Growing up, I was not a kid that liked fruit-flavored sweets. Fruit pies were totally lost on me, as were crumbles, cobblers, and jams. While I'd tolerate jam in the PBJ that found its way into my lunchbox every day, I preferred the deeper, moodier flavor of brown sugar, maple syrup, and chocolate.
It wasn't until my mid-20s that I learned to love the nuanced flavor that fruit can bring to sweet dishes, and the greatest appreciation that grew from my maturing palate was for jam. It started with the chance tasting of a particularly luscious strawberry preserve, made from tiny mountain-grown berries that burst with sunshine and summertime flavor. This wasn't the insipid grocery store jam I'd grown up with. This was something special.
From there, my love of unique jams grew even more when I learned that I could easily make them at home. With minimal time and effort, I could throw together interesting flavor combinations leagues ahead of anything I could buy at the store. Hallelujah! I was in gourmet heaven!
Perhaps the greatest realization in my jam making was when I discovered I didn't have to limit myself to summer produce. Fall and winter, while not considered seasons of abundance, provide gorgeous fruit that is just as preservable as anything you'll find in the middle of July. Take this jam, for instance: sweet pears and figs get a leg up from tart orange juice, and a touch of cinnamon grounds the entire experience in a warm autumn kiss. Sweet and comforting, I enjoy this jam spread on across fresh scones with a generous layer of crème fraîche or ricotta cheese.
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About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.