Spur of the Moment Jam

My grandmother (my mom’s mom) often made jelly, jam or preserves out of small bits of fruit she had leftover from something, or fruit that was starting to get too ripe. She often served these jams at Sunday dinner at her house, or gave us a jar when she had extra. These weren’t the results of a marathon summer canning session, but a jar or two to make use of fruit that would otherwise go to waste. These could range from strawberry or pear preserves, crab apple jelly from fruit from a friend’s tree, or blackberry jam from wild vines at the edge of the woods behind the house. They were always delicious and we always wished for more, since they were usually small jars.

I have often used her methods when I have had a half pint of strawberries that were starting to get soft or a few pears that were rapidly progressing from perfectly ripe to a haven for fruit flies. You don’t have to bother with processing the jars to can them, since you are only making one or two jars at most. Sometimes there isn’t even enough for a full jar, but just enough for a few days’ worth of toast or biscuits. Freeze part of your creation if you are afraid you won’t eat it within a week or so. Or share with your friends and neighbors.

I was rooting around in the deep freezer the other day, looking for pesto that I swear I made last summer. I didn’t find the pesto, probably because I need to clean out the freezer. I did find several containers of peaches from (blush) several summers ago. They are just peaches (as labeled) with, I think, a few squirts of lemon juice to keep them bright. I figured they had been in there long enough, so I pulled them out and plopped them, still frozen, into a pan. I cooked them down a bit, added some sugar and kept cooking. Then I tasted them, added a bit more sugar and cooked them until they were thick and syrupy. Now I have luscious peach preserves for toast or for topping plain yogurt for a snack. Yum!

I have no real recipe for these jams or preserves. Cut up your fruit; add a bit of water if the fruit isn’t juicy, sugar to taste and cook until syrupy and thick, maybe 30-60 minutes. Mine took over an hour, but my frozen peaches produced a lot of liquid that had to be cooked off. Fresh fruit won’t take as long. Grandma made jelly (which uses only the juice) sometimes from the fruit, but there is more waste, more skill involved and more fussing. I almost exclusively stick with preserves, or I mash the fruit a bit more and call it jam. By any name, the results are beautiful and impressive to anyone who has never made preserves or jam. Post back and let me know what fruits you try this with this summer.

What food memories do you have from your childhood?