Preserved: Carrot Cake Jam
This carrot cake conserve is just the thing to make on the cusp of spring, when you're itching to bust out your canning supplies but strawberries and rhubarb aren't quite yet in season. It's filled with juicy raisins and crunchy walnuts, and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. At first I was a bit skeptical about whether it would truly taste like carrot cake, but trust me—spread over any kind of bread with cream cheese (bagel, toast, English muffin, etc.), it's exactly like the real thing.
I based my recipe on one for carrot cake jam in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Ball's recipe calls for ripe pears, but who can find ripe pears in early April? All the ones at my supermarket were rock-hard and a little sallow-looking.
Instead, I used tart Granny Smith apples, which I thought would complement the sweetness of the carrots. It's important to dice the apples very finely so they soften and break up completely as they cook. Otherwise, the finished conserve will have big chunks of apple in it, which, while probably delicious, wouldn't be very much like carrot cake.
Next, I added 1/2 cup of raisins, pulsed them in the food processor a few times to get them all chopped up. You don't have to chop your raisins (it is a bit fussy) but I like the way the tiny bits infuse the conserve with flavor without adding any clumps. I also added 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. You could substitute pecans or almonds, or leave them out all together. As with real carrot cake, some people prefer it plain while others like the added crunch.
This recipe yields seven (8-ounce) jars. If you process them in a hot water bath, they will keep on the shelf for at least six months. Otherwise, store the jars in the fridge like you would any other open jam. It would make a wonderful gift for Mother's Day, or tucked into a grown up Easter basket.