I like to think of myself as the type of person who would enjoy making her own jam. But the truth is that I’ve never made traditional jam of any kind, nor have I canned a single thing. I love to cook, but I haven’t gotten into the old/new-fashioned habit of putting things up in jars. My style is more cook-and-eat-as-I-go.
I think there are two things that contribute to my lack of effort in the jam department. One is that I’m not a gardener. I love gardens deeply, but I don’t have one to call my own, or even one that I share with others. Right now I don’t even have a plant because I gave them all away when I moved to Texas last fall. It was very hard to give away my plants, but I just didn’t have the means to take them with me. I still miss those plants.
The other thing that gets in the way of a jam session is that I am incredibly greedy about fresh fruit. When the fruit is at its peak of freshness, I see no reason, no reason at all, to apply heat of any kind to it. I just want to eat it raw, dripping with juice and sun-kissed flavor, until the last days of summer have faded into the smoky evening nights of autumn.
But here’s the kicker: I love jams, jellies, and fruit preserves. I like their intensity, the way they make a piece of buttered toast feel like something special. I like their versatility too—use them as condiments at the table or use them in cooking or baking for a burst of sticky fruity flavor. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising, then, that when my eyes landed on a recipe for “Fresh Fruit Jam” in Ani Phyo’s latest book, I could not stop thinking about it. And once I’d made a batch, I could not stop making fresh fruit jam.
Ani’s recipe is ridiculously easy: 1 cup of your favorite fruit, 1/4 cup of pitted Medjool dates, a few minutes in the food processor, and ooh—fresh fruit jam! The dates add that sticky sweetness that fruit usually acquires with the help of sugar, pectin, and some heat. But Ani’s recipe is so much easier than that—no heat, two ingredients, and just a spoon and the food processor to clean. I’ve been making strawberry jam using frozen organic strawberries, which solves the fresh fruit issue I mentioned earlier. I measure out about a cup of frozen strawberries into a glass measuring cup, let them thaw, and then pour everything—berries and juice—into the processor along with three fresh dates, pitted and chopped.
My strawberry jam is almost addictively good. It’s a little sweet, a little tart, and intensely strawberry. The texture is softer and looser than a traditional jam, but it’s too thick to call it a sauce. I’d say it’s somewhere between jam and sauce. I like to spoon it over my bowls of overnight oatmeal or dollop it on top of Carr’s crackers spread with ricotta cheese. It makes for a great afternoon snack or a bite to eat before a good work-out. It’s also good straight off the spoon, which I consider to be the cook’s treat after making a new batch of jam. It’s called taste testing, and I highly recommend it.
Fresh Strawberry Jam
From Ani’s Raw Food Essentials by Ani Phyo
Makes about 1 cup
In my kitchen, this jam keeps well for at least a week.
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
1/4 cup chopped and pitted fresh Medjool dates
1) Add strawberries and dates to the bowl of a food processor. Blend them together until the consistency becomes thick and a little jammy. You can stop when the dates are still in larger chunks or process for a longer time to get a more even consistency.
2) Spoon the jam into a jar, seal the jar with a lid, and store it in the fridge.