My friend Laura and I were talking about what a great time of the year this is for the farmer’s market crowd. Last vestiges of summer are still hanging on (peaches!) while the signs of early fall are unmistakable (apples!). In fact, my husband and I picked a bushel of apples last weekend, but there isn’t much room in our refrigerator which still hasn’t expelled last week’s peaches and plums. Embarrassing as it is to say, we even had a pint of (wrinkling) blueberries left. So, in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, I made peach and berry jam out of leftover fruits. They are now in half-pint jars (no canning necessary for these refrigerator jams), and they are safely tucked away for our future enjoyment. Since they should last 3 months in the refrigerator, we can enjoy a taste of summer even in cold December.
First, a few words about farmer’s markets and their new cousins, CSAs. In this more locavore-driven world, no one will admit to not knowing where and when their farmer’s market is held. On the other hand, I was surprised to find out how many people had never heard of Community Supported Agriculture. (I love these, called CSAs for those in the know...) If you haven’t joined one, do a quick search for “CSA” and your town name (or the nearest major city name). Chances are, you might be able to pick up or get delivered straight to your doorstep a box of the freshest local produce every week. Some CSAs only offer vegetables, but others offer a combination, and still others will let you choose what you want. Of course, the more variety and choice, higher the prices. These (almost always) organic local produce boxes are not cheaper, but they will invariably be better tasting—and better for your health. Winter season isn’t as fun as summer, and you’ll get pretty bored with different varieties of squashes and pumpkins soon. But joining a CSA allows you to support your local farmers, eat more seasonally, and hopefully give you a better sense of the rhythms of the world we inhabit.
Now, if you have any leftover fruits, this is a good way of using them up. I modified this recipe (from Food & Wine, September 2009) for our smaller household and the particular fruits we have in our refrigerator. Let me know if you came up with other variations you found especially tasty.
Peach and Berry Jam
(I make “Peach and Blueberry” or “Peach and Raspberry” as they are available around the same time usually.)
1 ½ pounds peeled peaches cut up into small cubes (between ¼ and ½ inch pieces make a nice combination of chunky and smooth)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from about half of a lemon
½ pound raspberries or blueberries
1) Combine peach pieces and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan (something that won’t react to the lemon juice), stir, and let sit for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
2) Squeeze lemon juice into the peach and sugar mixture and place over medium high heat. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a boil, simmer vigorously (medium to medium high) for about another 5-7 minutes.
3) Add raspberries or blueberries, and simmer over medium heat for about another 20-30 minutes until the jam is just a little thinner than the consistency you like (as it will thicken a bit as it cools). Watch for the consistency rather than time since burner heat will vary. As the mixture simmers, skim the whitish scum that rises (more likely with raspberries than with blueberries).
4) While it is still warm, spoon the jam into 6 to 10 oz jars (you will get 2-3 jars, depending on size), and make sure you leave some space at the top. Once all the jars are cooled, label them (with date!) and place in the refrigerator.
These jams are slightly less sweet than the store-bought kind and are very fresh tasting. As such, you can use them as topping for pancakes and waffles as well as using them on toast. For a nice treat, top Greek yogurt with these compote-like jams, and sprinkle homemade granola.
Note that these are “refrigerator” jams, so you can avoid sterilizing, canning, and sealing. They should be kept refrigerated and consumed within 3 months, but you’ll likely go through them more quickly!