Between the many varieties of pickles and preserves, there are plenty of ways to capture the bright flavors of summer fruits for enjoyment during the colder, darker months. But as Toby Cecchini noted last week on the New York Times' T Magazine blog for the New York Times, one of the more enjoyable ways to hang onto the taste of summer is with a preparation called Bachelor's Jam, which involves the use of that powerful preservative and flavor enhancer, liquor.
Basically a boozy form of preserves, bachelor's jam (also called "officer's jam") takes the two essential ingredients in jam—fresh fruit and sugar—and adds to the mix an ample measure of strong spirits. Cecchini's recipe, taken from Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves Handbook, suggests collecting the various fruits over the course of a summer and putting each up to soak at the peak of its ripeness, so that by the end of the season the soaking jar will have stratified layers of preserved fruits starting with early summer strawberries and progressing through cherries, peaches, plums and late-summer's blackberries and other seasonal fruit.
Corbin's recipe calls for one pound of sugar per pound of fruit, layering the sugar atop the fruit in a nonreactive container and covering the whole thing with brandy, rum or your other spirit of choice. Cecchini recommends cutting the sugar in half, explaining that the alcohol provides all the preservative power you need, and you can always further sweeten the mix later. (Like Cecchini, I also just stumbled across this recipe in recent weeks, and Corbin suggests the easy alternative of just putting everything together in late summer for an all-in-one preparation).
After an aging period that can range from six weeks to several months, the result is a potent mix of sweet, liquor-pickled summer fruits appropriate for topping sponge cake or ice cream, along with a flavorful cordial to accompany this adult dessert.
As Cecchini writes, there are many ways of capturing summer's flavors with spirits; he notes the related confiture de vieux garçon, and the German rumtopf. Some of my favorite summer infusions include the strawberry-laden Tequila por mi Amante (also excellent when made with a base of blanco vermouth, and left to age in the refrigerator for several weeks), and the whiskey-driven Cherry Bounce, made with sour cherries and honey.
I'll be putting up my batch of Bachelor's Jam starting this week with the last of the season's fresh cherries (we get things late, here in northwest Washington), and will add to it over the month as local peaches and blackberries reach the peak of the season.
Do you have any summer preparations that incorporate fresh fruit and spirits? Please share your favorites.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.