Turning juicy fresh fruit into a sweet jammy mess is one of the most pleasurable ways I spend an afternoon in the kitchen. A big pot of fruit and sugar bubbling away on the stove forces me to slow down and appreciate the moment, filling hot jars one at a time with sticky goodness. But all those jewel-toned jams stored in mason jars don't just go on toast. There are plenty of other delicious ways - both sweet and savoury - to make use of all that strawberry, peach, cherry, orange and blueberry jam.
Here are 12 homemade ways I use jam in my kitchen:
1. Salad dressings
A couple heaping teaspoons of jam shaken in a jar with 1/4 cup of oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar makes a simple and delicious vinaigrette. Try raspberry jam shaken with canola oil and red wine vinegar for a bright raspberry vinaigrette. Or apricot with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a robust balsamic apricot vinaigrette, and so on.
2. Stir fry
Balance out saltiness or bitterness in a stir fry with a little sweetness. Try a 1/4 cup of orange or lemon marmalade, mixed with an equal part of water, swirled around in the hot wok with tender pieces of chicken.
3. Sweeten smoothies
A dollop of any flavour of jam nicely balances any smoothie made with tart fruits or bitter vegetables. You just have to decide if you can live with jam in your healthy smoothie.
4. DIY fruit-bottom yogurt
Try a spoonful of jam stirred into a bowl of plain yogurt. That's all commercial fruit-flavoured yogurts are anyway. Add some granola or chopped nuts and you're in dessert territory.
Now that you've made your own fruit-bottom yogurt, put some in popsicle molds and freeze to enjoy creamy jam pops.
6. Grilling marinades
A delicious marinade usually has a touch of sweetness. A tablespoon of jam mixed with 1 cup of red wine, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary and a 1/4 cup of soy sauce makes for a well-balanced marinade.
7. Tart fillings
Make simple tart shells and fill half-way with jam before baking. Try any flavour of jam in these Jam-filled Sweet Tarts.
8. Peekaboo cookies
Spread jam between simple shortbread cookies with the tops cut out. Get a jewel-like effect with these Peekaboo Jam Cookies.
9. Pancakes & waffles
Have no fear when the maple syrup runs out. Spoon some jam on top of those pancakes and waffles and no one's complaining. Go one step further and spoon some jam into the batter.
10. Barbecue sauce
Every good grilling sauce needs some sweetness. Instead of honey or brown sugar, try stirring a heaping spoonful of jam into 1 cup of crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and your favourite grilling spices. But don't go overboard on the jam. Too much sugar in a BBQ sauce can lead to burning on the grill.
11. Liven up oatmeal
Boring oatmeal is a crime. Try cooking oats along with chopped fresh or dried fruit and top with a dollop of jam. That's a good morning.
Add a spoonful of jam to a cocktail shaker with ice, a shot of rum, fresh mint leaves and sparkling water. Shake and strain into a pretty glass and summer is all yours.