Saturday, October 1, 2011
deliciously improper nectarine jam
As a commenter (thanks Kirk!!) to my last post pointed out, I have indeed been jammin.'
While the end of the growing season never fully stops here in San Diego, a lot of the really good stuff disappears right around now, all the fruits with the flavors that remind us of summer and warm days, the foods that we want to enjoy during the cold months in the form of jams and canned goods. Admittedly, these sorts of preparations are not in any way necessary here in San Diego with our 65-70 degree weather year round, but it's still fun to get into the spirit of preserving; it invokes the feeling of the end of summer and the beginning of a new season, and I find it to be a perfect mental clue for my Southern California sun addled brain that Fall is on it's way!
So, contrary to some of the ideas that I've, over the years, absorbed from the jam making/canning purists in my family, I can make a perfectly edible jam using gelatin(the stuff that's usually used for making jello). I know! using gelatin to make jam seems completely crazy, but is actually kind of fun. Now, this does not produce a jam that can be processed and saved for years, in fact, it's intended to be eaten rather quickly, like within a month or two if it isn't frozen.
My favorite aspect of jammin' with gelatin, instead of pectin, stems from the fact that sugar isn't an important factor for it to jell and turn the fruit into jam. I used just a sprinkle of sugar for the nectarine jam that I made, which cut down on calories and will enable me to really pile on the jam, thus enabling Matthew to say "are you having a little toast with your jam?" So, as you can see, making jam with gelatin is just a lot more fun all around!
I thought that I would have trouble finding a recipe for making jam with gelatin because of the fact that most jam purists would never sully the good name of jam by using gelatin as the thickening agent, but it wasn't really a problem. In fact, I found a great recipe from a long trusted source, the OSU Extension Service; I remember my mother calling the OSU Extension office several times during the summer months when I was growing up. The Extension office always had an answer, even to the most unusual or difficult of food science questions.
I'm sure it is no surprise that I used the recipe more as a guide line than an exact recipe, since I rarely, if ever, follow a recipe to the letter:
I used nectarines for the recipe; I also used about 4 cups of fruit so increased the amount of gelatin to 2 tsp(also, the packet contained 2 tsp of gelatin and I really didn't want to save a 1/2 tsp of gelatin to use later and of course, I would never throw out such a rare and expensive ingredient as gelatin). Unfortunately, the nectarines that I used didn't have as much flavor as I would have liked; to compensate for the lack of flavor, I added some spices to the mixture: two whole cloves, a pinch of allspice, a smidge of cinnamon and a dash of ginger.
Can you see the spices in the jam?
My ability to play with the recipe so much makes a good case for using gelatin when making small batches of jam, since it doesn't require the exacting precision that using pectin does and, therefore, appeals to my love of imprecise cooking!