I’m not canning any jams or jellies this year. I’ve rarely done large-scale preserve-making, preferring to grab a couple cups of raspberries, currants, or wild blackberries, and make a pint or two, or even less. I’m often enticed by the beauty of fresh summer fruits, especially wild varieties, to put by some preserves, but the thing is, even a half-pint of jam or jelly goes a long way around here. Our tastes run much more to the savory side, and we're not big breakfast eaters, so the fruit preserves tend to sit in a jam and jelly museum, through which I may meander once or twice a year, pondering this historical record of fruits preserved, considering their context—“Oh, there’s some of that wild grape jelly I made in ’08, the year the big wind blew down all those trees at Casey Lake, and with them their cargo of loaded grape vines!”
It’s amusing, to be sure, but not really worth it, in the long run.
The title of this post might seem to belie my no-canning intention; but note that I didn’t say I wasn’t making any jams or jellies, only that I’m not making them for storage or, as more often happens here, posterity. We picked some blueberries at our friend Tina’s impromptu U-Pick operation last weekend, just a couple of pounds, and I came home with a clear plan: freeze some; dry some; and make a small batch of jam for immediate use.
And by golly, having a plan does sometimes work: I have a couple trays of berries drying in low convection in the oven right now, a quart bag in the freezer, and one micro-batch of blueberry-lemon-ginger jam in the fridge. It’s very low in sugar, so it won’t keep that long. I’m hoping we consume it by the end of this weekend. Then maybe I’ll go get some more berries.
I got a good start on it today with this lunch of homemade bread—a dense sorghum-cornmeal-rye loaf, and some chewy pain de campagne—with a wedge of Dandelion Addiction cheese from up Bayfield way, and a few spoonfuls of preserves. With the minimal amount of sugar in the jam, it didn’t overwhelm the fairly mild cheese, and you can still really taste the blueberries.
I couldn’t get my Ikea scale to switch from metric to American measures this morning. Perhaps it’s just having a stubborn Swedish moment. So all the measurements are metric, with my rough translations.
360 grams (about 12 ounces) blueberries, fresh or frozen
50 grams (about 5 tablespoons) sugar
40 grams (about 6, 2-inch slices) crystallized ginger, chopped fairly small
Lemon zest, a couple 1-inch strips, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
Combine all in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer briskly for about 8 minutes, until the berries are mostly, but not totally, broken down and the mixture is glossy and starting to thicken. Cover and allow to cool in the pan, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate—but eat it as fast as you can! It should last at least a couple of weeks in the fridge, I reckon.
Text and photos copyright 2015 by Brett Laidlaw