Archive for the 'Jams, Preserves, Conserves' Category

Jam, Jelly, Conserve, & Fruit Butter

Author: Meera, May 28, 2013



Apricots tossed with lemon juice preserves the lovely color

Apricots tossed with lemon juice preserves the lovely color


I admit to having a weakness for palate-pleasing soft spreads made from fresh fruit. My taste for fruit spreads started in my childhood with my grandmother, who introduced me to the process of picking and preserving the fresh seasonal fruits we found on the farm–mulberries, damson plum, blackberries, gooseberries, and peaches.


My grandmother would load the breakfast table with hearty farm-to-table foods and hot, freshly made biscuits that we slathered with butter. I could always count on at least a couple of bowls of jams or jellies. For us farmers, breakfast and lunch were the most important meals of the day, providing us with energy for the hours of toil that followed those meals.


Later, as an avid traveler, I fondly remember breakfasts in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe, especially France, where my petit déjeuner included strong coffee, juice,  and bread (usually some type of roll such as brioche or croissant), butter, and an exquisite soft spread of jam, jelly, fruit butter, or conserve. You might wonder, what’s the difference?



Jam:  made from fruit, sugar, and pectin (to thicken) that are boiled to achieve a spreadable consistency


Jelly: made from juice (from various ingredients or  fruit that has been crushed and strained), sugar, pectin, and acid, gently boiled to render clear color and firm shape


Conserve: fruit and nut spreads that are chunky; they make a nice condiment for certain meat dishes and cheeses, like a goat cheese with fig-walnut conserve


Preserves: fruit in jelly


Fruit Butter: made from fruit that has been slow cooked until creamy and color is opaque or translucent



Ripe cherries will be made into preserves or mixed with oranges for a marmalade

Ripe cherries will be made into preserves or mixed with oranges for a marmalade



As I write this, I have four cases of organic ripe apricots and cherries on my kitchen counter from the farmer’s market. So, like my grandmother, I’m going to eat my breakfast and then work for the next several hours preserving these delicious seasonal fruits into spreads for future breakfasts.


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Jam to Die For

Author: Meera, May 23, 2013


Apricots from the local farmer's markets arrive in late May in N. California

Apricots show up at local farmer’s markets  in late May in Northern California


My husband brought home three cases of apricots from the farmer’s market over the weekend so I have to make jam whether I’m ready or not. Since I wanted to finish the murder mystery I am writing, I pushed the jam making off my to-do list for a couple of days because making jam, like writing a book, requires my full attention.


But I figured out a way to do both. Yesterday I wrote a whopping 20 pages (some in the morning, the rest at night) and made eight jars of jam (in the afternoon).


Today, I hope to write an equal number of pages (since the end of the book is within striking distance) but I also want to make two dozen jars of apricot jam. Both types of work are labor intensive.



The exquisite color of my first batch of apricot jam is preserved due to lemon juice

The exquisite color of my first batch of apricot jam is preserved due to lemon juice


Thank goodness that crafting a mystery doesn’t mess my office like jam making messes the kitchen–in fact, the room begins to resemble the aftermath of a cyclone. The cleanup can take hours. But the jam is so worth the effort. I can only hope that my  mystery turns out as good as my jam.




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Apricots are beginning to turn from green to the reddish orange color of ripeness

Apricots are still not ripe, but the color change signals they will be soon


Mother’s Day marks for me the beginning of stone fruit season. The peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries will begin to ripen within a week or two. In my grandmother and mother’s kitchens in rural Missouri, the preparations for making jam began as soon as the fruit’s color changed.



Perfectly ripe peachs can be made into luscious jam

Perfectly ripe peachs can be made into luscious jam



I begin my search for jars, lids, rings, spoons, funnels, labels, and other canning supplies as soon as I notice that fruit color shift. I like to have everything washed, cleaned, sterilized, and organized before the fruit is ready.



Luscious strawberries, big, red, and ripe means it's time for strawberry jam

Luscious strawberries, big, red, and ripe means it’s time for strawberry jam


This is the time, too, to organize the kitchen and storage areas. All those jars of jam will have to be stored somewhere. Right now the cottage doesn’t have much room–a little space is available beneath the cabinets off the kitchen in the bar area.


I’m thinking metal shelving could go into another area, a separate room that currently houses the water heater and furnace (turned off most of the year) since the climate is so mild.


Finally, I’ll be searching new versions of recipes for jam that go beyond the basics. I’ve added rum, spices, and vanilla bean to previous peach jams. This year, I’m interested in trying a recipe that involves the addition of smoky chipotle chilies to the jam. I’d also like to try to make a chunky blueberry-peach jam.


For my jams, I use organic fruit grown here on the farmette or purchased at my local farmers market from certified organic farms and suppliers. Using organic fruit means you can feel confident that the  jam that you eat, feed your family, and give to friends is wholesome and safe to consume. What Mother’s Day breakfast tray would be complete without a luscious fruit  jam?

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