First off, all those recipes/instructions for jam try to scare you. They're all, follow these instructions PRECISELY! Use EXACT measurements! Do NOT deviate whatsoever from this recipe! Or else your jam will FAIL, and YOU will fail, and the heavens will frown down upon you, and pigs and birds will get it on, and great monuments will crumble to dust just as your jam will not set and you will be stuck with runny jam to feed the mocking bird-pigs for all time.
And it's SO not true. I mean, birds like pigs, but only as friends.
Bottom line, once you get the hang of making jam you can tweak the shit out of it, just like anything else. And tis the season, since I've already made a few batches of our favorites, Keen and I were going over what new things we could try.
"How about nectarine/blueberry?" says Keen.
"Hmmm, I'd think the blueberry would overpower the nectarine. What about nectarine raspberry?"
"Oooooh!" (Yes, he said oooooh!)
So off I went, trip-trop trip-trop to the farmer's market. The raspberries are nearing the end of the season, and it was near the end of the farmer's market so I swooped down on the last of the baskets. Then I started nibbling my way through the nectarines. (Farmer's markets – they're like the healthy version of Costco Sundays.) Lo and behold! I bit into the most scrumptious nectarine ever! Except apparently it wasn't entirely a nectarine, it was crossed with a plum, like a pluot… so that makes it a… plutarine? Anyway, it tasted like nectarine only with a slightly softer texture and a bit more tang. Hot damn, I was cooking that up into something gooey!
After some debate at home I decided I would try jelly instead of jam. Doesn't that sound good? Nectarine raspberry jelly? I'd have to strain the raspberries regardless so why not the whole batch? Cool beans. Then I looked up a few recipes just to get the general feel, except there were only raspberry jelly OR nectarine jelly recipes. Still cool. I'll just combine them. I needed about 3 – 4 cups of juice to make jelly. I had three pints of raspberries and 11 good sized nectarines (about 3 lbs.)… no problem.
I started with all the raspberries, crushing them a layer at a time and placing them in a sieve to drip. Then I took half the nectarines, chopped them, crushed them a layer at a time (which was fully a bitch), and placed them in a pot with a 1/4 cup water. I checked on the raspberries. They had dribbled… a little tiny bit.
This was the first moment of deliberation. Or improvisation. Whatever.
"These are not dripping. The last recipe I had said to cook them, but this recipe says to juice them raw," said I.
"I'd cook 'em. It'll release the juices," said Keen.
So I dump the raspberries in with the nectarines and simmered those suckers for 10 minutes. Then back in the sieve. Drip drip drip. Shit this process is slow, why don't I stir it a little? Drip drip. I was still not getting much so I press on the pulp gently. Then a little less gently. Drip drip. OK, now I had about 1 3/4 cups juice. The juice wasn't exactly clear anymore but I had pressed as much liquid out of the pulp as I could. I needed to use the rest of the nectarines.
I tossed the first bacth of drained fruit pulp and I cut up the nectarines. Since Keen had wandered back into the kitchen, I asked his help crushing the suckers. He worked on the first layer, muttered "Uh… no," and grabbed the hand blender.
"Won't that make the pieces drop through the sieve?" I asked.
"THAT sieve? No way." And Keen proceeded to chop the fruit into little tiny pieces. This was the second moment of improvisation.
I dumped them back in the pot with another 1/4 cup water. Simmer another ten minutes, then back in the sieve again. And you know what? Nectarines drip SLOW!
Did I mention that we had a wedding that day? Well, we did and my dreams of finishing the jelly before the wedding were being threatened by stubborn plutarines. Third moment. I wrap the sieve and bowl in plastic wrap and leave it to drip while we're gone.
Five hours later, I come back to… 2/ 1/2 cups of juice. Jesus fricking christ!
"Hey honey, I think this is gonna have to be jam." Fourth moment.
Luckily, since the nectarines were blended to hell and I was only adding in a portion of pulp I figured it would be a jelly-like jam. That's close, right? I dump the pulp and all the juice back into the pot, add my pectin, add some lemon juice, bring to a boil, add my sugar and a dab of butter, bring to a boil again (EXACTLY one minute!), and voila! Jam to can.
And you know what? It was fucking delicious! This lovely raspberry/nectarine crossed with a plum, processed over 8 hours, jelly turned jam that I'll probably never be able to recreate was WONDERFUL!
Just in case any of you fine folks want to try it (and can find plutarines at your farmer's markets) here are the deets:
Accidental Jam (or Nectarine Raspberry Jam)
4 1/2 cups juice/pulp (about 2 cups was pulp)
1/2 cup water (to simmer the fruit)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 box Sure Jell pectin (regular)
5 1/2 cups sugar
a tablespoon butter
Follow instructions as listed above. Or maybe not.
The bird-pigs aren't getting a smidgen of this stuff.
Enjoy and good luck! – wg