Summary: The annual farewell to summer produce can leave jammers distraught. What can I put up now?! Although the fruit-based options are fewer and perhaps less dazzling in some ways (visually and otherwise), there is still much that can be done with fall's gems, especially apples and pears. Generally, I don't much like apple jams. I'd rather have a good applesauce any day. But apples love many other ingredients, and I enjoy pairing their sweet-tartness with more savory elements. Here, I macerate apples and pears with lemon thyme, lemon zest and juice, black pepper and sugar and then cook that mixture down to a crystalline spread, adding some pear brandy near the end. The result is a sweet jam with earthy undertones, just begging to be spread atop a good cheese and some crackers.
Note: You'll need to let the fruit mixture macerate for a half-hour, so incorporate that into your overall project time.
Yield: 1½ pints
- 5 cups cored and chopped apples (use your favorite variety(ies); I used 3 Honeycrisps and 1 September Wonder (a Fuji varietal))
- 3 cups cored and chopped pears (about 2); I used just-ripe Bartletts
- 2 cups unrefined, granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 large sprigs of lemon thyme (or regular thyme if you can't find/don't have the lemon variety)
- freshly ground black pepper, several good turns
- 2-3 tablespoons pear brandy (aka poire William)
Fill your canning pot with water, cover, and set over high heat. Do this first because it takes a long time to bring this much water to a rolling boil. Ready the appropriate number of jars and get out your canning funnel, ladle and such.
In a jamming pot or other heavy-bottomed stainless pot, stir together all your ingredients except for the pear brandy. Let sit for a half hour. Set the pot over medium-high heat, and stir regularly (but not constantly) until any sugar that's not yet dissolved does. Turn the heat up to high and stir regularly as the mixture comes to a boil.
If you've not already, sterilize your jars by placing them in the boiling water bath.
After 15-20 minutes of cooking over high heat, you'll notice that was once a loose, juicy mixture is now a thickening, increasingly sticky one. Good. You want that. Add the brandy, cook a bit more and do the wooden spoon test: does the jam sheet off the back, or does it come together before dripping off in one stream? The latter will tell you when it's done. I cooked mine for 25 minutes total.
When the jam is ready, carefully remove and discard any remaining thyme stems and then ladle the jam into your prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and bands, and carefully place into your canning pot. Process for 12 minutes, remove and sit on a kitchen towel for at least two hours.