– I can’t think of a more warming breakfast treat than spiced cranberry jam on toast. –
– …and don’t forget the clotted cream! –
Winter is a time of warming spices, I think most of us can agree on that. Can you think of a more satisfying way to fend off frigid weather than by eating delicious things made with cinnamon? Or nutmeg? Or allspice? Cinnamon and nutmeg are two of the most comforting flavors I can think of. They always remind me of pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and my sock drawer.
“Wait. Did she just say sock drawer?”
Let me explain.
This spicy-tart cranberry jam was inspired by a project I used to work on every winter when I was a little girl, when I was bored and my parents weren’t around. (I spent a lot of time alone as a kid.) My friend Annette and I would sit down and make little packets of whole spices and dried orange peel, which we would tuck into tiny sachets of cheesecloth and tie with a bow. Or we’d take oranges, stick them all over with whole cloves to make pomander, then roll the finished balls of spicy goodness in a bowl of ground spices.
Not only did these naturally scented crafts make musty old Christmas stockings smell good; they were also perfect for stashing away with clean clothes in a dresser drawer. Or for the pomanders, they could be hung on a ribbon in the closet. WAY better than moth balls, I tell ya.
The intoxicating scent of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg never failed to garner compliments from the grownups we’d gift with our handiwork. I always managed to keep few sachets for myself, burying them deep in the drawers of my dresser. When I’d wake up in the freezing cold to go to school, the scent of the spices got me moving enough for my mom to drag me out the door and into the frigid air—which was no easy feat given I had to walk two miles to school. Which took forever on short eight-year-old legs.
This spiced cranberry jam is warm and inviting, with the heady aroma of citrus and the best part of your spice drawer. Cranberry is the perfect base for these flavors, rounding out the spices with an intensely playful tang. I’ve added a touch of brown sugar to bring these joyful berries back down to earth, which elevates the warm spices even more. This jam is perfect for stuffing homemade toaster pastries or slathering onto hot, buttered waffles. If you’re looking for something a little more citrusy, check out my Mandarin marmalade with Campari and lemon verbena.
And in case you’re wondering why I call for butter in a recipe for spiced cranberry jam, here’s a quick jam-making tip: a touch of butter really helps prevent foaming. Foam is an annoying byproduct when cooking fruit, so leave the butter and save a little effort by not having to skim the surface of your jam every five minutes. Huzzah!
- 2 pounds cranberries, frozen or fresh
- 1 pound of sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup orange zest, from 5 large oranges
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice from 2 medium lemons
- 1/2 cup orange juice, (or cranberry juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt, (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- Make sure your jars are sterilized and ready to go. Defrost the cranberries, if using frozen berries. Wash and dry the cranberries, then chop them coarsely with a sharp knife.
- Sprinkle chopped berries with 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.
- While the cranberries are basking in their sugary bath, place a small plate in the freezer so you can test the jam for proper thickness later.
- Add the cranberries, orange zest, lemon juice, orange or cranberry juice, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, and salt to a food processor and pulse a few times until the cranberries are chunky, maintaining a bit of texture.
- Pour the fruit into a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Add brown sugar, butter, vanilla powder, and remaining white sugar, stirring well to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit begins to bubble and spit. Use a skimmer to skim off any foam that forms. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Begin testing the jam for doneness. Spread 1/2 teaspoon of cooked fruit on the cold plate and place it back in the freezer. Wait 30 seconds, then run your finger through the fruit. It should be thick enough to maintain a path when you ran your finger through it. If you’d like thicker jam, place the plate back in the freezer and cook the fruit for another 3 minutes and test again. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved, but be careful about cooking too long or you will alter the taste and texture of your jam.
- Remove pot from heat and use a spoon to skim any foam from the surface of the fruit. Ladle jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headroom, and process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Unopened jars will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months. Opened jam should be refrigerated and will last two weeks.
Special equipment: cheesecloth, 8-ounce sterilized mason jars, water bath for processing
Note: Frozen fruit is totally awesome for making jam. Fresh fruit picked for the produce section of your average supermarket is often picked early so that it's less fragile, while fruit grown for freezing is allowed to ripen on the vine longer, as it won't travel nearly as far. In some cases, frozen fruit may have more fresh nutrients than the stuff sold fresh in the produce aisle, due to this longer ripening in its natural environment. Interesting!