5 Quick Jams: Discover the super-simple secrets of homemade jams–chock-full of vibrant herb and fruit flavors. Here’s a naturally sweetened method that takes only 10 to 20 minutes to assemble and cook, plus refrigerator chilling time. What’s more, no special equipment or processing is required. In fact, you may already have on hand all of the ingredients necessary to make the best herb-flavored jams you’ve ever savored.
No Canning Required
Unlike traditional canning, quick jamming doesn’t require sterilized canning jars or lids. To store your quick jams, simply use clean glass jars with lids. (old jelly, olive and salsa jars work fine.) Because these recipes rely on the pectin naturally found in fruit, store-bought pectin packets aren’t needed, either.
These jams should be refrigerated and eaten within one to two weeks, meaning you won’t have pretty jam jars sitting on your shelves for months. Fortunately, this won’t be a problem if you and your family are as delighted with the delicious tastes and textures as we predict.
Quick jamming is a wonderful way to capture summer’s herbs and fruits. In addition to fresh ingredients, you may use dried herbs and frozen berries or peaches. That means you can whip up your favorite homemade herby jam every day of the year–even in winter.
Luscious berries are perfect for this quick and easy method, as are peeled peaches, apricots and plums. You also can create savory (and spicy!) jams with tomatillos, which gel nicely when simmered.
This approach relies on the natural sweetness of fruit, plus 100 percent apple juice concentrate and honey, which won’t mask the incredible flavors of herbs and fruit. Other natural sweeteners to use are 100 percent white grape juice concentrate and agave nectar.
With this quick jamming method, you have the capacity to develop your own creative blends of herbs and fruits. Experiment with these herbs: mint, basil, lavender, tarragon, rosemary, ginger, garlic, bay leaf, pineapple sage, hyssop, lemon balm and lemon thyme.
To avoid having herb pieces decorating diners’ teeth when they enjoy your jam, use one or more of the strategies below. Here’s how to easily infuse herb flavor when quick jamming:
1. GROUND DRIED HERBS: Add ground or powered herbs directly to fruit mixture when simmering. These herbs will remain in the jam.
2. WHOLE HERBS: Place whole herbs (such as bay leaf, crushed cardamom pods or mint sprigs) in simmering fruit mixture. Remove when cooking is completed.
3. TEA INFUSION: Steep herbs in very hot water for 5 minutes or longer. Herbs can be fresh or dried. Strain and add herb liquid to simmering fruit mixture.
Not Just For Toast
Quick herb-flavored jams are not only delightful at breakfast, but also at brunch or on dessert. In addition to slathering your favorite toast, enjoy quick herb-flavored jams on cakes, cookies, ice cream, cheesecake, yogurt, soft cheeses, crackers, muffins, scones, waffles, pancakes and cereals. Some even serve as a glaze or a delicate sauce for savory meat, such as roast pork. For an extra-special July Fourth dessert, see the recipe for Red, White and Blueberries Parfait.
To find the summer’s finest in-season, locally grown herbs and fruits, check out farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs and other farm-fresh resources.
Perfect Quick Herb-Flavored Jam–Every Time
After you’ve completed cooking, put your jam in a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until chilled. Then conduct a taste test. It’s easy to adjust your jam recipes to please your own palate:
• If too runny: Strain jam through a fine-mesh strainer to remove excess liquid. Or return jam to a nonstick pan and simmer over low heat to reduce excess liquid.
• If too thick: Stir in a little more apple juice concentrate until you have the desired consistency.
• If not sweet enough: These recipes tend to be on the tart side. To sweeten, return jam to a nonstick pan. Over low heat, add honey, apple juice concentrate (thawed) or your favorite natural sweetener. Simmer to reduce excess liquid.
• If too sweet: Return jam to a nonstick pan. Over low heat, add 1?2 cup fruit and a little lemon juice. Simmer to desired consistency and taste.
Once you’re happy with the results, refrigerate your jam in a clean glass jar. Label and eat within two weeks.
Quick Jamming Resources
1. To find the summer’s finest in-season, locally grown herbs and fruits:
* Live wholesale produce auctions sell fruit in bulk, but in quantities not too large for home cooks. (Freeze fruit for futurejamming.) To locate auctions nearest you: Homerville Wholesale Produce Auction (www.homerproduceauction.com).
A healthy-living writer and photographer, Letitia L. Star has written more than 1,000 published articles, including many on herbs and gardening.