It’s that time of year again: Jam Time. The weeks when the daylight hours become noticeably shorter and that faint chill that’s been creeping into the air becomes a little too brazen to ignore. The days when we finally have to admit that flip flops might not be our only footwear choice, when the itch to cook something a little heartier, a little more comforting starts to unfurl, and when we gather up as much of the last bursts of summer produce as our kitchen and days can manage and bake, cook, and snack until we’ve had our fill.
And then, we take whatever’s left and we make jam.
Apricots, plums, peaches become intensely flavored, gorgeous jams—spectacular in color and taste. We stockpile these jars of summer and eat them preciously throughout the coming chillier weeks. After all, they come in colors that will cheer up any toast, cake, ice cream, or even cocktail on a cold day when such flavors would otherwise be impossible to find. (Yes, we’ve been known to make drinks with our jams—that’s how amazing they are.)
Basically, we keep it simple when it comes to jam. The best fruits for making jam this time of year are so flavorful on their own, that they need no more than a little help on their way to becoming the best jam. That means keeping the ingredients list pretty minimal. Anything you add should make the flavor of the fruit bloom—it should never obscure it or compete.
But while you’ll get some tasty jam with just some sugar and nice, ripe fruit, we’ve all eaten enough jam that leaving it completely plain can lead to jam that’s delicious, but not surprising. So we like to change things up. This is the last gasp of this year’s summer that you’re saving! You’re going through the trouble (though, as you’ll see, it really is no trouble) of making something you could easily buy at the store—but you’re making it because yours is going to be so. much. better. Really, it’s hard to convey just how much better your homemade jam is going to be without your seeing our faces as we eat it. But trust us, whatever jars you already have in your fridge are going to seriously lose their luster. So, like we were saying, you’re making jam, so make it fantastic—something you really couldn’t buy at a store. Adding a little something extra to complement, heighten, and really make your fruit sing is what makes good jam great.
One of our favorite ways to do this? Ginger.
Ginger is a stupendously under-appreciated ingredient, as far as we’re concerned. It adds something unexpected and welcome to so many different types of dishes, whether sweet or savory. Try it in pies, drinks, ice creams, and vegetable dishes, grated on fish, meats, and rice. Ginger lends depth, warmth, and brightness—three very good things when it comes to food. It’s both comforting and surprising, which is a pretty hard mix to come by. But as much as we love plain, fresh ginger, we recently tried something new with it. We’ve always loved eating it this way, but had never tried making it ourselves until this summer: We pickled it. And now, we can’t stop making it and using it in everything.
Pickled ginger has so many more uses than just being a condiment for sushi (though it’s wonderful with sushi, too). It’s fantastic with just about any seafood or meat dish—from pork, to salmon, to steak, to chicken—and vegetables get along just as beautifully. After tasting what it does for our stone fruit jams this month, we’re seriously considering adding it to our homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.
You might be skeptical: Pickled ginger in jam? We know. It sounds a little odd. But scout’s honor: It’s going to change the way you think about jam… Mostly in that you’ll think about it a lot more. Daydreaming about this jam? Not unexpected or unwarranted. After we made our first batch, we actually went to sleep excited for the next day…because it meant that we could eat more jam.
For the batch you see in these photos, we used apricots because they are our absolute favorites. (Though we’ll deny it if you tell the plums.) But mid-September, peaches may be easier to find and will do things in your jam pot that are just as magical.
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Important: These are refrigerator recipes, not canning recipes. However, a clean jar is always necessary for storing food, so we always sterilize our Mason, Ball or Fido jars before filling them with pickled ginger or jam. To sterilize your jars, wash them, along with their lids, in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place the jars in a large pot, open side up, and add water to cover. If the lids can be boiled, add them to the pot, too. Bring the whole thing to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and using tongs, place the jars and lids upside down on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
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While a candy or instant read thermometer is not absolutely necessary, it takes the guesswork out of things. If you don’t have one, you can test if the jam is ready by placing a small plate in the freezer as it’s cooking. Simmer the fruit and sugar for about 30 minutes, then place a small amount of jam on the frozen plate. Return it to the freezer for a minute or two, then give it a little push with your finger: If it mounds and doesn’t run, it’s done. If not, continue cooking, checking at five-minute intervals.
Buy young ginger if you can find it. We used regular ginger when we made this but found some young ginger this past weekend at our farmer’s market. It’s in season now but won’t be for too long!
You can double or triple this recipe. Just adjust the proportions but be sure the ginger is submerged in the liquid. Pickled Ginger will keep for several weeks.
– A mandolin or vegetable peeler
– Sterilized jar(s)
– ½ pound of ginger
– 2 t coarse salt
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup rice vinegar
* Give the ginger wash and peel it using a pairing knife.
* With a mandolin or vegetable peeler slice the ginger into paper thin slices.
* Place the sliced ginger in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and mix well. Let stand 30 minutes. Do not rinse.
* Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch the ginger for about 30 seconds. Drain.
* Rinse the saucepan and add the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
* Place the ginger in a clean jar and pour in the vinegar and sugar making sure the ginger is submerged.
* Cool and refrigerate.
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Stone Fruit Jam with Pickled Ginger
Makes about 4-5 cups
We added a little turmeric because it takes the color of this jam from nice to spectacular—it’s really the most beautiful jam we’ve ever seen. Turmeric also happens to be incredibly healthy for you, so there’s that, too. If you have a choice, buy organic
– A candy or instant read thermometer
– Sterilized jars
– 3 pounds ripe apricots, pits removed, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
– 3 tbs water
– 2 tbs lemon juice
– 2 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 tbs pickled ginger, finely chopped
– 1 tsp turmeric
* Add apricots and water to a sauce pan. The fruit can boil up, so make sure your pan is large enough.
* Cover and cook over medium heat until the apricots soften and the liquid begins to simmer.
* Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well. Attach the candy thermometer the side of the pan and cook uncovered over medium heat.
* The sugar will start to dissolve and simmer. Make sure to stir occasionally throughout cooking so it doesn’t stick to the pan or burn.
* As the jam simmers, remove the foam that rises to the surface with a spoon and discard.
* When the temperate on the candy thermometer reaches 220° F, stir in the ginger and turmeric. Simmer for an additional minute or two.
* Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Let cool and refrigerate.
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