This week, I found myself in possession of a pound and a half of fresh figs. Not sure really how that happened, as figs are expensive and while you can find them a lot of places, certainly less common than say, an apple. Anyway, I absolutely love figs, but there is no chance that I could have eaten all of them (and enjoyed them) in one go, so I decided to make this lovely jam with about 2/3 of the lot. It’s a sweet jam, of course, with notes of honey, thyme and orange, but it pairs really nicely with savory — would go great with pork, and as shown with this cheese (it’s manchego) or even charcuterie. Or mix it into oatmeal or yogurt, or yes, even toast. It’s surprisingly versatile and yummy to boot. Also, it is very easy to make.
What in the world is a jostaberry? Well, I had absolutely no idea wither until I picked them … by accident … thinking that they were large black currants. Oops. They are a hybrid between a black currant, a North American coastal black gooseberry and a regular gooseberry. Of course! I don’t think that this helps anyone much, but is essence, they are a large black currant or a small black gooseberry, about the size of a cultivated blueberry (so not the Maine wild blueberries, but more the high bush kind) that taste a little like a gooseberry and a lot like a black currant. Clear as mud? I thought so.
From a linguistic point of view — me being German and all — it is kind of interesting too: The name Jostaberry was created via combining the German words for blackcurrant and gooseberry, namely Johannisbeere (“Jo”) and Stachelbeere (“Sta”). Following German pronunciation of “J”, it should be pronounced “yostaberry” in English.
But what they really are is a great base for jam. This turned out wonderfully. It’s not too sweet, has the distinct tartness that any currant jam will give you and jelled really nicely as well. It will go great mixed into my morning yogurt.
I went PYO berry picking again, this time for blueberries, raspberries, red and black currants, and unexpectedly, jostaberries (see the next post on that). And so I decided to make some more jam. This one is a variation on your typical blueberry jam, but I added lemon and lemon thyme. It doesn’t really taste thyme-y, just clean and fresh with a hint of “what’s that flavor?” Summer in a jar.
Either you’re going to think that I am crazy, or you think that this is genius … pickled cherries? Who would have thought!
But they are amazingly good and should take my word for it and make a batch yourself. This is only a small batch and worse case, you will have to give the ones that you don’t like away, but trust me, you will be making more! Sweet and briney, a perfect addition to a cheese plate or along side pork. And while cherries are in high season and relatively inexpensive, you should go for it.
I was making a jar of one of my staples — Berbere Spice — so I thought that codifying the “recipe” would be good. What is Berbere Spice? It is an Ethiopian spice mixture, a mix of sweet and savory spices. I’ve seen a number of different configurations of the spice, but the main components involve some heat (chiles, pepper cayenne) and some sweet flavors (cinnamon, clove, cardamom and nutmeg). Toss it with vegetables before roasting, use it as a dry rub on pork or poultry before grilling. You can even add it to fruit or yogurt with a touch of honey; maybe pie? [grin]
Oh, and you’ll be surprised at how “every day” the ingredients are … you might actually have a vast majority of them in the pantry. Having the whole spices and toasting/grinding them yourself is preferable, but if you just have ground (and no spice mill) just mix together the ground that you have.