Tomorrow is Christmas, and believe it or not, I forgot someone. My “Go To” is always food, and I am always looking for something easy that looks hard. I always thought jams seemed complicated and difficult, and kind of mysterious. But I learned that they are really pretty simple. Just choose a vegetable or fruit and boil it down with sugar, water, and spices. Usually vinegar is involved in some way, maybe just a few tablespoons or as much as 1 1/2 cups, as in the red pepper. But here are 3 easy jams to make. The onion is probably the “hardest”, but only because you have to caramelize the onions first which takes some time (mine took 45 minutes). But here goes:
SPICY SWEET RED PEPPER JAM
3 large or 4 medium Red Bell Peppers
1 or 2 very hot peppers such as habanero, Fresno (not as hot), jalapeno (preferably red or yellow for color) I only used one, and it was plenty hot!!!
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Put peppers into a food processor and pulse till they are chopped but just a little chunky. Or not. If you like it smoother, go ahead. I just like it a little chunky. Put peppers into a heavy saucepan with sugar, vinegar and salt. Cook “down” for about 45 minutes to an hour on medium or low heat. You just want it to be the consistency of jam. As it cools it will thicken a little. Store in jars. Lasts forever in fridge or out on the counter for weeks. (sugary/vinegar things don’t always have to be refrigerated. Ask me how I know).
1 lb. fresh figs (my son has a tree!). But if you don’t, the produce dept. has them in little plastic packages)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of one small lemon (I didn’t have lemon so I used one of my lime ice cubes*)
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
Puree figs and put them into a heavy saucepan (I find adding a little water really helps with this. About 1/2 cup). Add everything else and bring to a simmer. Cook until it has thickened (at least 1/2 hour). Stir often. Watch it and when it looks thick, put it into jars.
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup white sugar
4 cups sliced onions (about 4 medium onions) (you will be surprised how this starts out to look so big and cooks down to so little. So use more onions if you’d like)
1/2 tsp. salt–pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
“caramelize” the onions by simmering them on medium/low heat for at least 1/2 hour, in the oil. Add the sugar and salt about 15 minutes in. You need to stir because the edges burn. As soon as the onions are light brown and sweet and “caramel-y”, add the vinegar and cook about 15 more minutes. If you like the jam less chunky you can put it into a food processor. But it’s just fine dolloped on cheese or topping toast. Cool the mixture. (it will thicken as it cools). Store in jars.
JAM NOTES: All these jams are great but pretty strong. So they are especially good on top of Mascarpone or cream cheeses, or even Brie on a cracker or bread.