Last week I made the first jam of this season. It was a raspberry, fig and port jam that I read about in this tiny kit that my sister gave me for New Year's a few years back. The kit had cute little tags, stickers, fabric lids, etc. All the things one would need to make a jar of jam adorable beyond words. The kit has been used up a long time ago, but in my recent cleaning crusade I'd located the small recipe book that came with it and this was the very first recipe. I happened to have everything but the figs already on hand (what home is complete without at least one bottle of port stashed away?), so I picked that up on the way home and whipped up a batch to bring to with me to a foodie exchange, along with several packages of my French Granola.
There is this wonderful event that has started in Chicago a few months ago called Chicago Food Swap, and this past weekend I was able to make it to their third meeting, graciously hosted by the kind folks at the Savory Spice Shop. The idea behind this event, the brain child of Emily and Vanessa, is to bring together a group of people and provide them with an environment in which to trade/barter their homemade goods with each other. There is no money being exchanged and no one is obligated to trade with anyone else, but of course that's the point of coming in the first place, and the actual trades are the best part.
The turnout was great, I think there were almost 30 people that came and brought goodies. We were given some time to mingle, walk around to see and taste the goodies, and to write down suggested bids on bits of paper next to the items. After everyone had a chance to circle everything several times, the bidding was opened and when the dust settled I had traded all my jars and packages and had a great big bag of loot to take home with me, including two of those little Sherry Poppyseed cakes in the picture above.
I also got a box of these whoopie pies, which were amazing...and didn't survive the day. One was carrot cake with cream cheese filing and the other was chocolate with marshmallow filling. I can't believe I've never had whoopie pies before this, it's like taking two of the best parts of a cupcake (the tops, naturally) with frosting inside. Yum!
The green chutney and the tangy vinaigrette were fantastic.
An entire table was chock full of amazing baked goodies. I'd snagged one of those beautiful pretzel bread buns on top there and had it for lunch the next day.
One day I will learn what chutney is and decide on whether or not I like it, but there were several jars of it up for trade, along with a precious few bottles of rose syrup. I think I'll need to raid my sister's rose garden and make some for myself.
Someone else made a table full of fudge and caramel candies.
Someone even brought heirloom tomato plants! I didn't get any since I have nowhere to plant them and even if I did, I have a notoriously bad habit of killing plants, so they went to better homes than mine. I did snag one of those jars up front in the picture above. They were mildly spicy pickled carrots and they were amazing! They were still crunchy and perfectly pickled and had a very nice garlicky spice to them. Once the carrots were gone I marinated some chicken in the brine and roasted the little piece of garlic right along with it. Nothing went to waste.
There was an entire table full of jalapeno spiked jams, but since my own jam pantry is still practically overflowing, I decided to pass on those. Don't those fabric tops look adorable though?
There were jars of cola syrups, lemon salts, lemon sugars and spicy honey mustard (one of which went home with me too). There were cookies and cakes and pickles and even some jars of pre-cooked oatmeal. I also snagged a beautiful mini-loaf of freshly baked challah, half of a whiskey cake, a jar of cinnamon spiced plums, and a jar of apricot peach butter. All in all, a really successful haul and I'm really looking forward to the next exchange at the end of August, though now that I saw what people bring, I think I'll need to step up my own game quite a bit to get more awesome trades next time. I mean, what do you bring when everyone makes their own jam? I have a few weeks to come up with the answer.
Raspberry, Fig and Port Jam
Pretty Pantry Gifts
by Tara Duggan
1 cup dried black mission figs
1 cup port
4 cups raspberries
3 cups sugar
2 Tbsps fresh lemon juice
1. Chop figs finely and soak in port for about 30 minutes.
2. Combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large heavy bottom pot and crush the berries with a spoon or a potato masher. Add the figs and the port.
3. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and cook until reduced by half and the jam thickens. Stop cooking when it's still a tiny bit runny since the figs cook into paste and end up thickening the end product by quite a bit. Unless you like your jams thicker, like I do, in which case do whatever you want.
4. Pour the jam into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy!