Last Wednesday when I went out to the mailbox, I picked up the weekly newspaper insert from our local paper. Three articles on canning were featured. As I scrolled down the page, I came to a recipe for pear and chocolate jam. Pear. Chocolate. Jam. Tossing the electric bill and latest Rolling Stone aside, I decided to put a writing project on hold long enough to make jam. Besides, some of my best writing happens in my head when I cook and then type later.
As luck would have it, we had three pounds of ripe Bosc pears on the counter that my husband bought from a farm stand on his way home from work. Next on the ingredient list: 70% chocolate. I checked the chocolate stash I keep in the refrigerator for baking and found a block of Valrhona plus Lake Champlain end pieces that had been deposited into the chocolate baking bucket over the past few months. The kitchen scale read 5 ½ ounces of chocolate, exactly what the recipe called for. I skipped the lemons in favor of wine. Replacing the lemon juice with Cabernet from dinner the night before was an easy fit. Last on the list: sugar, water, cinnamon -- check.
I waited until after dinner when the house fell quiet to make the jam, which came together in 30 minutes. Not bad for a late night cooking project.
I refrigerated the jam. It never had the chance to make it to the freezer or the canning bath. At one point I thought about making turnovers with the jam, but thought better of it. We were too busy scraping the bottom of the jar to spread on graham crackers topped with slivers of sharp cheddar. We also made buttered toast and grilled jam and cheese sandwiches.
Any notion of pastry would have to wait. Until we had our fill of bread, cheese, and jam anyway. As for the writing project, making the jam was a much needed break.
Pear and Chocolate Jam
makes 5 to 6 half-pints
2 ¼ pounds ripe pears
5 ½ ounces good-quality chocolate (70 percent cocoa)
1/3 cup good drinking red wine
1/3 cup water
2 cups natural cane sugar
pinch ground cinnamon
Peel, core and dice the pears; chop the chocolate into coarse chunks.
Combine the pears, wine and water in a wide saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and cinnamon, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the jam turns soft and holds together (to test, dip a wooden spoon in the jam, let it cool for a few seconds then let the jam drop off the spoon; it should cling to the edge). Use a potato masher to gently mash up some of the fruit for a smoother consistency.
Stir the chocolate into the warm jam until it is melted and completely mixed in. Put into hot sterilized jars and refrigerate (up to 1 month) or freeze (up to 6 months) or follow the canning instructions found in the original recipe with lemon juice and more sugar here.
P.S. I'm teaching Saturday at the Market, a day-long photography workshop that focuses on food and culture at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. I'll be there a few dates in October and November. It would be great to see you there!