Nothing complements a piece of warm, buttered toast like a smacking of homemade jam or jelly. But don’t limit jam to breakfast. Some find it just as decadent when it is poured over brie and served with crackers as an hors d’oeuvre. Others use it to top off ice cream. And if it doesn’t quite come together in the cooking process, it is tasty enough to get creative with it.
“Sometimes jam doesn’t set up. It makes good pancake and waffle syrup,” said Ann Kerr, a local jam maker.
The sweet, sticky goodness can be made from nearly any kind of fruit, and even some vegetables.
Ann and Cliff Kerr have an acre-sized garden in Lodi overflowing with seasonal treats. From their bountiful harvests, one of their favorite kitchen creations are batches of jam. They make strawberry freezer, raspberry and their favorite — pomegranate jam. Cliff also makes his own apricot jam, but 99 percent of their jam comes from those ruby red pomegranates.
For the Kerrs, it isn’t just about creating half-pint jars of fruit preserves. It brings the family together.
“It becomes a tradition in your family,” Cliff Kerr said. “The kids and grandchildren see how you raise the fruit, they learn how to measure and it teaches perseverance ... now the grandkids are making jam to take to their teachers.”
When the family has a jam-making day, it’s a long, but fun, process. They follow a recipe from the University of California, Davis, because it’s proven to turn out perfect every time.
Everyone digs in, surrounded by clear Mason jars, cups of sugar and those itty bitty seeds.
They make a hundred jars at a time. They keep a few, but pass most of them along to their friends and family as gifts during the holiday season. As if the jam wasn’t special enough, they add in a loaf of Ann’s homemade bread.
With their daughter, Alison Woods, of Chico, visiting for the day, she laughs when she talks about how much her own family loves the jam.
“My kids are jam snobs,” she said. “I quit giving (pomegranate jam) out, keeping it for myself. Only special people get it.”
While the Kerrs love pomegranate, Acampo resident Shirley Mason loves to jar jams made with Concord grapes, red raspberries, peppers and tomatoes.
For her, the best part of making jam is knowing she made it herself and made it look so “pretty” in the jars.
Canning supplies are available at local grocery stores or at Lodi Cooks. At Lodi Cooks, you can find necessary items like a wide-mouth funnel, canning racks to keep your jars from tipping or a water bath kit. A cool little gadget to have, according to James Petzold, sales associate at Lodi Cooks, is a bubble popper and measurer that keeps you from overfilling the jar.
Over the past two years, Petzold has seen an increase in canning and preserve supplies.
“There does seem to be a resurgence as there has become more of an awareness about waste and people wasting less. If you have the option to preserve, that is great,” he said.
Jam for breakfast
Ramona Hixson, owner of the Village Coffee Shop, offers her hungry patrons homemade jam every week.
“They love our homemade jam,” she says as she talks about how fresh jam has been a staple of the restaurant for 35 years.
A favorite is the apricot jam, though Hixson and jam maker Miranda Slaughter-German favor the sweet and spicy apricot and jalapeño. Patrons can buy the jam for $5 a jar.
Slaughter-German says the biggest step of the jam-making process is the preparations.
“It takes time to prepare and chop everything into small pieces,” she said.
She has been making jam at the eatery for seven years. A typical batch will take her 45 minutes to make.
She offers these tips for making delicious jam: “Always start with fresh fruit. Make sure it (the jam) comes to a full boil. Otherwise you don’t get jam.”
But, what’s her favorite part of making jam?
“Eating it!” Of course.