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And judging by all the bread baking action on Instagram, carbs are the current national go-to, but take it from us; come sunny, springtime days, the world will turn to jam.
As temperatures get warmer, and artisan jam makers all over the country are cooking up new batches of flavorful preserves, it’s hard to think of a product more soothing and doomsday-appropriate than jam. In fact, in the 2017 book Comfort Food: Meaning and Memories, jam and preserves have an honorable spot, as they persistently appear in our childhood memories.
Jennifer Fisher, together with her partner Danny, concocts the funky-looking Alchemist’s Jam in Mcminnville, OR, and has always known that jam had the power to unite and encourage.
“We say this all of the time, but we really do believe that when we make jam we’re harnessing the power of the sun from summer fruit so that people can enjoy that warmth all year round,” she says.
This spring, the Fishers have been pairing back on the complexity their jams are known for and focusing on simple, single-source jams that have become classics. “Ask us what we’re excited about and it’s a plain strawberry jam made with the most flavorful and juicy strawberries that we can find.”
In San Francisco, Gillian Reynolds, the woman behind Jamnation, believes jam has healing potential thanks to its ability to teleport us: “While we’re all squirreled away, jam captures the bounty and freshness of the outdoors in a jar,” she says.
“I actually started Jamnation to recreate my own fruit memory in Brazil. Each of our flavors is based on one of my family memories and travels to 31 countries.”
V Smiley, a small-batch jam maker based in New Haven, VT, also trusts in jam’s time-bending abilities. “You time travel when you eat great preserves,” she admits. “If I want to arrive into a warm July evening in Vermont, I open a jar of Black Raspberry Sour Cherry Plum Conserve or Strawberry Blackcurrant Rosemary Jam.”
Vermont, or anywhere but our living rooms, sounds really good at the moment.
Come April, Smiley says, it’s all about tangy rhubarb, which can be found in her seasonal Rhubarb Cherry Evergreen Tip Conserve. Jam is also practical, too, as Dafna Kory, the owner of INNA jams and shrubs from Emeryville, CA, would like to remind us.
“Jam is a traditional way of preserving perishable fruit — ensuring they are available after their short harvest season is over. So if you’re trying to stock up your pantry, jam is a reliable way to have fruity stuff around.” And pantries, if you’ve been following social media, are the new walk-in closets. A nationwide obsession.
Beyond positively reinforcing such timely ideas like preservation, pantry-building, warmth, and travel memories, jam is a key player when it comes to even sweeter childhood nostalgia. Nostalgia, as reports show, is just the balm for uncomfortable, chaotic times.
“Our Flavor King Pluots — a hybrid between a Santa Rosa plum and an apricot — reminds me of sipping honeysuckle flowers as a child,” says Reynolds. In Grand Rapids, MI, Zenobia Taylor-Weiss cooks up creative jams at Cellar Door Preserves.
For her, jam is so comforting because “it reminds people of their mothers and grandmother’s — the people who take care of you when you are sick.”
Fisher highlights the many faces of rasurrance jam brings, both to eaters and makers. “It’s a bit obvious to say that jam is nostalgic, that we crave it because we all loved peanut butter and jam sandwiches as kids,” she says.
“But on a deeper level, I think we all want to know that we have reliable sources of food right now. We go pick the fruit and then we make it into jam and sell it to our community at farmers markets and it’s this complete circle that says, we’ve got this.”
Surely, everyone these days wants to feel like they got this. And for Smiley, jam sales have been booming. She reports that more customers are working on building out their pantry staples, and open to buying bigger batches — who knows how long this whole thing will last?
“Yes, I have seen a little spike in sales,” says Taylor-Weiss. “I’ve been marketing care packages that I’m sending out to folks right now, so many sales have been for those which included jam and other cozy things like candles.”
Those who make it for a living have plenty of ideas.
“I love to eat jam with good cheese. I’m an absolute sucker for aged Gouda,” says Reynolds.
Taylor-Weiss loves cheese too, but also mixes jam into her cocktails, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Smiley, who stopped eating gluten, offers the following: plating composed vegetable salads. “A layer of jam goes onto the bottom of the platter and on top goes roasted vegetables, toasted farro, sliced radishes, roasted nuts and seeds, and the whole thing is spritzed with lemon juice, spoons of olive oil and a dusting of fresh herbs.”
But, just in case you’re stuck with extra batches of delicious bread, Fisher has you covered: “I have to say that our most favorite way to eat jam is on homemade, hot sourdough bread that’s fresh out of the oven,” she says. “There’s honestly nothing better than jam on hot bread. It’s the best thing in the world!”
Berries and sugar can be combined in a 1:1 ratio.
- Berries or fruit
- Lemon juice (1 tablespoon per cup of sugar)
- Combine fruit and sugar together.
- Let it sit until juices come out, about 20 minutes.
- Put mixture over heat and let simmer until liquid evaporates enough so that the jam has taken a thick consistency.
- Test by coating the back of a spoon without drip.
- Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and then pour into airtight jars.
- Keep for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or 3 months in the freezer.
Flora Tsapovsky is a San Francisco based writer who covers culture, food, and style. Her work has appeared in Bon Appetit, the San Francisco Chronicle, Afar Magazine, and more. Read more of her writing here and follow her on Instagram here.