One of my favorite flavors is cranberry. The first thing I was entrusted with making for a family get-together was the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. Yeah, regular cranberry sauce is like super easy to throw together (cranberries, sugar, yay!) but the kindly rave reviews I got from my relatives solidified my love affair with the cranberry.
I love sour and tart flavors, so to me, the cranberry is the best berry. It’s hardly sweet, it can go with savory or sweet foods (there is nothing like a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce) and is much more versatile than people give it credit for. This year, with my baking ability and cooking knowledge having skyrocketed even from what it was last year, I found myself buying quite a few bags of cranberries at the store, saying coyly, “I’ll use one bag for my cranberry pie and freeze the rest!”
That cranberry pie was delicious. But now, Thanksgiving is past and my attention is turning to the frozen jewels set aside for all kinds of wondrous things. Today I was making bread. What’s the best thing to go with fresh bread? Jam, of course! And since I have no other fruits around the house, cranberry jam!
These days, I am trying to dress it up a little. So I’ve made three-citrus jam. The recipe called for orange, but since I added lime to my cranberry pie at Thanksgiving, the citrus possibilities have seemed endless. Today, I added the zest and juice of lemon and lime, but also tangerines straight off Grandma Joan’s tree down in Phoenix.
If you’ve never had straight off the tree citrus, you haven’t lived. I say this in all seriousness. I understand that I haven’t truly lived yet because my wealth of experience is quite small (I haven’t bogged my own cranberries, for example, or eaten bananas straight from the tree, which I imagine is exquisite). But really truly seriously. Fresh, real oranges and tangerines and grapefruit and even lemons and limes are wonderous straight off the tree. They are the stuff of fairy tales, with the rich descriptions of juice flowing over lips and down chins, of damsels in gardens reaching dexterously out to the ripe fruit hanging so near their grasp. It has a taste unlike any citrus fruit I’ve ever gotten in a store, and it takes me right back to being a kid. My friend Caity and I would poke holes in the oranges off her tree and suck the juice out with straws. When we were done with the juice, we’d poke a bigger hole and scrap out the pulp with spoons. It was not very efficient but it was terribly romantic.
So I’ve added Grandma Joan’s tangerines to this recipe. The flavor is incomparable on its own and adds a sweet citrus-y subtlety to the jam. Be aware that this jam really needs to cool down to truly set up and isn’t like a nice raspberry where, if you don’t mind, you can leave in all the seeds and pulp. Cranberry skins are for cranberry sauce, and this is not that. This is tart and light and hardly sweet at all. It is meant to be spread on hearty bread and served alone, so the eater may revel in its unrepentant tartness.
Three-Citrus Cranberry Jam
- 1 12 oz bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
- the zest and juice of one lime, one lemon, and several tangerines, equally 1/2 cup
- 1 cup sugar (or more if you want to be silly and dull the tartness)
- 1 cup water
- Pour all the ingredients together.
- Bring to a boil so that the cranberries pop.
- Let simmer for at least twenty minutes.
- Sieve through a mesh strainer to get out all those pesky seeds and skins.
- Let cool before you put it in a jar, then cool it further in the fridge.
Don’t worry if your jam doesn’t feel thick right away. Cooling it will thicken it up to genuine jam consistency. When making something like this for ice cream and you want it to be a sauce, the key is to not refrigerate it. If you want a jam, refrigerate it and it will firm up in no time.
Update: Mine actually came out too runny for my taste. I would cook it much longer. Don’t let your jam be runny! I also might try keeping the skins and seeds next time to give it more texture.