When the summer season has come to a close, there's no better way of preserving the colourful fruits of the season than by making some jam. The jam tradition is said to date back as far as the Ancient Greeks, who would gently cook quinces with honey in order to preserve them before the days of refrigeration. Such a method for storing of fruits remains as popular as ever today. Italy offers a number of different types of fruit preserves, with recipes varying across the peninsula.
Marmellata generally refers to jams made from citrus fruits, like oranges, Clementines and lemons.
Confettura is the term more widely used to comprise all categories of fruits, including some of the Italian favourites, such as the fig, fruits of the forest and plums, all of which can be served with breads and cheeses. Mostarda is the perennial conserve to grace the cheese plate - a condiment to accompany cheeses made from a mix of fruits, sometimes grape must, and mustard seed. Under each of those categories are a thousand and one recipes and traditions, below I've written about an array of fruity conserves to savour on hot toast and adorn our tarts over the cold winter months.
CONFETTURA DI FICHI
This is a delicious fig jam. It may be "seedy in the extreme", but most importantly of all, it is lovely and fragrant, like a good fig jam should be. This jam has a smooth texture, which reminded me a little of the make-up of the fruit. One of my children found the "seediness" of the pips irritating, but the majority appreciated the tasty conserve of this special little fruit. All in all, the gloopy texture was perfect for piling onto a toasted crostini with a strong round of goat's cheese.
LA NICCHIA MARMELLATA DI LIMONI
This fruit conserve falls into the marmellata category, and is made from lemons from the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria. This jam is the very solid in consistency.
One member of my family suggested that the conserve "smells slightly medicinal", but the general consensus is that, being the least sweet of all the jams, the smell wasn't concealed by the sugary scent. The texture is firm, with a 'rindy' quality to it. Some concurred that this was the most grown-up of all the jams - not too sweet, and "perfectly tart", offered an enthusiastic lover of the preserve. Serve this slightly bitter marmalade on a fresh croissant for best results.
ALTA VALTELLINA CONFETTURA EXTRA DI LAMPONI
A rich dense red is the enticing colour of this exemplary raspberry jam from the mountainous north of Italy. The texture is perfection itself: "lots of chunky, fruity bits", "nice seedy texture" and "juicy liquid too". This was a crowd-pleaser of a jam, one for all members of the family to spoon onto a crusty hot baguette. The jam seems like it hasn't been heavily processed, leaving it with generous lumpy reminders of the fruit in its previous state.
The taste in itself "wasn't too sweet", but "soft and mellow" with a little acidity to break through the sugariness. The sort of jam you can imagine making a fantastic filling for a traditional crostata (tart), thanks to its textured consistency and sharp fruity flavours. The only thing it wouldn't suit, on the other hand, was a cheeseboard.
I try to pass on my musings on life and experiences in a way that people may find interesting to read.
You may not always agree with my writings but I hope to inform.
Harwood E Woodpecker
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