At the onset of summer, I was distraught by the news that stone fruit would be in short supply – as in, forget about it. No juicy peaches? No crisp nectarines? No sweet plums? Fortunately, I have managed to get my hands on a few, even if only for snacking. And what few I have tried have delivered.
And the berries! Oh the berries! Maybe an unusually hot and humid summer is just what the vines ordered? Every strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry has been particularly perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I was inspired to get canning. Because come winter, I will be longing for the bright fresh flavors of summer!
Strawberries from Seedling and raspberries and blueberries from Mick Klug in hand, I began dreaming of funky new jams to play off the strengths of each fruit. If I am going to make jam, after all, I am really going to make jam. And not just any jam, something truly special.
Strawberry was a no brainer. I have always loved strawberries and balsamic vinegar together. They are one of my favorite vanilla ice cream toppings. I had an absolutely gorgeous bottle of 25-year aged balsamic in my pantry, and a garden full of beautiful fragrant basil. So, Strawberry Balsamic Basil it was. I could already see this jam pairing wonderfully with cheese on a cheese plate…and maybe even the foie that my boyfriend and I brought back from France…
In theory, this jam was already a gold medalist. In execution, however, it came up a bit short. The berries were so wickedly sweet, they completely overpowered the basil and vinegar! I will make this jam again, but next time I will infuse the sugar with the bruised basil overnight. It worked wonders for one of the other jams (to be mentioned shortly), and I think I really missed an opportunity here. I also feel it would be better to finish the jam with the balsamic instead of cooking it with the berry, basil and sugar mixture. Notes for next time…
Now for blueberries. Most berry recipes call for lemons, but I personally prefer the taste of lime with blueberries. Always have, and perhaps always will. I wanted this jam to be bright and zesty. Not just lime zesty, but peppery…so I turned to my dear friend ginger. Ginger and blueberries marry so well! And this Blueberry Ginger Lime jam expertly highlights that fact.
While tasting this jam during the cooking process, the lime flavor was intense, the ginger muted. So I added a bit more fresh ginger. Perhaps I should have waited until the jam cooled down…now it’s more like a ginger jam with blueberries! Ha ha! But soooooooooo delicious! Again, I think I would zest the lime into the sugar and let that rest together overnight before cooking. (I love infused sugars. Can you tell?) And I would trust my earlier instincts about the amount of ginger to add. The flavor definitely intensified as it sat.
Saving the best for last, lovely lovely raspberries. Such a gorgeous fruit, with the most pleasing texture and tart-yet-sweet bite. I knew right away that the vibrant lemon balm growing with wild abandon in my garden belonged to these raspberries – and how!! Raspberry Lemon Balm jam is such a palette pleaser, I don’t know why I haven’t encountered it before.
It was by far the easiest jam of the group. Just tree ingredients – raspberries, sugar and lemon balm. I muddled the lemon balm with the sugar and allowed it to sit overnight, covered. The next day, that sugar was so incredibly fragrant! (Note to self: muddle more lemon balm with sugar and use to sweeten iced tea!) It’s a vivid red color, rich, warm and enticing. The consistency is absolutely perfect for spreading. And the flavor…one bite and my boyfriend and I both agreed it was the winner of the bunch. The sweetness of the raspberries paired with the bright zing of the lemon balm captures the best of summer flavors. I look forward to opening this jam in the gray, cold winter months!