Watch this audio slideshow on the making of three different types of jam, blueberry jam, rhubarb jam and rhubarb and crowberry jam. Blueberries and crowberries are the most common wild berries in Iceland and rhubarb grows in almost every garden across the country.
Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir [email protected].
Click here to download the audio slideshow.
After a successful berry season and after having enjoyed a few bowls of fresh berries with cream, it is best to freeze the remaining harvest. Frozen berries are good for baking and jam making.
The most easily-found wild berries in Iceland are blueberries and crowberries. Blueberries are sweeter and juicier, while crowberries have a bitterer taste.
Crowberries are often used for jellies, juices and even wine. When used in jam, it is good to mix crowberries with some other fruit, for example rhubarb, which grows in gardens all around the country. Rhubarb also makes a good jam by itself or with blueberries.
For traditional Icelandic recipes, Helga Sigurdardóttir’s Matur og drykkur is a classic. However, old recipe books usually state that for every kilo of berries, a kilo of sugar should be added, which is a little over the top according to modern standards.
Feel free to cut down on sugar or use some other sweeteners, such as honey or agave syrup. If you prefer sugar, consider using raw sugar instead of the regular kind.
Also experiment with other flavors. Blueberry jam with cinnamon and vanilla is excellent and rhubarb can be used for various chutneys, for example with chili.
Jam making is really simple. Pour berries, fresh or frozen, into a casserole at medium heat. Stir regularly. Once the berries have started defrosting, add sugar or other sweeteners.
For these recipes, I’ve used one deciliter (2/3 cup) agave syrup but I prefer jams to be sour so that is probably insufficient to most. Bring to boil, lower the heat and continue to stir regularly.
Old recipe books usually state that the jam should boil for hours, especially in the case of rhubarb jam. Both the time of boiling and the high amount of sugar used to be necessary for preservation purposes.
However, I limit the boiling time to 30 to 60 minutes or until the contents start to look like jam. Blueberries, especially if they’ve been frozen, usually need longer to thicken than rhubarb.
Heat the oven to 150°C (302°F) and put clean jars and lids into the oven and leave them there until the jam is ready.
Once the jam is ready, pour it into the jars while both the jam and the jars are hot and screw the lids on tightly—carefully, though. This is to prevent mildew.
You won’t be able to store the jams for years, like the old recipes guarantee, but for a few months, at least. Once you’ve opened a jar, put it in the refrigerator.
There are many ways to enjoy a good jam. Blueberry jam is great with your morning cereal and porridge, and it’s healthy too.
You could also use it for baking, as a bread topping or to compliment good cheeses. Sweet or mild cheeses work best since blueberry jam, if you make like I do, is a little sour. The same goes for the rhubarb and crowberry jam.
Rhubarb jam is often used with meat dishes, like meatballs or the Sunday roast. It also tastes good on bread or with cheeses, especially spicy or strong cheeses.
If you have too much jam on your hands, it makes a thoughtful present. A beautiful jar with homemade jam and a good cheese, like Icelandic ewe’s milk cheese, fits perfectly under the Christmas tree.