Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blueberry Maple Jam

I’m a blueberry fiend. Blueberry muffins, scones, bread, cookies; blueberry glaze on salmon; blueberries and sunflower seeds on a wilted green salad or scattered over a smiling plate of lime curd tart. This is a good season.

Besides, they’re blue(ish). As if nature looked around at all the luscious golds, greens, reds, and oranges and smirked: why not?

Last weekend, I bought 4 pints of this season’s ripe blue orbs from a seller at my local farmer’s market. I promised myself 1 pint to eat, 1 pint to freeze, and 2 pints for play. That’s just for this week; after next Saturday’s foray into the market, I should have enough for more eating, more freezing, and a blueberry lime tart or blueberry thyme scones. But my 2 pints this week went towards jam. I wanted to test a new idea, born out of The Flavor Bible’s conviction that maple and blueberries can sing harmonies worthy of Madama Butterfly.

A visit with my parents in Vermont last March left me with a lot of good maple syrup. One of their friends’ neighbors operates a sugaring house that he allowed us to tour while we were there. The process is fascinating! I didn’t realize until then that different grades of maple syrup reflect only qualities in the sap from the trees; there’s nothing in the process that can in any way guarantee or influence one grade or another. I already knew Grade B appealed to me most, but I learned that such dark, richly flavored syrup comes from sap either at the beginning or end of the day’s run—if it appears at all.

I used Grade B maple syrup in my jam. It isn’t the only sweetener, but gives a delightfully rich background to the blueberries. It adds the flats while lemon adds the sharps as the blueberries sing the main melody.

This recipe doesn’t need pectin; the blueberries contain enough natural pectin to make a decently firm jam by themselves, though it won’t be quite as jelled as a store-bought jam. (My vegan sister-in-law will be pleased.) Spread it over homemade oatcakes or cornbread for a heavenly breakfast.

Blueberry Maple Jam
Makes 1 pint

4 cups fresh whole blueberries
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbls)
2 Tbls vanilla sugar
2 Tbls maple syrup
210g (1 cup) loosely packed dark brown sugar
85g (1/4 cup) maple syrup
2 Tbls fresh lemon juice

Combine whole blueberries, lemon zest, vanilla sugar, and 2 Tbls maple syrup in a pot and cover. Let macerate at room temperature about 2 hours. Stir twice during this time.

After 2 hours, uncover pot and add brown sugar and ¼ cup maple syrup. Mash blueberries with a potato masher until many but not all berries are broken. (You can mash more thoroughly if you like a smoother jam.) Mix well and heat over medium high heat until boiling.

Turn down heat to medium low and simmer uncovered about 35-45 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Near the end of cooking, add 2 Tbls fresh lemon juice and let it finish (about 10 minutes). You want the jam to be nicely thickened, but be careful it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

When jam is done, transfer immediately to a clean and warm sterilized glass jar. Process 10 minutes for canning or store in refrigerator.

Maple syrup grading kit

Measuring the density of the syrup

Straining the impurities from the syrup

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