Do you remember when you realized lavender was delicious? I was at a farmers' market, where I bought a package of shortbread cookies speckled with the dusty purple buds and lightly dusted with sea salt. The delicate flavor and floral perfume blew me away. Where had lavender been all my culinary life? In this recipe, it transforms ordinary blueberry jam into preserves that are positively romantic.
Before we get on to the recipe, how about a little lavender lesson? Lavender is a member of the mint family (along with rosemary and thyme). There are many different varieties, but among the most common is English lavender, which is prized for its sweetness.
Lavender can be used fresh or dried, and in both savory and sweet dishes, from roasted lamb to crème brulee. Lavender isn't uncommon, but it's not the sort of ingredient you're going to find at your local grocery store. Ask for it at farmers' markets, specialty cooking stores, or order it online. I get mine from Kalustyan's.
While lavender buds are edible, they often get stuck in your teeth and can be a bit tough and chewy. To impart their flavor without actually stirring them into this jam, I steeped two tablespoons of dried buds in 1/2 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Then I strained the "tea" through a fine mesh sieve, pressing down on the buds to release as much of their perfume as possible. The tea is then added to the pot along with crushed blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice.
The first word that comes to mind when tasting this jam is elegance. It makes me think of eating crumpets and drinking tea with my pinkie out. Try it with scones, croissants, or crostini with fresh ricotta. A jar would also make a lovely gift for your mother-in-law, or bridal shower favor.