Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Emilia's Fresh Fig Jam

Our friend Annette and her family share a beautiful property near Vancouver, with two special fig trees in the backyard.

Annette's mother, Maria Emilia, has owned the lot for decades and have given great care to her trees.  A few years ago, I was given some figs, which of course I turned into jam (that is, after I ate more than my share, straight up.)  As a token of gratitude, I gave Emilia a few jars of jam and this started a friendly exchange that I hope will go on for some time. 

To be invited to pick figs is a privilege that I look forward to every year and we were lucky to climb up the trees once again this summer.

Biting into a fresh green fig that you picked off the branch yourself is one of my absolute favourite things about summer, followed closely by making jam from green figs that you and your friends picked that very morning. 

If you are a fan of strawberry jam, chances are you will appreciate fresh fig jam.  The flavour is completely different from the more widely available dried fig jam and, though we kept a few bigger fig slices for a chunkier spoonful, the texture is similar to that of berry jam, soft and smooth that is.  

Needless to say, this fig jam is "limited edition". Whatever we picked that day was turned into "Emilia's Fresh Fig Jam, " though we couldn't help but play around in the pantry and turned a couple of pots of fig jam into our "Caramelized Fig Jam with Orange and Spice" by adding a touch of orange zest, a bit of almond extract and a combination of spices that includes cinnamon and cardamom.

We are currently waiting on labels, but we promise to let you know as soon as the jam is ready for sale --- you may not want to miss out on this one. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Strawberry Jam and Buttermilk Ice Cream Sandwiches

We have been having fun with our ice cream machine lately, playing with all sorts of flavours and often adding a touch of jam to the recipes.  The Summer Strawberry Jam and buttermilk ice cream has been the favourite so far, especially when made into ice cream sandwiches with shortbread cookies.  We added the jam early on during the churning process to get that jam flavour throughout the whole mixture, but you can also add spoonfuls at the end to create little jam pockets. The results are beautiful and we found our frozen yogurt with Apricot Jam Swirl quite tasty as well. The possibilities are endless and we have enjoyed having house made ice cream in the freezer all summer long, such a treat.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sticky Spoon Summer Days

After long days in the hot kitchen, making hundreds of jars of jam, we often need to put our feet up for a little while. Occasionally, we are able to sit and enjoy an hour of West Coast sun.

 What better way to test our product than to bring a few friends together, a generous portion of cheese and a few samples of jam for feedback

If we get the chance, we try mixing business with pleasure and invite a few makers like us to lunch. Is there such a thing as a "business picnic?" We think so. One of the highlights this Summer was meeting up with Jackie Ellis, the lovely lady behind the soon to be open Beaucoup Bakery and Miss Erin Ireland, famous for her It's To Die For banana bread (we tried her seasonal strawberry and banana bread and it was yummy) We each brought some handmade goodies to try and shared business ideas under a shady tree. How very civilized it was and we are so lucky to be surrounded by such talented bakers!

This fantastic little dish is Beaucoup Bakery's milk chocolate rice pudding with hazelnut strudel and the recipe, lucky readers, can be found here .

Sticky Spoon's contribution, in addition to a couple of cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage, was one of our first samples of Summer Strawberry Jam with Balsamic.

We couldn't stop at one jar though. We also brought our Rhubarb Jam with Ginger, our Sweet Onion Jam and a little Red Raspberry Jam because what's better than raspberry jam with Jackie's chocolate scones.

So all Summer long, every time we had five minutes of spare time, we went outside and enjoyed the sun, usually with a jar of jam somewhere in the picnic basket... What can we say, we love what we do!  We just hung out with our fingers and toes in the grass and enjoyed a Kiwi Jam Mojito or a Pimm's Cup by the water.

Surely, you must have noticed that Summer is coming to an end. We have a few more Summer jam flavours coming your way (Fresh Fig Jam, Blackberry Jam with Lemon Geranium and our Persian Peach Jam will be back soon), but we are definitely transitioning into Fall. Morning air is cooler and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. Some people may think that jam season ends with the Summer season, but  Fall is a lovely time on the West Coast and BC gardens have a lot to offer in the months of September, October and even November. We are looking forward to Spiced Autumn Plum jam, Pear and Vanilla jam, Quince Jam and Jelly, and we will need to make many, many jars of our Tomato jam for those of you who have patiently been waiting for the next batch.  We hope you had a great Summer, dear readers. We have been busy bees and hope that you will enjoy each jar we made.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Apricot and Vanilla Jam

The first of the stone fruits and perfect for preserving, apricots signal summer's heightening and the promise of what's to come-- plums, peaches, tomatoes, corn...

The appeal of this fruit from a canning perspective is its inherent acidity, and that acidity is the key to the perfectly balanced finished product --- the tart tempering the sweet in that "I want more" kind of way.

And then there are the kernels. Crack an apricot pit open and one is rewarded with a small kernel heady with a sweet almond aroma. A few of these infused in the jam add a subtle depth of flavor and sweetness on the nose that may not be easily identifiable, but would be missed if absent. We have read that Italian amaretto liqueur and amaretti biscuits are actually sweetened with the extract of apricot kernels rather than the widely believed almond, which seems completely plausible.

Although the origin of this lovely fruit remains somewhat hazy (some say Armenia, but likely China), it seems that we have the Spaniards to thank for bringing it to the New World, and for that we can only say Muchos Gracias!

This jam, delicate in texture and bright in colour, pairs well with a mild, nutty blue cheese. It makes a great glaze for pork when mixed with a spoonful of grainy dijon mustard. Bourbon and apricot jam are also one delightful combination. Finally, a thin layer of apricot jam in an almond tart recipe adds a nice, surprising lift.