Her name was Jessica. She was my first frenemy and she one-upped me in everything. She had the Little Mermaid lunchbox before I did and a gay best friend before anyone else. She wore a lot of pink and felt that it was her right to tell a girl that her hair looked kinky or her growth spurt hadn’t hit yet. Oh, Jessica. I wonder where you are today? If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve loosened up.
A funny thing happens when you start nearing your 30s. You realize that people like Jessica, well, they don’t matter anymore. In fact, they’ve never actually mattered and had you realized this sooner, you could have saved yourself a lot of heartache.
There are plenty of Jessicas still around, don’t get me wrong. They’re in your office, engaging in water cooler talk about last year’s Christmas party and who got drunk and lost their shoe. They’re bellied up to the bar giving every woman who tries to sneak in the evil eye. They’re putting on makeup to go the gym. They say things like, ‘Oh, isn’t that last year’s model?’ They go to your church and always give you a fake smile, only when you’re standing next to your mom.
The older you get, the more you realize that life resembles the weird social setup of grade school only there are fewer and fewer people who actually care that it exists. The strangest part about the Internet, I’ve noticed, is that it’s made being dorky totally cool. And all those Jessicas? They’re just trying to catch up. They’re still living off those old merits that — as time goes on — become less and less relevant.
Making jam on a Saturday night is the sort of thing I might have been made fun of when I was younger. But these days, all these former dorks (myself included) are cooking fruit, throwing pickling parties, and sterilizing jars. I’ve had the Blue Chair Jam cookbook for a while, but this is the first jam that I finally made it from it. And oh lordy, was it worth the wait. Even though we just talked about ice cream and it’s probably about time for something savory, I just can’t help but share this special little treat with you.
A really good blueberry jam is hard to find in my opinion. It has to still taste like blueberries, but deliver a complex richness that the fresh fruit doesn’t quite pack in. Most importantly, it has to taste like it was made with real fruit. This jam satisfies all of the requirements, and benefits from an added flavor: mint. I wouldn’t specifically choose to pair mint with blueberries, but as soon as I dipped my spoon into the jar, it immediately made sense. It adds a refreshing factor that is the very thing you want when preserving a summer fruit —the ability to crack into summer in the darkest days of winter.
adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
*makes approximately 4-5 eight ounce jars
Note: I halved the original recipe and didn’t have any issues with the new proportions. Though, now that I’ve eaten nearly all of my jam (with little left to save for winter) I wish I actually stuck to the full recipe, which is why I’m sharing it with you here.
3 sprigs of fresh mint
2 pounds + 10 ounces of blueberries (preferably organic)
1 pound + 10 ounces of sugar
6 ounces of fresh lemon juice (strained)
1. Prepare your jars by properly sterilizing them. You can refer to this guide, though my sterilization plan comes from Blue Chair Jam: I put my clean jars and lids in a 250 degree F oven for about 30 minutes and take them out just before filling them.
2. Place a plate with five small metal teaspoons in the freezer. You’ll use them to test your jam later.
3. Add the berries, sugar and lemon juice to a large, non-reactive pot. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the berries start to seep out their juices. At this point, raise the heat to high and continue to cook until you bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Cook the jam at a boil for about 15 minutes, continuing to stir. About 10 minutes in, start to test the jam. If it starts to stick to the pot, lower the heat accordingly.
5. To test the jam, scoop up about 1/2 teaspoon of jam into one of your frozen spoons and place it back into the freezer for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove it from the freezer and touch the underside; if it’s still warm, place it back into the freezer for a minute. Hold the spoon vertically and watch how fast the jam runs: if it doesn’t run, the jam is ready. If it runs quickly, continue cooking it. Continue testing the jam with the rest of your frozen spoons until it does not run.
6. Once the jam is ready, remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam from the surface. Next, add the mint sprigs, pushing them down into the jam. Let them steep for several minutes. Remove the sprigs when you are satisfied with the flavor. Toss the sprigs and pour the jam into your sterilized jars.
Musical Pairings: Widowspeak – Widowspeak + Blueberry-Mint Jam
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