Nearly a decade ago, I made my first spiced jam—blueberry with black pepper. The sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper on buttered toast had tickled my fancy for quite some time. Adding a few twists of this heating spice to homemade jam that was likely going to spread across crunchy, fermented sourdough, slathered in coconut mana or ghee seemed like a wise choice. Tickled are the taste buds. Nourished are the emotions. Satisfied is the spirit. With a little spice. So, why not a little spiced up ja
Spices have been a part of my life since before my memories begin. One could say they’re part of my DNA. A lingering character that has melded into my life story. A constant presence, spices filled the pantry even when the fridge was empty. When their presence became known, our relationship sparked. It began with learning their names. The process took a little time as unlabeled jars created some challenges along with way. Eventually, their English and Urdu/Hindi embedded themselves into my muscle memory. Soon after, I began to learn about their scents, textures, density, intensity, heating or cooling energy. Getting to know their personality took our play time to the next level. We formed groups of friends within friends, creating new flavor blends.
As time went on our relationship grew deeper. We partied together, pleasing the senses and pleasuring the taste buds. One day, new layers were introduced to the scene. Introducing some complex perspectives. Evolving the conversation to think beyond taste and change how we played to accommodate our new friends. We started to think about the seasons and the star ingredient was viewed through stronger magnification. Dispersing the focus evenly amongst the various components of creating a dish. Shifting the choices, blend, and measurements to account for balance beyond flavor. One that considered the elements, heating or cooling potency, to inform the final ingredient list.
A multi-layered balanced approach that thought beyond the experience of a bite, but also the impact on digestion. Creating food that was balanced in elements, tastes, energy, qualities to help foster balance within.
When I looked at blueberries with a magnifying glass, I learned that in addition to being sweet and slightly sour in taste, they had a heating nature. As most berries tend to. This piece of information, made me switch from heating black pepper to cooling rose and lavender. Counterbalancing blueberries heat with cooling spices. The pungency of spices, whether heating or cooling also act as a digestive aid. Slightly lighten jam’s heavy qualities. Let’s also not forget the aromatherapy that comes along—ahhhhhhh, pass the lavender rose jam, please!
Learnings: fruit from the farmer’s market fruit requires a lot less sugar than store-bought fruit—it’s just sweeter. When I made a second batch of strawberry fennel jam from store-bought berries, I had to use more than double the amount of sugar for the same amount of berries. Even after a couple of days of keeping the berries under a damp paper towel. I’m not against sugar (unrefined), it’s rich in iron and magnesium, but I prefer utilizing the natural sugar in fruits. Another reason to support local farmers 🙂
Tastes: Sweet, Pungent
Qualities: Heavy, Moist
Total Time: 30-40 minutes
Yields: 1 1/2 cups
What you need: mortar/pestle or a coffee grinder, a masher, and a clean mason jar
1 lb SWEET blueberries (2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup jaggery (gur) or succanet*
1/8 tsp pink or sea salt
1 T water (optional)
1 tsp lavender seeds (then crushed)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp lemon juice
Step 1: Rinse the blueberries and add them to a heavy-bottom stainless steel pot with the sugar and salt. Place the pot on the stove on low-medium heat covered until the mixture begins to get juicy (add water if needed) About 4-5 mins.
Step 2: In the meantime, place a small glass or metal bowl in the freezer for testing the jam’s consistency.
Step 3: When the juices start to release, uncover and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture starts to bubble, lower the temperature and let it simmer.
Step 4: At the simmering stage add the vanilla and crushed lavender—a mortar and pestle works great or a coffee grinder. Continue to simmer about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Step 6: After 15-20 minutes of simmering, begin the freezer test. Place 2 teaspoons of jam into the chilled dish and return the dish to the freezer for a minute. After a minute in the freezer, remove and rotate the dish to check the consistency and ensure all the sugar has melted (the jam should be completely cool). If it’s too thin continue to cook until you get the consistency of your preference. If the jam is not sweet enough, add more sugar and continue to cook. Repeat the freezer test after the sugar has completely melted. The jam should coat a spoon, but not be too thick where it doesn’t drip off the spoon. My cook time was a little less than 30 minutes.
Step 7: Once you have the right consistency, remove the pot from the heat and add the rose water. Stir and let the jam rest for 10-15 minutes before adding it to the jar or an airtight container. Fill the jar, and let cool completely before adding the lemon juice to the top of the jar (the acidity will help preserve the jam). Once it’s completely cool, cover and store in the fridge. The jam will keep for up to 2-3 months.
Notes: Prevent any condensation from forming in the jar by ensuring jam is completely cool before securing the jar with the lid. Always use a clean utensil when serving the jam to prevent spoilage. If you want to preserve this jam for a longer period of time and store it in the pantry, follow canning guidelines.
*Kapha imbalances or kapha predominant doshas eat in moderation.