How many jars of jam, jelly, preserves and marmalade are taking up space in your refrigerator? One jar of grape jelly? A jar of grape jelly, a jar of strawberry jam and that Horseradish-Chardonnay jelly you couldn’t resist when you were sightseeing in Sonoma? A half dozen kinds of pepper jelly and four different fruit combinations you found irresistible at your local farmers market?
I’ve given up counting the jars in my refrigerator but I’m good with all of it because each one represents so much more than a way to garnish a piece of toast or drizzle onto yogurt. I love what they add to barbecue sauce, marinades, glazes and cheese platters – some fruit, maybe some heat, certainly some sweet, probably some citrus and definitely a whole lot of flavor in that tablespoon of goodness.
Now I’ve got a whole new way to use my stash – in cocktails.
“Clean Cocktails” by Beth Ritter Nydick and Tara Roscioli (The Countryman Press, $24.95) came out last summer. The authors are all about using fresh fruits, herbs and spices to make cocktails that aren’t loaded with artificial flavors and dyes. Inside their book I found lots of fun cocktails like “We’re Jammin’,” a potent cocktail of gin and vodka with honey syrup and berry preserves, and “The Berry Jamtini.” In each a little bit of fruit preserves went a long way to adding sweetness and flavor.
Looking for further inspiration, I turned to three local jam makers.
It’s no surprise that Jennifer Burns of Atlanta-based Emily G’s has a whole armload of cocktail recipes featuring her jams, jellies and marmalades, which are available at retail locations all over metro Atlanta and online.
Over time, she and husband Tom have developed a number of cocktail recipes including the Pear Bellini, Slow Jam Fizz, Southern Old Fashion and Strawberry Pineapple Lemonade recipes found in “Emily G’s Cookbook” (Emily G’s, $12).
“Jams are so versatile and they make really nice artisan cocktails. Basically they take the place of simple syrup, fresh fruit and spices that might make up a cocktail. A recipe that might need seven or eight ingredients can be made much simpler if you use a jam,” Burns said.
Case in point: She and Tom were in their kitchen with a jar of their Peach Marmalade and, “We thought we’d try it in a margarita and it was delicious. The jam provides the fresh fruit flavor and a hint of ginger. We liked it with the combination of three fresh citrus juices – lime, lemon and orange. We first tried it as a frozen margarita and it was OK, but when we added beer along with the tequila, that was the perfect combination.”
A blueberry-lemon riff on a cosmopolitan is Regina Nekola Hild’s contribution to our jelly-inspired cocktail repertoire. She created a Blue Farmtini made with Dunwoody-based Regina’s Farm Kitchen Blueberry-Lemon Artisan Fruit spread.
“Blueberries are such a Georgia thing and we love this combination with the lemon. At the end of a hot summer day in Georgia, it’s wonderful to retreat to the front porch with an icy drink that features a delicious Georgia fruit,” Hild said.
This is Hild’s third year making preserves. She gave up a corporate career to go back to culinary school and connect to her roots growing up on a 200-acre Iowa farm. “Being a farm-raised chef, we never throw anything away. Several years ago someone gave me 40 pounds of jalapeno peppers and that started me thinking about combining those peppers with fruit. I made Strawberry-Blueberry-Jalapeno fruit spread and the more I played with it, the better it got. I would take it to parties and give it to neighbors, but when someone ordered 40 jars, I knew that was the sign I should build this as a business.”
Now you can find Regina’s Farm Kitchen at the Dunwoody and Alpharetta farmers markets or purchase her products online. And if you’re ready to branch out from the Blue Farmtini, she recommends her Triple Berry Jam (blueberry, blackberry and raspberry sweetened with local honey) stirred into a cocktail with vodka.
Stephanie Mealor Corder of Decatur’s Dragonfly Design Studio takes inspiration for her preserves from her grandparents’ small farm on Glenwood Road in Decatur. “They had a roadside fruit stand and sold every kind of jam you can imagine. I was inspired by my grandmother to begin making my own recipes. The first one was Blueberry Lavender,” Corder said.
Inspired by the breast-cancer-awareness activities each October, she wanted to create a pink preserve. “I love grapefruit and so about six years ago I worked on a pink grapefruit marmalade, tinkering with it until I was happy with the recipe.”
For our collection of recipes, she turned her Salty Grapefruit Marmalade into a Salty Dog – so simple it only requires two other ingredients.
“It’s really good. You could just use the marmalade and the gin, but the lime juice is the perfect finishing touch. Next, my husband and I are going to work on something with our hot pepper jellies.”
In our book, a great cocktail needs a little sweet and a little citrus. All four of these recipes fill that requirement, and we love it when the jam or marmalade does double duty. The recipes call for straining, but if you like a little something to chew on as you drain your drink, skip the straining and enjoy the bits of citrus and fruit at the bottom of the glass.
Regina’s Farm Kitchen Blue Farmtini (Blueberry-Lemon Cosmopolitan)
Regina Nekola Hild is the chef and owner of Regina’s Farm Kitchen. Her Blueberry-Lemon Artisan Fruit Spread is made from Georgia-grown blueberries with lemon added to make the flavors pop. Hild recommends making this with local vodka from Old Fourth Distillery. And serving this in martini glasses that have been chilling in your freezer is just the thing to make it perfect for sipping on your porch.
Emily G’s Peach Marmalade Margarita
The Burnses love making cocktails and mocktails as a refreshing way to end a summer day. Their Peach Marmalade is made with peaches, orange peel, ginger and tangelo juice and combines really nicely with tequila and beer. As for the beer, the Burnses prefer Tecate.
Dragonfly Design Studios’ Grapefruit Marmalade Salty Dog
Stephanie Mealor Corder makes her Salty Grapefruit Marmalade with just grapefruit, sugar and a bit of salt. The result makes an excellent cocktail with either gin or vodka. Corder says gin is her favorite, though.
The Berry Jamtini
Adding seltzer cuts the alcohol in this take on a martini and keeps it in the “refreshing and won’t knock you out” category.