Kevin West has long been a fixture at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market. He’s easy to spot with his charming wicker basket overflowing with the week’s peak produce. We’ve followed his blog Saving the Season for years, and have been anticipating his new book of the same name. The long wait is now over – his gorgeous tome has arrived and it’s just as beautiful and comprehensive as we hoped.
This weekend Evan Kleiman interviews West about one theme we found throughout the book – booze. Adding a dash of wine to your jam can bring some much needed acidity, both to balance the flavor and to reach the proper PH which eliminates the threat of botulism. Below he adapts his Boysenberry Jam with Rosé for more common berries like raspberries and blackberries. Check out Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Canning, Pickling and Preserving for other boozey preserves like a three-citrus marmalade spiked with peaty scotch. You can listen to his interview with Evan Kleiman below:
Bramble Berry Jam with Wine
A note from Kevin: Raspberries, blackberries and their numerous kin in the genus Rubus are among summer’s signature fruits. They all make delicious jam and are more or less interchangeable in recipes. My basic technique is to crush the berries with about half their weight in sugar and reduce the mixture as quickly as possible. Usually you’ll want to add a little acidity to balance the flavor (acidity also helps with the gel set). Freshly squeezed lemon juice is typical, but wine is an underappreciated alternative. Dry French rosé is a special friend to boysenberries, and the rugged reds from Bandol give blackberries a wistful depth. And why not add Champagne to raspberries? Or perhaps a dry Riesling with its high-strung acidity? Or pair red with red by dousing raspberries with a sprightly Gamay. In any case, the recipe will require only a small pour of wine, so remainder should be good enough to drink.
2 ½ pounds blackberries, raspberries or their hybrids including boysens and olallies
2 heaping cups of sugar
2 tablespoons wine (see suggested pairings in the introduction above), plus an extra splash
1) Pick over the berries to remove any debris or overripe fruit. Using a potato masher or your own clean hand, crush the berries with the sugar. Turn the mixture into a preserving pan. (Chose a non-reactive pan large enough to hold the fruit-sugar mixture at a depth one inch or less.)
2) Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a hard boil over high heat, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes at a full rolling boil, add 2 tablespoons of wine. Continuing to stir all the while, reduce the hot jam to the gel set, another 3 to 5 minutes. (Times will vary depending on the size of your pan and the strength of your heat source.) Check the gel set using the traditional cold saucer test: turn off the heat, and spoon 1 teaspoon of hot jam onto a chilled saucer. Place it in the freezer for 60 seconds. Now push your index finger through the chilled jam. If it has formed a light “skin” that wrinkles, then you have a gel set. If not, reduce the hot jam for a minute longer and check the set again. If in doubt, err on the side of a looser jam. Overcooked jam looses its fresh taste and can become unpleasantly sticky.
3) At the very last moment, add an extra splash of wine (less than 1 tablespoon) to amp up the flavor. Turn off the heat and vigorously stir the pot for one full minute longer. Ladle the hot jam into clean half-pint jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Seal and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield 2 pints