a compote or two. Actually, forget slices of fruit on your cheese plate, jam is the way to go. In Scandinavia, we use a lot of jams with savoury foods. Visit your local IKEA and you learn that meatballs are served with lingonberry jam. All game, like venison or foul, goes well with blackcurrant or more exotic forest berries. A slice of dark rye bread with marinated smoked salmon and apricot or cloudberry compote. No, no, I’m not pregnant. It’s delicious, I swear.

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