I was all set to stick to regular foods -- you know, things like fish, pudding, bananas -- but every Wednesday he's there like a dealer, peddling his frouffy squash blossoms and fancy berries at the farmers' market. This week it was black raspberries and marionberries. I'm sure olallieberries will be next, and then you'll all really hate me.
I could pretend I don't have access to unusual produce like this, but that would be no fun at all. I mean, it might be fun for you, but it would be no fun for me. And until I start making some real cash-money at this blogging thing (insert peals of laughter here), I'd might as well have a good time.
Johnny's always full of advice. When I fingered the black raspberries he edged me aside, all hush hush. "You take the raspberries. Add a little agave nectar -- not the regular stuff, but the raw stuff. You can only buy it at Whole Foods. It'll cost you, but it's worth it. Cook it down, and you'll have an incredible jam."
I bought the berries. They were beautiful, too. Smaller, tighter, with better-defined little bulbs than red or even white raspberries. They looked less juicy but somehow more intense.
A few days later I was shopping at Trader Joe's when I saw it. Agave nectar! And it was pretty cheap, too. No need to hit Whole Foods. Perfect.
When I got home, I made the jam, just as Johnny had described. I played with the proportions a little, adding some lemon at the end for balance. Easy as could be, and ideal for slathering on toast, muffins, and leftover grilled pork. The cheap agave worked fine.
But when I told Johnny, he wasn't pleased.
"Psssst," he whispered. "Next time buy the good stuff. I'll give you an even better recipe."
Recipe for Indigo Jam
Here's a jam with a deep, caramelly flavor from agave nectar, a natural sweetener that's now commercially available. I used black raspberries in this recipe, but red raspberries or even blackberries would also work. Plan to vary the amount of lemon juice according to your personal taste. Also, I can't be bothered to strain seeds from my jam, but if you want to be all fussy about it then be my guest.
Yield: scant 1/2 cup jam
1-1/2 cups black raspberries, or berries of your choice
1/4 cup agave nectar
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Combine raspberries and agave nectar in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. (I used an enameled cast-iron pan, which was perfect.) Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and continue simmering until mixture thickens and berries have begun to fall apart but still retain some shape, about 30 minutes. (Stir occasionally with a heat-proof spatula to prevent scorching.)
Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. The mixture will continue to gel as it cools.