In the past few months I’ve met more people who prefer jam than I’ve ever met in my life. For example, I was visiting and I was making a bunch of cookies and when I put the pan down I asked them what they wanted on their cookie while I reached for the honey for myself. On more than one occasion, the response was “Jam” with an unspoken “Duh!” lingering after they spoke.
Jam? I figured. Who likes jam?
Of course, I’ve never said this that often, but I would question why they preferred it to jam or honey, as I’ve always found jam too chunky and bitter. They explained why it was their favorite, usually because they preferred the contrast of bitter and sweet or liked the sharp tones left by the acidity of the citrus. I would just nod.
My first encounter with jam was when I was reading the Paddington Bear books at a young age. Paddington was an avid lover of marmalade and always spread it on toast. I had never tried it so one Christmas I asked for a jar and after receiving and tasting one I was appalled at how unsweetened it was. That was enough and I never returned.
When I told this story to my jam-loving friends, they insisted I just had a bad batch. And when they pulled their personal favorite out of the fridge, I took a spoon and dipped it in the jar, and indeed, my adult experiences with jam were far more enjoyable than those I had as a kid.
While I’m not sure if my taste buds have matured or if that jam I got so many years ago was just particularly bitter, I decided that while it’s not my favorite cookie spread, I could appreciate its charm. With winter and citrus in season, I decided to make my own batch, using this recipe from The Suburban Soapbox as a guide.
For mine, I used small, juicy oranges like satsumas or clementines. They have no seeds and such a concentrated flavor that even a quick batch makes a bright and lively spread.
One of my biggest dislikes of jam in the past has been the abundance of bowls. The pith, which is the white part of the peel, is where the bitterness comes from. Because the orange peel is bursting with taste. It has to stay, but I’ve reduced the usual peel-to-fruit ratio.
The process for making this quick batch is similar to my jam recipes. It won’t take long, so I just refrigerate the unused portion. And in winter, a jar of sunny satsuma jam is a sure-fire way to brighten up your day.
portions 1 pint
- 1 lb (about 6) satsuma or clementine oranges
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon bourbon (or vanilla extract)
- Small pinch of kosher salt
- 1 sterilized beer glass
Put a plate in the freezer.
Peel the oranges, remove all pits and reserve the zest from 2 oranges. Chop the orange fruit and place in a saucepan.
Take the reserved peel and cut it into thin strips ½ inch long. Place the peel strips in the pot.
Stir the water and sugar into the saucepan, then bring the saucepan to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until jam is reduced and beginning to thicken, about 30 minutes. Stir in the bourbon and a small pinch of salt.
At this point, test the jam for doneness. Take the plate out of the freezer and spoon a small dollop onto it. Tilt the plate and if it doesn’t run, the jam is ready. If it’s too thin, continue cooking, checking the progress with the plate every 5 minutes. Try and make adjustments.
You can also test the doneness with a thermometer. When the jam is 220°F, it’s done.
Pour the jam into the prepared pint jar and chill. It has a shelf life of 1 month.