’07 Holiday Gifts: Fancy Jam
I have a problem. I’m an impulse buyer. I’m especially prone to impulsive purchases when it comes to fresh produce. Shocking, right? You should see how wide my eyes and how full my shopping cart get when I visit the Asian supermarket’s produce section with all its unusual fresh fare to be discovered. It’s even worse when I visit farmers markets where I feel justified in making unplanned purchases since it supports local agriculture. Never mind that I don’t even know what it is that I’ve just bought.
Persimmons. Even had one? Well, I hadn’t until one blustery day two weeks ago when I visited the die-hards at Headhouse. Heck, I didn’t even know what persimmons looked like, let alone what to do with them. But they looked funky (in a good - not rotten - way), and since I’m always curious about unusual local fruit I bought a pint. I got home and put them in the bottom drawer of my fridge and forgot all about them. That is, until I decided to make some homemade jam for my holiday gift bags. Jam seemed the perfect, and perhaps only, use for these odd little fruits resembling tiny soft pumpkins (in my opinion at least). You see, persimmons, or at least the American persimmons that I had purchased, are full of big seeds that impede any hungry mouths trying to gobble them down. However, being quite sweet and soft, they do lend themselves to jams. I also still had about two cups of cranberries left from my previous Headhouse visits. After sluething around online for a jam that called for one of my two local fruits, I decided to toss them in a pot with some frozen strawberries and citrus to see how it would all come together.
Well, there’s no doubt that the jam is mighty tasty. It’s been packaged up with homemade rolls (recipe coming Thusday) and sent on its merry way. But I’m somewhat doubtful about any future impulsive persimmon buying. The removal of the seeds proved quite messy, and I’m not sure the fruit’s flavor was very distinctive in the final compote. Still, it was fun to give them a try, and I do think it’s worth the experiment if you’ve never had a persimmon before. American persimmons are still in season here in the mid-Atlantic region since they aren’t picked until after the frost, which sweetens and ripens this atypical fruit.
Speaking of “justifying” purchases under the banner of buying local, I’d like to encourage anyone who might be still finishing up holiday shopping to do so at a local independently-owned shop in your neighborhood. I tried this in part last year, buying about half of my gifts away from the crushing masses of humanity otherwise known as “the mall.” This year I bought every single gift (except for a heated mattress pad that couldn’t be had anywhere but online) from wonderfully unique shops in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.
And you know what? Every single one of the gifts I found are superb, and the experience on a whole was actually pleasurable! No crowds, no long lines, no traffic jams or fighting for a parking spot, no bad customer service…in fact, just the opposite. Warm friendly shop owners happily engaged me in conversation about their wares and told me stories about why they’d thought a certain item was a good fit for their customers, myself included. I’ve already made a mental note to be sure after the New Year to take you on a little tour of a remarkable used bookshop in Mt. Airy that makes me so happy, it almost hurts. Spending my hard-earned cash in places like this can’t be anything but a win-win-win-win situation for me, the gift recipient, the shop owner, and the whole neighborhood!
CRIMSON SPARKLING HOLIDAY JAM
Loosely adapted from Allrecipes.com
1 ½ c. fresh cranberries
8-10 ripe persimmons
1 ½ lbs. (about 5 cups) frozen strawberries, somewhat thawed
1 (2 oz.) package of powdered fruit pectin
1 t. margarine
4 c. granulated sugar
Juice of one tangerine
Juice and zest of one lemon
Prior to making the jam, sterilize jars and lids in boiling water or the dishwasher. Place lids in a shallow saucepan, cover with water and bring to a low simmer while you make the jam.
Chop cranberries and strawberries. Prepare persimmons by cutting off stems and picking out the seeds with your fingers. This process is a bit messy so just get as much of the persimmon flesh as you can.
Place all the fruit in a large deep saucepan. Add pectin, margarine, juices and zest and stir over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Stir in sugar and return to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes at a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Place a jar in a shallow bowl and ladle hot jam into it, leaving ½ inch space at the top. Wipe rim clean and screw on the lid (remove lid from simmering pan with tongs). Repeat until all the jam is in jars. Place jars in a boiling water bath, covering top by one inch, for five minutes. Remove and turn upside down to cool. Test lids to be sure they have sealed.
Keep for yourself or package together with some homemade rolls for a nice holiday gift.
(makes 4-5 eight ounce jars)