I thought I would; but suddenly, I don’t mind the touch of chill in the air, the softer, golden-tint to the light and the mention of pumpkins, apples and squash. Last week, I wasn’t ready for summer to end. I wasn’t ready for back-to-school shopping and admitting defeat on all the items yet to be crossed off the summer to-do list. But then it hit me, as it always does. Suddenly, the gray is like a comforting blanket—familiar and welcomed.
But I know better to assume that I’ll always feel this way about the cold, gray skies. So I’m pre-empting the February woes and preserving the last bit of summer’s bounty and squirreling away a jar or two of pickles and jams. I’m not much of a canner, but this year I’ve found the ease of roasted jams, which has helped to alleviate any excuse I have for not being able to save at least one jar of sweet, sticky summer fruit. The trick is trying to keep it around until the winter.
We’ve talked about the benefits of roasting here, but let’s refresh our memory. When food meets a hot oven, the results are nothing short of magic. Carrots unfurl an unprecedented sweetness as their skins curl and crisp under the heat, their moisture scatters and their natural sugars intensify. A roast of meat does the same—crisp edges, tender and juicy meat that practically bows down to the weight of the fork. And fruit is no different. The shock of dry heat causes the cut edges to deeply caramelize, most of the moisture evaporates and the sweetness already present in the fruit condenses and somehow turns whatever is roasting into its best self. Whatever you love about, say an apricot for example, is punctuated when that apricot spends an hour or so slowly roasting in an oven. In fact, it’s with apricots or even rhubarb that roasting is most magical. I find apricots eaten fresh to be a bit bland, one-note and just sort of blah. And rhubarb, well I don’t even attempt to gnaw on raw rhubarb. But after time spent in an oven, they become utterly transformed into a completely new taste—one of my favorite tastes, in fact.
With my passion for roasting well established, I took that idea and turned it into jam—roasted jam. Not only does the fruit take on a deeply caramelized and well developed flavor when roasted, the process is actually quite a bit easier, as there is no need to stand over a hot pot stirring continually until the ache in your arm overshadows the joy of jam. In the summer, when the jam-making season is at its peak, I’d do just about anything to avoid standing over a hot stove. So, check out my recipe for roasted jam here.
by Ashley Rodriguez