Tag Archive for jam

The Other Quince

Japanese quince flowers are truly enchanting in the spring. But the fruit that ripen in mid-fall sure aren’t pretty: hard to the touch and to the teeth, gnarly, pitted, inhabited often. Raw they are so tart that they’ll make your mouth puckers (if you don’t break a tooth first biting into it)  and your stomach  revolts if you manage to swallow. So why do I want anything to do with them?

jap quince 006 comp

Because, when managed correctly, you’ve got some pretty tasty treats. That’s why!

European quince (of which I have written, here, and here) turn into hauntingly floral soft fruit once cooked, making them great as side dish to rich meat, as sauce, in baked desserts, ice-cream, jam, jelly, booze etc.

Japanese quince are viewed almost purely as ornamental in the Western world and their culinary use is much more limited. (If you are interested, do check out this page on the medicinal properties of Japanese quince). Because of their incredible tartness I have only used them with lots of sugar: jam, jelly, syrups & cordials. Or honey – it’s a wonderful combination.  And their aroma? Think sharp lemon jam with floral undertones and none of the bitterness. As they cook with sugar they turn a perfectly beautiful red hue.

Now isn’t that something you could use? Tart, beautiful color, fragrant? I thought so: don’t let your Japanese quince go to waste!

Granted, it’s some work to get it all done – but think about it: how much time did you spend taking care of the shrub? Zilch would be my bet! So get your knives out and get going.

You can turn the fruit into an exquisite jam (recipe for Japanese Quince Jam below). Or you can cook it and strain it: the resulting juice is absolutely wonderful in jelly (Recipe for Japanese Quince Jelly below), and the remaining purée can be used for jam or rustic fruit paste (less nice than if you also use the juice, but still nice). But here is my triumph – and I came to it accidentally. I had been chopping hot peppers – without gloves – while a pot of jelly was simmering. I used my finger to taste the jelly… and I had this most wonderful spicy hot, sweet and tart taste… the best hot pepper jelly.

Now, I like some hot pepper jellies – the one made by my friend Jennifer, as well as the one made by the Turners through their Virginia Chutney Company. But too often the jelly is over-sweet and too rubbery. It’s because one must use lots of pectin since peppers don’t have any to talk of. One must also use vinegar for acidity – and sometimes sub-par vinegar is used. But here I’ve got this incredibly tart juice that naturally so full of pectin that it jells if you look at it wrong. In fact that when I tried to make a syrup, it jelled solid over night.

Anyway… that’s my triumph: Japanese Quince Hot Pepper Jelly. Try it – you won’t regret it.

japanese Quince Jelly Read more

When You Have Green Tomatoes


Just dug and cleaned baby ginger

When I have green tomatoes and baby ginger, I make Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger. Because, I have pickled green tomatoes and made green tomato relish in the past… but we don’t eat that much of it.  So the pickles and the relish languish on the shelves. Jam, we eat. Read more

Fig Jam with Lemon & Sweet Wine

I have not made as much jam this year as last year – mostly because I still have lots of jam left from last year.

But when an offer to come over and pick ripe Brown Turkey figs came recently, I had no choice but make fig jam. The figs were really ripe and soft and were not going to keep.

Cut up and sugared figs, resting for the night

Figs are naturally very sweet, so I don’t use quite as much sugar as other jams. They are, however, one of the few fruits not acid enough to can using a boiling water-bath method without acidifying first (elderberries are another such). So I always use lots of lemon – and wine also adds some acidity.

So yes, it is sweet, but it still works quite nicely with cheese or cold meat.

But I am going to have to be careful: last year,  I made a lot  of fig jam. Or so I thought … so was handing jars left and right for the holidays… until I realized – way too late in January – that I had given them ALL away! I maybe fig-jam selfish this year!


Fig Jam With Lemon & Sweet Wine Read more

The Eighth & Ninth Days of Christmas (Meyer Lemon Marmalade)

Still working through my citrus boxes.

On the Eight Day, the Meyer lemons poached the previous night got squeezed, sliced, briefly simmered with sugar, and rested overnight again. It’s important that the rind softens as much as possible or the marmalade will have an unpleasant texture..

Marmalade before its rest

On the Ninth Day, it get boiled, jarred and processed in a water bath for long-term shelf life. Voila, beautiful marmalade fit to rival traditional Seville orange marmalade (which I could not find.) Particularly good with Butter Cookies from Brittany. You know, if we are going to go sweet, we are going to go sweet! (but a little bit goes a long way – this is a potent marmalade)

Meyer Lemons, Meyer Lemon Marmalade & Brittany Butter Cookies

This recipe illustrates that you may can all year long, and in small quantities too!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade Read more

Winter Preserve

Just because it’s winter does not mean you can’t make jam from local fresh fruit.

Guess what kind of jam I am making?


Apricot you say? They are a chancy crop around here and I never get enough to freeze for later to make jam in the winter. Nope, it’s pumpkin – as bright a jam as apricot jam , indeed. Cooked with a little ginger, of course!

When I was growing up “Confiture de Citrouille” was made all around. The pumpkin was cut up in largish cubes (or sliced fairly thinly) and then simmered in syrup perfumed with a vanilla bean or two. Here in the US the primary use of pumpkin seems to be pumpkin pie or bread (a cake, really). But let me tell you that pumpkin is eminently versatile as a vegetable (whether roasted, gratineed, pureed, souped, or stewed; in lasagna and tortellini) and as a fruit (candied, tart, ice-cream, jam, cake, flan, soufflé) and – of course  – as both (chutney). Does that make it a well-rounded denizen of the vegetable kingdom or a vegetable with multiple personality disorder? mmm… Read more

Ode to the Autumn Olive


I have know for a while that autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata) were edible. I just never took the time to go after them. But this year seems to be the year when I started to forage more consistently (bird cherries, wineberries, elderberries, chestnuts, Japanese quince, pawpaws, wild grapes etc) and so when a shrub of autumn olives shimmering in yesterday’s morning sun called to me, I grabbed a bucket and I started to pick. Let me tell you what a nice way to while away an hour it was (and do something useful too!). Warm (but not too warm) sun on my back, the berries like little prayer grains under my fingers, my mind ticking all the reasons such a cursed plant (by some) provides for thankfulness. Because, truly, what’s not to like about autumn olives? Read more

On Ground Cherries

Shall we talk about ground cherries?

mmm… say you politely, really? Ground cherries?

You are not the only one to wonder… the year I gave ground cherry jam to friends for Christmas, I got some puzzled looks: this is cherry? you grind them? why? that’s an unusual color… and what about all the seeds?…

Yes, it needed a better name, and it actually goes by other names. But “ground cherry” is the name under which I initially encountered the fruit in English.

Curiously enough, it was in Quebec.


Many stores were selling ground cherry jam. I tried it. Clearly not cherries (you know, Prunus cerasus). It did not take too long to find out this was the tiny fruit of my childhood, tomate poc-poc, Physalis peruviana. It’s also goes by the name of Cape Gooseberry. But it is no more a gooseberry than it is a cherry. A close cousin of tomatillo Physalis ixocarpa), it belongs it the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants. Read more

The Easiest Jelly in the World

red currants

I have said my goodbye to fresh sour cherries for this year. I have frozen and made jam with a bucket of them – and of course enjoyed quite a few in cobblers and eaten them “au naturel”. But for the cook with a liking for vermilion sweet/tart fruits, red currants provide even more of a flavor burst. In my Northern Piedmont garden, red currants mature right after the sour cherries – sometimes overlapping them slightly. A red currant bush bears faster than a cherry tree– one can have a nice little harvest three years after rooting cuttings (very easy to do to!), although it’ll start to be respectable in year 4; they are more manageable in a kitchen garden than a cherry tree which takes a bit of room and is more appropriate for the orchard. Surprisingly, the birds seem to leave them alone, and at least for now, the bear also ignores them – unlike the cherries for which he makes special trips down the hill, devouring other things (like bluebird eggs) on his way to his feast.

Currants need a cold dormancy period and don’t enjoy too muggy a summer, so I give them shade in the afternoon. Besides watering well the first year to ensure good root establishment, and pruning the oldest branches (4+ years) occasionally, they are pretty care free. Also self-fertile, but that’s a moot point because one currant bush is simply not enough. Besides, delicious when eaten out of hands, or tossed with a little sugar and let to rest for 1 hour to draw out the juice, currants makes a famously delicious jelly – and a fabulously easy one. Read more for the “Fabulously Easy Red Currant Jelly” recipe. Read more