Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'd never thought of jam as a particularly interesting food. No doubt, I appreciate it for its simplicity--reduced fruit to sweeten cookies or toast or muffins. But I've never before felt drawn to make jam. That changed when my boyfriend also got a job at a different farmer's market, selling fruit, and came home last Saturday with a few pounds of soft plums. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume someone forced him into a trade and told him they'd make up a bag of fruit for him, instead of letting him pick it out himself. On the upside, we had a whole bag full of soft plums to work with. After being delegated to plum jam duty (for the Monte Cristos on the menu) at Split Pea, I wanted to try plum jam on my own. Not only did I want to try -- for days I couldn't stop thinking about how easy but delicious the process of jam-making really is!
Tonight, amidst cooking a near-feast with Matt for dinner, I could not deny my craving to make jam. I didn't stop just there- I made a jam tart! Below is a rough recipe for the stuff. Feel free to use any stone fruit on hand-- I even tossed in a few apricots that were getting soft in the fridge. Also, at Split Pea, we put the jam through a food mill for a more uniform end product. I don't mind skin or lumps in my jam, so no food mill necessary (although I should admit I LOVE using the food mill otherwise!).
Stone Fruit Jam Recipe
4-5 lbs soft stone fruit (i.e.: apricots, plums, pluots, nectarines, peaches...)
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1. Cut the fruit off the pit, trying to use as much as possible.
2. Don't worry about large pieces of fruit- it's all going to cook down.
3. Put fruit in a heavy-bottomed stock pot and cover with sugar and vanilla.
4. On medium heat, begin to stir your future jam.
5. Over the period of an hour or so, cook jam on medium heat. Mixture should be simmering constantly, but stir occasionally to avoid burning.
A good way to tell if it's almost ready is to do the spoon-coat test. If you can stick a spoon in the jam and pull it out with a good coating of jam sticking, you're almost there. Now run your finger through that jam-coat. If a line of no jam stays, you're pretty much done, as the jam will continue to thicken while it cools.
Jam Tart Recipe
1/2 c butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla extract
1 c whole wheat flour
big handful of oats
1.5-2 c your favorite jam
1. Cream together butter and sugar. If butter is soft enough, this can be done by hand.
2. Add egg yolk and vanilla and continue to mix.
3. Add flour and oats, and stir. Mixture should resemble lumpy sand, not cookie dough.
4. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it-- it should stay a clump. If it crumbles, add water by the Tablespoon until it stays a clump when squeezed.
5. Press dough into a 9x9 pan to form a layer about 1/2"-3/4" thick (or thicker/thinner depending on your preference). Save a bit of dough for the topping.
6. Pour desired amount of jam on top, spread to even out, perhaps with a spoonback.
7. Shape remaining bit of dough into flat circles about 1 inch in diameter. Plop these circles on top of the jam, about 1/4" apart.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool almost completely for the jam to thicken back up. This makes serving easier. But if you can't wait (like me), get out your fave vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, serve up, and enjoy!