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Herb-infused jams in a jiffy

By Staff | Jul 8, 2016

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, all of the ingredients necessary for these herb-flavored jams may already be found at home.

No canning

Unlike traditional canning, quick jamming doesn’t require sterilized canning jars or lids. To store the 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.

Quick jamming is a wonderful way to capture summer’s herbs and fruits. In addition to fresh ingredients, dried herbs, frozen berries and peaches may also be used.

That means a favorite homemade jam can be whipped up 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. Savory (and spicy) jams can easily be created 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, there is the capacity to develop personalized, 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 the jam, use one or more of the strategies below.

Here’s how to easily infuse herb flavor when quick jamming:

  • Ground dried herbs: Add ground or powdered herbs directly to fruit mixture when simmering. These herbs will remain in the jam.
  • Whole herbs: Place whole herbs (such as bay leaf, crushed cardamom pods or mint sprigs) in simmering fruit mixture. Remove when cooking is completed.
  • 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 the jam on toast, try it 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.

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.

Herb-flavored jam

After the cooking is completed, put the jam in a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until chilled. Then conduct a taste test.

To adjust the jam recipes, try:

  • If too runny: Strain jam through a fine-mesh strainer to remove excess liquid. Or return jam to a non-stick 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 non-stick 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 non-stick pan. Over low heat, add 1/2 cup fruit and a little lemon juice. Simmer to desired consistency and taste.

Once the jam has been cooked and flavored to perfection, label and refrigerate the jam in a clean glass jar. These jams should be eaten within one to two weeks, meaning that pretty jam jars won’t be sitting on the kitchen shelves for months.

Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem, for these delicious, textured jams are perfect complements to any meal and will therefore quickly disappear.

Lavender-peach jam

with vanilla

The loveliness of lavender gives a truly unique flavor to peach jam. Add lavender buds for extra bursts of flavor.

Makes about 1 cup

2 cups peeled fresh or frozen peaches, thawed

2 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender buds

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons apple juice concentrate, thawed

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Slice peeled peaches as thinly as possible.

2. Combine lavender and water in a small saucepan; bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep 5 minutes. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a measuring cup. Reserve liquid and lavender buds.

3. Combine peaches, apple juice concentrate, honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract and reserved lavender liquid in a nonstick skillet. Add 1 teaspoon steeped lavender buds, if desired.

4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly and mashing peaches with the back of a spoon until mixture becomes the consistency of jam.

5. Refrigerate jam in a bowl for about 1 hour until chilled. Conduct taste test and make corrections, if needed.

Tip: To prepare fresh peaches, wash and score an x on blossom end of peach. Plunge into rapidly boiling water for about 1 minute. Quickly transfer to bowl of ice water. Peel and pit.

Quick jamming resources

To find the summer’s finest in-season, locally grown herbs and fruits:

A.) Farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture programs and other farm-fresh resources: Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org) or Green People (www.greenpeople.org).

B.) 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).

C.) Dried herbs: Mountain Rose Herbs (www.mountainroseherbs.com), San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Co. (www.herbspicetea.com) and Frontier Natural Products Co-op (www.frontiercoop.com).

D.) Herb plants and seeds: Companion Plants (www.companionplants.com) and Sandy Mush Herb Nursery (www.sandymushherbs.com).

Excerpted from The Herb Companion, a national magazine devoted to growing, cooking and healing with herbs. To read more articles from The Herb Companion magazine visit www.HerbCompanion.com. Copyright 2011 by Ogden Publications Inc.

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