Call me a jam crusader. I freely rhapsodize about the meditative pleasure of the jam-making process, as well as the happiness brought on by a pantry full of jars.
When you’re making jam the traditional way, you can’t be texting or watching TV—all of your attention needs to be present and focused on the almost alchemical transformation of fruit and sugar into jam. Stir and observe—if I have a mindfulness practice, this is it. And the pleasures of a stocked cupboard? Myriad! I always have something homemade on hand for a treat, a gift, or simply to cook with. Though fresh red currants might have lasted only a few weeks in the summer, I can still delight in their tart, bright flavour when I open a jar of jelly.
I grew up utterly (and greedily) beguiled by my granny’s black currant jam and my aunt Lorna’s strawberry freezer jam, but I didn’t try my own hand at it until I was in my 20s. Working in fine dining as a pastry cook, where most of what we made was only good for a short period of time, the 12-month shelf life of jam began to really appeal to me. Later, touring with my band, I mourned the fruits whose short seasons I missed while on the road and would frantically put up what was in season between tours. In fact, I started to preserve so much that I ended up launching a company called Preservation Society to sell it. Since I shut down the production side of the business, I no longer make jam for a living, but it remains essential to my life.
Canning jam is a lot easier than most folks realize, but if you’re not there yet, no problem—you’ve got options. Stir up a batch of freezer jam on the hottest days of the year (it doesn’t require a stove) and be rewarded with incredible fresh fruit flavour. Or make a quick batch of chia jam without any added sugar. No matter which you choose, you’ll be sweetly rewarded for your efforts.
Wynne’s cookbook Jam Bake is a sweet guide to baking with preserves. $32, indigo.ca.