I have eaten preserves for most of my life. I remember my parents making one to two batches of jam as a child, I still covet my Grandmother’s ‘famous’ Acadian Mustard pickles, and tomato sauce showed up in my early teenage years. It’s only been in recent years when our pantry has significantly increased to more than 700 jars of locally preserved food and including all sorts of different styles of preserving (including fermenting, pickling, dehydrating and some curing).
People often ask us what we do with our preserves – the short answer is that we eat them. Our pantry includes 50+ different flavours from our kitchen. My partner Dana jokes that we’re ready for zombies but the truth is that we eat most of these in a year – and pretty much all of it within two years (our pantry is designed to never truly run out as long as we continue the seasonal cycle of preserving).
Despite our answer, people don’t seem to find the answer they’re looking for in that simple question – I’ve come to realize that what they really mean is “How the heck don’t you get sick of strawberry jam if you make two cases of it?” This was further cemented a few years back when I read a question in an online forum which (paraphrased) was; “I love my friends and their preserves. But I got so many jars of jam for Christmas that I have no ideas what to do with it – can anyone tell me what the heck to do with seven jars of jam?”
I could empathize with the question – the first time I made jam I got really excited and made 36 jars of the same recipe only to later realize that I had enough of the condiment to either supply a small coffee shop or I could force myself to eat it until I was sick of it and I needed a plan.
With the explosion of preserving happening across the planet, I suspect there many be many of us either overwhelmed by the generosity of holiday preserving gifts or facing excess bounty of our own.
The first option is to swap. Food swaps (like the one we hosted last year in Toronto) are popping up around the world and are the fastest way to turn a single flavor into a range of goodies (this was our haul from that night). Of course you can also swap with friends without a formal swap as well. By swapping jars we’ve added 100+ other flavours to our pantry. We actually factor swapping into the number of jars we make in order to make sure that we’ve got food to swap.
We also do a lot of cooking with jam and other preserves. In preparation for writing this article, we asked the WellPreserved Facebook group what they do with excess jam – we were blown away by more than 80 answers in less than a day. Here are some of them:
- “Use to flavour plain yoghurt rather than buying flavoured (and full of sugar) commercial fruit flavoured yoghurt.” (Norm S.)
- “Some of them are awesome as a glaze on chicken or pork! We do a strawberry/balsamic vinegar/rosemary that’s a fabulous glaze and good with soft white cheeses, too!” (Aagard Farms)
- “Pre/post exercise sugar replacement (alternative to energy drink).” (Lauren S)
- “I put some in my pancakes!” (Laura W)
- “My Dad has made wine from jam.” (Joanna C)
- “Does eat it straight from the jar count? 🙂 Or if you have more self control, place pie crust into tiny tart tins and fill with jam. Also works with puff pastry in a muffin tin, just dollop some jam and cook until the dough is cooked and golden.” (Sara S)
- “I’ve been using them for awesome cocktails! I’ve got some good recipes, too. With a warming winter cocktail using summer preserves, you get the best of both worlds!” (Kate M)
- “I like to make French Crepes served with homemade preserves and a little bit of real maple syrup.” (AJ W)
- “Liquefy then add to sparkling water to make pop – a fave occasional treat around here!” (Elisabeth B)
- “You can water it down and make popsicles. I take my watermelon jam, water it down and add whipped cream and salt. Makes great salted watermelon pops.” (Audrey K)
- “Add jam to your favorite scone recipe (before baking of course)… really moistens this typically dry treat! Not to mention the added flavor!” (Laura S)
One of the greatest things about having extra preserves is that it opens you to opportunities to meeting others from the preserving community around you!
Joel MacCharles is one half of Wellpreserved.ca (along with Dana Harrison, his partner in all things). They have been writing at WellPreserved since December, 2008 (without missing a single day). The site shares recipes, preserving advice, and thoughts on local and sustainable food, and shares their passion for conscious eating. They don’t always make the right decisions but try to be conscious of their choices. WellPreserved has become a lifestyle project which joyously consumes 20+ hours a week between the two of them. Since starting the project they have been honoured to have cooked at the last two Evergreen Brickworks Slow Food Picnics as well as taught preserving across the city and organizing food swaps (they are currently planning 12 events for next year with swaps being a significant portion of those). You can find the WellPreserved community in the comments of their site, on their active Facebook page or on Twitter.