Making Man Jam: Peach Ginger and Almond Conserve
A few weeks ago after a, do forgive the pun, fruitful trip to Michigan, my kitchen became jam central. For three days and nights I peeled, pitted, sliced, macerated, stirred, simmered, and ultimately canned my way through nearly fifty pounds of fruit. When it was over the kitchen floor was shiny and sticky, and I added sixty-five jars of jams, preserves, conserves, spoonsweets, and compotes to my basement larder.
At the time it seemed as though the stove-top burbling would never end. Not that I wanted it too; this ritual, though arguably a bit out of hand this year even by my ambitious standards, had become one of my favorites. I didn’t even mind the way my flip flops stuck to the kitchen floor with every step–“thwop-smack, thwop-smack.” The sweet aromas–a blend of ripe fruit and caramel–seemed to permeate every corner of the house. I would wake in the middle of the night to the scent of vanilla. The next night it was thick with the smell of peaches laced with bourbon. I couldn’t think of a more pleasing way to savor summer. And I knew that when Old Man Winter came a-knockin’ for me, my jams would see me through, reminding me of life after the thaw.
When Operation Jam finally came to a close, Greg and I had a breakfast tasting so we could choose our favorites. Mine was Apricot Preserves with Vanilla Beans and Gewürztraminer. Greg’s pick was the Peach Ginger and Almond Conserve pictured above.
“What’s a conserve?” he asked as he dipped his spoon into the jar of glistening orange goodness for a third helping, this one bypassing his scone and going right to his mouth.
“I think it’s just preserves with nuts and maybe dried fruit,” I answered, but the truth was: I wasn’t exactly sure. Barron’s Food Lover’s Companion defined it as: A mixture of fruits, nuts and sugar, cooked together until thick, often used to spread on biscuits, crumpets and so on. But Collins English Dictionary countered with: (Cookery) a preparation of fruit in sugar, similar to jam but usually containing whole pieces of fruit.
Most, but not all, conserve recipes I found did indeed contain nuts. I was in the midst of explaining my research project to Greg when I noticed his eyes gloss over not unlike the conserve he was still devouring. He smiled at me from across the table, “It doesn’t matter to me what you call it. This stuff is gooo-ooood.” As if anticipating my next question, he paused and added, “I think it’s the texture I love. I’ve never had nuts in my jam before.”
Two days later, I was standing in my sister Annie’s kitchen in Pennsylvania unloading the goodies I’d brought her from Chicago, which included several jars of the fruits of my labor. My brother-in-law Tim immediately reached for Greg’s favorite peach conserve and asked, “What’s a conserve?”
Having learned my lesson from Greg, I offered the abridged version, “It’s a preserve with nuts.”
Tim held the jar up to the sun-filled kitchen window with his left hand, a smoking cigar in his right, and looked thoughtfully at the conserve, “Why don’t you just call it Man Jam?”
Yes, Man Jam.
This man jam can transform a simple slice of toast into a satisfying breakfast. And it’s a near perfect partner for a creamy brie. Of course my man likes to spoon it straight from the jar. Call it what you will and spoon some up today before peach season passes you by.
Peach Ginger and Almond Conserve
3 pounds peaches
5 cups granulated sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 orange, juice and zest
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup almonds, blanched and roughly chopped or slivered
- Poach the peaches for one minute in a pan of boiling water. Remove them to a bowl of ice water. Peel, pit, and chop into 3/4-inch chunks.
- Combine the peaches, sugar, and citrus zests and juices in a non-reactive pan and bring to a simmer. Pour into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, bring to a boil, stirring gently. Skim and continue cooking on high heat until concentrated. If you have a candy thermometer, boil until it reaches 221°F.
- Add the crystallized ginger and almonds. Return to a boil.
- Process the jam immediately using your method of choice. If you’re a canning novice, The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource: Processing Jams and Jellies.
Makes about 5 cups.