Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jammed Up

With all the brash confidence a second time jam maker could muster, I prepared another batch of Loquat Jam yesterday.

This time I left the peels on, reasoning the extra pectin and body from the skins would add a certain "toothiness" to the jam that I personally prefer. There is always "enough" sugar in these recipes (says me) to overcome any tartness the skins might yield. To my palate most commercial jam tends to rely too much on sweeteners, resulting in a loss of flavor that is what had me opening the jar in the first place. I think of it as "jammyness" and it is why I usually prefer home canned jam to most store stuff, even some of the expensive imports.

To me a good jam evokes warm afternoons. I want to be able to taste the sunshine in the fruit. Otherwise, why bother?

There are clear warnings against trying to reduce the sugar in the recipes provided in the pectin packages, with dire predictions of unset jam as the result. There are other products out there purportedly designed to produce a sugarless or reduced sugar jam, but I've not been able to find them on the shelves of my grocery store. It could be they appear and sell out early as do certain other seasonal products, but now I will keep an eye out and garner my own stash for next go round. Or not.

Jam is not something that should be treated like fresh fruit. It is a sweet treat and should be used judiciously, acknowledging the fact that it is mostly sugar, sugar flavored with cooked fruit, and not the other way around. I have been using organic fruit (seeing as we have never touched the loquat trees other than a rare trimmed branch) and organic sugar, but organic sugar is still, well, SUGAR.

Now I have the remainder of my ripe loquats sitting in a large bowl on the counter and scads more quickly ripening in the morning sun.

While I am told homemade jars of jam are welcome gifts, and I have always appreciated the jars I have been given, I believe my current stash of 12 jars will satisfy most of my gift giving AND jam eating needs for the foreseeable future. I usually make a jalapeño cranberry sauce I give away to various friends and they give me a jar of fig jam in return when it is "that" time of year. I am not sure they'll fully appreciate a switch up exchange to "loquat jam for fig jam" at this point.

What to do? For starters tonight I will prepare my usual Chicken Curry recipe, substituting chopped loquats for the chopped apple regularly called for. I am going to throw some Sriracha Sauce and ginger into some of that first opened jar of loquat jam to create a chutney to go along with the chicken curry.

Tomorrow I have plans to make the "hot pepper relish" recipe that comes inside the pectin boxes substituting loquats for some of the peppers in the ingredients list.

If I still have "too many loquats" left after all that I will give some away along with a copy of the pork tenderloin recipe I posted earlier. I want to try a simple purée of the fruit that is left. I am going to proceed with skins on - peeling loquats is tedious unless they are larger than an egg and most of the fruit I have left is smaller than that. I will strain the whole shebang, and freeze the reduction afterwards.

In this age of the built in ice maker, I don't have ice cube trays any longer. I can't decide on whether to buy trays or try to use muffin tins or just freezing in larger containers and then breaking the frozen fruit up into smaller sections. I want to have something ice cubish on hand this summer to use in iced tea or sangria. Or Margaritas... Loquat Daiquiris? Loquat Bellinis? Hmmmm- maybe I won't be giving many loquats away after all. Once we hit the hot dry days of summertime, a little frozen loquat might go a long way.

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