Saturday, June 11, 2005

If You're Ever in a Jam

The local farmers' market is now in full swing, and though it's only the second week, the variety of offerings already impresses me. And because this year I hope to visit the market every Saturday for my veggie fix, I'm trying to pay close attention to what crops are coming in when (and asking the farmers what to expect in coming weeks) so that I can plan meals accordingly.

I know the timetable for a large number of crops, though, thanks to the experience of my own garden and of living in this area for most of my life. So I had a strong suspicion that today I would find one of my favorites:

Strawberries.

Thanks be to that obsessive impulse that always causes me to arrive early wherever I go, because I reached the market 15 minutes before the "official" opening time. And there at the first stall, run by a family that owns an organic farm, were several pints of sparklingly fresh and sweet berries. I bought four pints, trying desperately not to drool all over them, along with a bundle of very slender and fresh asparagus, before visiting some of the other farmers and then joining my Wonderful Parents for coffee and sweets at the Hungarian pastry shop.

Once I returned home, I pulled out pots and jars and fired up the stove to make jam. True, it's hot and steamy work (on a hot and steamy day, no less), but the end results are always worth it. (And The Gentleman called while I worked, keeping me company and graciously ignoring my random mutterings about jam boiling too hard.)

In recent years, inspired first by my poli sci professor's creations and more recently by Clotilde's samplings, I've tried different combinations of flavors in my own jams, often adding items from my herb garden. First came the peach-plum-pecan preserves, then blackberry-lavender jam, strawberry-ginger, and last year's black raspberry-chocolate mint (the best to date!).

This time I wanted to make two "micro" batches, using one pint of berries for each and resulting in little more than a half-pint's worth of sweet, sweet berry goodness. The first batch combined strawberries and rose geranium leaves (through infusion and sugar both), and the next matched the berries with minced Moroccan mint, which has a faint bergamot flavor that makes you think of a green Earl Grey tea. By making small batches, if I discovered I didn't much care for either combination, I wouldn't have wasted many berries.

Silly moi. How could I think that these sweet preserves wouldn't taste fantastic? The rose geranium version mingles fruit and floral notes harmoniously, and I believe I may have to make biscuits or scones or croissants to provide the proper backdrop for such flavors. And though I haven't yet sampled the mint-infused jam, it smelled equally heavenly.

As for the rest of those beautiful berries, I haven't yet decided what I'll do with them. A pie? A tart? Shortcake?

Or more jam?

3 Comments:

At 6/14/2005 8:56 AM, Anonymous Tina said...

Mmmmmm....jaaam! Those jams sound heavenly, the perfect accompanyment to tea and biscuits or scones!:-)

And speaking of which, I saw some tasty looking jams at Panera recently; they're from The Republic of Tea, and contain different types of tea to complement the fruit. All the flavors sounded good, but the stuff costs $8 a jar (and not a very big jar at that!). One could use the idea as inspiration for their own homemade versions, though!

 
At 6/14/2005 1:00 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I've only tucked into the rose geranium version so far, but it is heavenly, indeed. I'm afraid I had to bake fresh biscuits Sunday morning for the sole purpose of eating more jam!

I have seen the Republic of Tea jams... not quite sure how to work tea into jams, but it could be worth a try. I have a number of recipes with intriguing combinations for jam... and at least one uses wine. So perhaps I could follow that as an outline?

 
At 6/17/2005 1:21 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

That sounds like it might work, I'd definitely give it a try. I guess the question is, do they use brewed tea, or unbrewed tea leaves? My chai biscotti recipe calls for, I believe six, bags of unbrewed chai tea to be added to the dry ingredients.

 

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