RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—At long last, the height of summer fruit season is here! Time to make something of those mounds of peaches, berries, and nectarines piled high at the farmer's market. Of course, it's also the height of summer heat. And who wants to be boiling fruit and prepping hot-water baths for fruit preserves when it's 100 degrees outside? Fortunately, if you think of making jam and jelly as a hot, messy process that requires an unpleasantly hot kitchen, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Making "un-preserves" (a.k.a. "quick," "fresh," or "refrigerator" jams) is a great way to turn small quantities of summer fruits into delicious treats, whipped up a jar or two at a time, no hot-water canning baths required. Making them is not only fast and easy, it's also forgiving. If the texture or sweetness isn't quite right after you let a jar cool, just dump its contents back into the saucepan and correct it. Any clean jar with a tight lid will work as a container (so feel free to reuse any old jam, olive, or salsa jars you normally couldn't use for real fruit preserves). With un-preserves, there are no finicky seals or potential spoilage to worry about. Plus, the quick process offers loads of opportunity to experiment with flavor combinations.
Basic un-preserves are simply fruit (or fruit juice) and sweetener that is cooked down until you have a spread that is as thick as you want it. The results are meant to be kept in the refrigerator and should be consumed within a month or frozen for later use. You may already be familiar with no-sugar-added fruit spreads and apple or other fruit "butters"; these are examples of cooked-down confections, but the possibilities are limitless.
Quick and Easy Un-Preserves
Yields 1 medium or 2 small jars
5 cups ripe (or even slightly overripe) fruit, seeded and/or peeled as needed, and cut into bite-sized pieces OR 4 cups fruit juice
1 cup sugar OR ½ cup honey OR ½ cup apple juice concentrate (adjust amount or omit entirely based on the fruit's sweetness and your taste)
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice (optional)
Put the fruit into a medium stainless steel or glass saucepan, and add the sweetener if using. The mix will get sweeter as it cooks down, so start conservatively; you can add more sweetener later if you need to. Mash the fruit with a potato masher or large spoon. Let it sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes, or in the fridge overnight, to let the juices start releasing (skip this if you are starting with juice). Then put fruit or juice back in your pan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the lemon or lime juice, if using, and continue to boil and stir as the mixture cooks and eventually starts to thicken (10 to 20 minutes). Remember that it will thicken a bit more as it cools.
Once it reaches your desired consistency (thinner for syrup, thicker for spreading), taste for sweetness and add more sweetener if desired. Remove the pot from the heat, spoon the un-preserves into clean glass jars with tight lids, store in the refrigerator, and enjoy within a month, or put your un-preserves in a freezer-safe jar (leaving room for upward expansion) and pop them into the freezer, where they will keep for at least six months.
Published on: July 20, 2011
Updated on: July 21, 2011