Summer's Bounty Skillet Jam

by Brenda Athanus
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Okay, It is true, I admit it!  I make skillet jam, no really, I DO...No fanfare, no canning jars or water bath cauldrons just a non-stick skillet, some ripe, fragrant fruit, sugar and a lemon. That's it! This may not sound like a shortcut, but once you put this on the table some Sunday morning you'll forget that it took you half an hour or so to make. Well maybe 45 minutes until you get less nervous about making jam...

I prepare the fruit by peeling and cutting it into inch-size pieces or in the case of berries mash lightly with a potato masher.  My formula is 3 cups of fruit, 1/2  to 3/4 cup of sugar to taste and all the juice of half a lemon. Start on medium heat, stirring to combine the sugar into the cut fruit with your best wooden spoon. If it seems like there isn't enough liquid add water or wine or fruit juice-be creative, there are NO rules and this is suppose to be fun and it is all YOUR creation, no one else's!  I let the fruit cook down (simmer happily) but if the there are some fruit pieces that are too large for your liking use your wooden spoon to "gently" breakdown the fruit into the size you prefer. Taste it, does it need more lemon juice? Perhaps more sugar, a touch of vanilla extract?

Let it cook until is has the consistency of jam which you will know just by looking the more that you have made it but until that point I chill two plates for a couple of hours. When I suspect that the jam is nearing the correct texture I spoon a tablespoon or so of my cooking jam on to the ice cold plate. Wait a minute and run your finger through the blob's middle-the jam should NOT run back too quickly. If it does, cook it  some more and retest on the second chilled plate. If you get busy in the middle of your jam making just turn off the heat on your "almost jam" and refrigerate it until you have time to finish it. This will not effect the jam in any way. Store this in a decorative jam jar in the refrigerator, it will keep for a month or so.


Inspirations:

- Fragrant peeled peaches cooked with sugar and lemon juice until it is nearly jam consistency and finish with a handful of raspberries or wild blueberries

- Fresh Bing cherries, a drop or two of almond extract, a touch of red wine

- A cup each of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, lemon and sugar

- Wild Maine blueberries, orange juice, orange peel , sugar and lemon

- Sliced bananas, bittersweet chocolate, lemon, sugar

- Cantalope melon, lemon juice, sugar and coriander seed

- Apricots (unpeeled), sugar and lemon juice

- Comice pears, sugar, lemon juice and a touch of cinnamon

- Mango, sugar and lime juice

Another thing that I do after I have spooned off the jam from my skillet is to add a cup of nice French white wine vinegar, place over low heat and with a spatula scrape up all the jam residue. Stir until your skillet is cleaned and your fruit vinegar comes to life!  This should be kept in the refrigerator.  I use my fruit vinegar for salads, to deglaze a pan or with sparkling water

Did I mentions that homemade jam loves the company of a good popover?? Or is perfect for a back to school PB&J!!

 

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